NY State DMV Dismisses Tickets of Driver Who Killed Allie Liao [Updated]
Update: Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for documents related to the DMV’s dismissal of tickets issued by NYPD to Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh.
An administrative law judge with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles threw out tickets issued by NYPD to the driver who ran over 3-year-old Allison Liao as she and her grandmother walked hand in hand in a Queens crosswalk.
The driver, identified by police as 44-year-old Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh, was turning left from Cherry Avenue onto Main Street in Flushing when he hit Allison on the afternoon of October 6, 2013. Though NYPD and the media initially said Allison “broke free” from her grandmother, video of the crash showed the pair walking together as Abu-Zayedeh approached from behind, striking Allison and pulling her underneath the SUV.
Abu-Zayedeh was summonsed for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care. Neither NYPD nor Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed criminal charges against him for striking Allison. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Brown described the accident as a ‘tragedy’ and said he wouldn’t bring charges.”
On Thursday Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, learned that the DMV dismissed both tickets. The revelation came during a deposition of Abu-Zayedeh, according to attorney Steve Vaccaro, who is representing Tam and Liao in a civil suit. Allison’s family was not contacted by the DMV.
Streetsblog has reported before that, at least in some cases, the DMV adjudication process relies mainly on testimony from drivers involved in fatal crashes, not police reports or other evidence.
Update: Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, released the following statement:
This is an outrageous injustice to the family of Allison Liao, and to all New Yorkers.
The two summonses were already a mere slap on the wrist for the driver who failed to yield and killed Allison Liao when she was in the crosswalk with the light, hand-in-hand with her grandmother. Now the State Department of Motor Vehicles has decided the deadly driver who muscled his way through that crosswalk doesn’t even deserve such a paltry sanction.
DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala herself recently received a speeding ticket near her home in Broome County, just days after her son pleaded guilty to drunken driving after hitting a bicyclist. We call on Governor Cuomo to relieve Fiala of her duty and replace her with a safety-minded reformer.
Fiala pled not guilty to going 47 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone in the town of Vestal last month, according to TV station WBNG. In early October her son was charged with DWI after he injured a cyclist and left the crash scene, the Albany Times Union reported.
Update: The DMV has released a statement. Via Gothamist:
The summonses that were issued by law enforcement to Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha as a result of an accident on October 6, 2013 were for “Failing to Use Due Care” and “Failing to Yield to a Pedestrian.” If a person is found guilty of those violations, the penalty is a fine of up to $150.00 for each violation. Mr. Abu-Zayedeha was found not guilty and those tickets were dismissed on July 1, 2014. No criminal charges were brought by the Queens District Attorney as a result of the accident. However, whenever a fatal accident occurs anywhere in the state, the DMV schedules a special safety hearing. That hearing for Mr. Abu-Zayedeha has been set for January 6. At that time, a determination will be made if Mr. Abu-Zayedeha has any culpability for the accident on October 6 that would result in any action being taken with regard to his driver license based on the Vehicle and Traffic law. DMV is an administrative agency and has no authority with regard to law enforcement or criminal prosecution.
Update: U.S. Representative Grace Meng, of Queens, issued the following statement late this afternoon:
After watching the video of this tragedy, I find the decision to dismiss these tickets very troubling. As the mother of young children, I cannot imagine what the Liaos went through last year, and I cannot imagine what they’re going through now. This accident was a horrible tragedy and the driver must be held accountable. I will write to the State DMV about this matter.