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DA Richard Brown: $500 Fine for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Injured Senior

Pursuant to a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, an allegedly unlicensed and impaired motorist who reportedly has a history of reckless driving arrests was sentenced to a small fine and probation for running over a senior and trying to flee the scene.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

William Stafford “plowed his 2005 BMW into an 89-year-old man” at 25th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria last October, the Daily News reported.

He stopped and tried to drive away, but horrified witnesses said they stopped him from speeding off.

The senior, known in the neighborhood as Benny, was bleeding from the ears.

Stafford was arrested two times before, once for driving on a suspended license in 2008 and once for drunk driving in 2009.

Brown charged Stafford with felony assault, felony leaving the scene, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, and other offenses. But in May, Brown dismissed the top charge — felony assault — and allowed Stafford to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor leaving the scene.

Stafford could have gotten a year in jail. On Monday Judge Dorothy Chin Brandt sentenced him to a $500 fine and three years probation, plus $88 in court costs, according to court records.

Richard Brown, who has a horrendous record of failing to prosecute drivers who hurt and kill people, is currently running unopposed for another term. He has held the office of Queens DA since 1991.

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Vance Nets Felony Indictment for Driver in Beekman Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

A woman accused of deliberately driving onto a sidewalk in the Financial District, injuring a pedestrian, and leaving the scene was indicted on felony charges today, according to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

Vance says Tiffany Murdaugh was behind the wheel of her Dodge Challenger on the morning of April 13, 2015, when she drove for close to half a block on a crowded Beekman Street sidewalk, nearly striking a mother and two young children before knocking another woman to the ground.

Murdaugh continued down the sidewalk “at the same high rate of speed” before turning onto Beekman Street and leaving the scene, according to the DA’s office. Murdaugh was allegedly involved in a second collision in Brooklyn shortly after the Manhattan crash.

The Manhattan victim, 37-year-old Heather Hensl, was hospitalized with a broken leg and a head laceration.

The Downtown Express reported that video showed the driver “backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam” before hitting Hensl. Police and prosecutors reviewed video evidence and interviewed witnesses to build the case against Murdaugh, according to Vance’s office.

Murdaugh, 34, was charged with two counts of assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of leaving the scene. The top count of the indictment was first degree assault, a class B felony, which carries penalties ranging from five to 25 years in prison. In total, Vance charged Murdaugh with four felony offenses and one traffic violation.

“Pedestrians have the right to feel completely safe and secure on our sidewalks and when crossing the street, which is why the conduct this driver is accused of is so egregious,” Vance said in a press release. “After allegedly striking and seriously injuring a female pedestrian, the defendant is accused of fleeing the scene. There is no place for this type of recklessness in New York City.”

Citing the evidence and seriousness of the charges against Murdaugh, prosecutors asked Judge Gregory Carro to set bail at $100,000. Carro declined. Murdaugh is free on $2,500 bail.

New York City district attorneys don’t normally charge hit-and-run drivers for the act of causing injury or death, but Vance shows signs of bucking that trend. In other cases now in progress, Vance charged the drivers accused in the deaths of Robert Perry and Charity Hicks with manslaughter.

Murdaugh’s next court appearance was scheduled for August.

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Will Ken Thompson Charge Driver Who Killed Alejandro Moran-Marin?

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed a cyclist and injured several other people in a multi-vehicle crash in Brooklyn last week, according to the office of District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Claudio Rodriguez was driving against traffic on Fourth Avenue when he hit Alejandro Moran-Marin head-on near Atlantic Avenue, according to reports. Moran-Marin died instantly.

Rodriguez hit two other vehicles, sending four people to the hospital. The crash scene stretched for blocks. Photos showed pieces of Moran-Marin’s bike protruding from the front wheel of the SUV Rodriguez was driving.

A witness told the Daily News he thought Rodriguez was trying leave the scene because he backed up after hitting the first vehicle, a Toyota sedan, before striking Moran-Marin. Published accounts said Rodriguez told police he had a seizure because he didn’t take his medication.

In 2009, sanitation truck driver Auvryn Scarlett was convicted of murder for killing two Manhattan pedestrians after failing to take medication for epilepsy.

We emailed Thompson’s office to ask about the status of the investigation, and whether NYPD or the DA had failed charges against Rodriguez. “This investigation is continuing,” a Thompson spokesperson replied.

Streetsblog will follow this story as it develops.

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Cy Vance: Repeat Hit-and-Run Killer Shouldn’t Drive Again; Judge: Disagree

A driver who killed two people in separate hit-and-run crashes could be driving again in two years after a judge disregarded a sentencing recommendation from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

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Jack Montelbano killed two people in separate hit-and-run crashes. Manhattan DA Cy Vance recommended he never be allowed to drive again, but a judge revoked his license for just two years. Photo: Facebook via Gothamist

In 2013 Jack Montelbano ran over 69-year-old Shu Ying Liu with a private dump truck as Liu crossed 41st Street at Ninth Avenue in the crosswalk and with the right of way. Montelbano kept driving, and was later arrested in New Jersey, where he lived and where the truck was registered.

Vance charged Montelbano with felony leaving the scene, and last month he was convicted at trial.

Montelbano had killed while driving before. Incredibly, according to Vance’s office, he fatally struck another person and left the scene at the same Manhattan intersection in 2008.

Vance’s office said Montelbano was involved in a third hit-and-run crash, after which he registered a blood alcohol content of .18.

Montelbano accumulated over 20 offenses on his driving record in 30 years, according to Vance’s office, including speeding, following too closely, and driving with a suspended license. Some of those incidents occurred while Montelbano was operating commercial vehicles, Vance’s office said.

Given the class D felony conviction and Montelbano’s exceptional history of reckless driving, prosecutors recommended a sentence of two to six years in state prison and a permanent license revocation.

Instead Judge Anthony Ferrara sentenced Montelbano to six months in jail and five years probation, and revoked his driving privileges for two years. Per the terms of the sentence, Montelbano is prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle for five years, and his New York commercial vehicle license was permanently revoked.

“This driver showed cowardly and callous disregard for human life when he knowingly abandoned a critically injured person who wound up dying from injuries related to this crash,” said Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero, in a statement emailed to Streetsblog. “Making city streets safer for all New Yorkers is a priority for this Office, and has been the guiding principle behind our participation in regular meetings with the NYC Department of Transportation, Vision Zero panels, discussions with members of Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, among others.”

In New York State, a revocation means a driver must apply to have his license reinstated. From what we can tell the process is similar in New Jersey. While it’s possible Montelbano won’t get his license back, Ferrara could have taken a reckless killer off the roads for good.

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Cy Vance to Albany: TWU Bill Would Hinder Cases Against Drunk Drivers

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sent a letter to state lawmakers warning that a bill to prevent police from detaining bus and taxi drivers at crash scenes would undermine law enforcement’s ability to collect evidence of impaired driving.

The bill, which sailed through the State Senate yesterday with no public notice and without a public hearing, would bar police from detaining many professional drivers — including bus drivers, taxi drivers, and limo drivers — following a crash. Instead, a driver suspected of breaking the law would receive a desk appearance ticket.

The bill passed the Senate at the behest of the Transport Workers Union, which doesn’t think bus drivers who kill and injure people should be subject to charges under the NYC Right of Way Law.

On Tuesday, Vance sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. It read:

Although the amended bill attempts to exclude drivers who may be driving under the influence of alcohol, police officers often conduct field sobriety tests even when there is no immediate suspicion of impairment, and must often wait a significant period of time for the arrival of equipment to conduct those tests. By prohibiting the detention of omnibus drivers at the scene of collisions, the bill prevents law enforcement from gathering evidence vital to bringing criminal charges in appropriate cases.

“In a city full of pedestrians and cyclists, we should be working on ways to make the city safer for New Yorkers, and certainly not promoting changes that would hold some drivers to a lower standard than others,” Vance wrote. “For these reasons, I urge our lawmakers to vote against this bill.”

NYPD and Mayor de Blasio’s office oppose the bill, along with Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The bill is now in the Assembly, where it’s the last day of the 2015 legislative session. Families of people killed by New York City drivers are in Albany today trying to convince Assembly members to stop the bill. You can support them by contacting your representative right now.

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Cy Vance Nets Felony Conviction of Driver Who Killed Senior Shu Ying Liu

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance secured a felony hit-and-run conviction against a truck driver who killed a senior in Hell’s Kitchen.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On February 5, 2013, Jack Montelbano ran over 69-year-old Shu Ying Liu with a private dump truck as Liu crossed 41st Street at Ninth Avenue in the crosswalk and with the right of way. The Times reported that Montelbano drove away from the scene though witnesses alerted him to the collision.

Liu, who reportedly once worked as a magazine editor in China, lived on W. 54th Street, near the site of the crash. She was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Police found Montelbano in New Jersey, where he lived and where the truck was registered. A prosecutor with Vance’s office said Montelbano was “involved in a fatal car crash at that same spot several years ago,” the Post reported after Montelbano’s arrest.

Vance charged Montelbano with felony leaving the scene. Montelbano pled not guilty and was convicted at trial last Friday, June 19. The case was prosecuted by ADA Patricia Stolfi Collins.

To convict a driver for hit-and-run in New York State, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know an injury occurred. This is more difficult than it may seem. Under state law, “I didn’t see her” is not an admission of guilt, but a potent defense strategy. In another case brought by Vance, a jury acquitted the postal worker who killed cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz, despite video evidence showing the driver stop his truck after the collision before driving away from the scene.

Montelbano was convicted of a class D felony, which carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Years before Liu was killed, Community Board 4 asked DOT to give people more time to cross at Ninth Avenue and W. 41st Street, an intersection with a history of crashes. Liu’s death sparked renewed calls for DOT action, and the agency finally made improvements, including a dedicated pedestrian signal phase, last summer.

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Did Cy Vance’s Office Investigate the Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle?

Cy Vance’s office said it has no record of the crash that killed Mike Rogalle.

Cy Vance’s office said it has no record of the crash that killed Mike Rogalle.

A Manhattan prosecutor says District Attorney Cy Vance’s office has no record of any investigation into the curb-jump crash that killed pedestrian Mike Rogalle.

Rogalle, who delivered packages for UPS, was working his Financial District route on the afternoon of April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Rogalle was removed from life support days later. He was 58.

Reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV. The press identified the adult passenger, a man, as an FDNY inspector. The driver was reportedly a woman. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported by the media.

NYPD and Vance filed no charges against the driver who killed Mike Rogalle.

Last month NYPD rejected a Streetsblog FOIL request for records pertaining to the crash, citing “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” On May 26 we filed a freedom of information request for documents from Vance’s office, including emails, pertaining to the case.

Assistant DA Sarah Hines responded on June 10:

Utilizing the information provided in your letter, including the name of the man who died and the date and location of the collision, which you specify, I have made diligent inquiries in this Office, including speaking with the Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Unit as well as the Unit Coordinator of that unit. Despite these inquiries, I have been unable to locate any records or documents responsive to your request.

If we do not possess the items you seek, then your request must be denied on that basis. The District Attorney’s Office cannot provide an item that does not exist or that we do not possess. If we do possess some or all of the items you seek, then your request does not “reasonably” describe them in a manner which enables me to locate them, and your request must be denied on that basis.

In the past, Vance’s PR staff told Streetsblog they could not access traffic crash cases without defendants’ names. Since very few traffic crashes in New York City result in criminal charges, there are usually no defendants to speak of. Meanwhile, NYPD generally does not divulge drivers’ names after a serious crash unless charges are filed.

This makes it impossible for the public to know why charges are not brought against Manhattan drivers who injure and kill people. In the case of Mike Rogalle, it appears that either Vance’s office is incapable of locating records when provided key details of a collision, or Vance’s office did not investigate Rogalle’s death.

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Ethan Villavicencio, 7, Killed by Motorist Inside Bronx Restaurant [Updated]

Update: According to court records, Oduro was charged with one D felony count and two misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident with injury, plus one traffic infraction. Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. DA Robert Johnson filed no charges for the act of killing Ethan Villavicencio.

A motorist drove into a Bronx restaurant Thursday, killing 7-year-old Ethan Villavicencio and injuring the boy’s sister and father.

Ethan, his 5-year-old sister and their dad were eating ice cream in Kennedy Fried Chicken at 3275 Westchester Avenue in Pelham Bay at around 5:30 p.m. when a man backed an SUV through the storefront, according to reports.

Ethan Villavicencio

Ethan Villavicencio

From the Daily News:

A Mercedes-Benz SUV reversed into the restaurant, shattering glass, overturning tables and pinning the boy against a side wall, witnesses said.

“There was a crater where the boy hit the wall,” said bus driver Luis Cruz, 52.

Ethan lay on the floor, conscious but barely able to move, Cruz said. His sister and father stood over him.

“The father was a bloody mess. He was covered with blood and he was trying to tend to his son. The blood from his face was dripping down on the boy,” Cruz said. “It was heartbreaking.”

As witnesses pounded on the vehicle, screaming at the driver that there were children under the car, the man drove away, heading west on Westchester Avenue before he was stopped by witnesses and traffic enforcement agents, reports said.

“One gentleman opened the door to try to grab the driver out to keep him from getting away,” witness Luis Cruz told the Post. “He [the driver] just pushed the gas and the person just couldn’t hold on.”

Ethan was reportedly conscious at the scene but died at Jacobi Medical Center. His sister and father were hospitalized.

Kwasi Oduro, 73, of the Bronx, was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and two counts of leaving the scene of an injury crash, according to WPIX.

Police said Oduro was attempting to park when the crash occurred. Video of the crash shows the driver backing parallel to the curb before accelerating across the sidewalk into the storefront, pausing for a few seconds, then speeding away.

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Richard Brown: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Boy on Neighborhood Street

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

A driver fatally struck 8-year-old Sincere Atkins as he played outside his grandmother’s apartment on Sutphin Boulevard. Image: Google Maps

An 8-year-old boy hit by a driver on a neighborhood street in Queens on Memorial Day died from his injuries. NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges.

Sincere Atkins was playing with his cousin outside his grandmother’s apartment, on Sutphin Boulevard near 125th Avenue, when a 21-year-old man hit him with a Toyota Corolla, according to reports.

A witness told the Post the driver, whose name was withheld by NYPD, hit Sincere “so hard it knocked his shoes across the street,” an indication the driver was probably speeding. Officers from the 113th Precinct, where Sincere was killed, issue an average of about one speeding ticket a day.

The crash happened on a street flanked by apartment buildings and a park, on a sunny spring day when kids were out of school — an environment where motorists should know to drive with care. “This is a very busy street,’’ a witness told the Post. “There are so many kids here. There should be a speed bump or something.’’

Reporters from the Post and the Daily News blamed the child, saying he “ran into traffic” and “darted” into the street.

Sincere died from head trauma on May 29, the News reported. “The driver of the car was not charged with a crime,” the News said.

The crash that killed Sincere occurred in the City Council district represented by Ruben Wills, and in Queens Community Board District 12.

Sincere Atkins was at least the third child age 14 and under killed by a New York City driver in 2015, and the 11th child victim since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

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NYPD Denies Request for Files Related to Fatal Manhattan Curb-Jump Crash

Mike Rogalle appeared in a promotional video with Neil deGrasse Tyson, who noted his death on Facebook. Image: NOVA/YouTube via Facebook

Mike Rogalle appeared in a promotional video with Neil deGrasse Tyson before Rogalle was killed by a curb-jumping motorist in 2012. The driver was not charged. Image: NOVA/YouTube via Facebook

NYPD rejected a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to a curb-jump crash that killed a Manhattan pedestrian in the Financial District three years ago.

UPS man Mike Rogalle was working his regular route on the afternoon of April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Witnesses described an unthinkably gruesome scene, with Rogalle trapped under the vehicle before he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Rogalle, 58, was removed from life support a few days after the crash.

Reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV at the time of the crash. The adult passenger, a man, was identified in the press as an FDNY inspector, and the driver was reportedly a woman. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported by the media.

NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges against the driver who killed Mike Rogalle.

On May 7, Streetsblog filed a FOIL request for records pertaining to the crash that killed Rogalle. On May 19, NYPD Lieutenant Richard Mantellino rejected the request, citing “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” NYPD could have released the records with personal information redacted, but instead denied our request outright. Mantellino’s letter is embedded after the jump.

Streetsblog is appealing NYPD’s rejection of our request. On Tuesday we filed a separate FOIL request for relevant records from DA Vance’s office.

Last month a hit-and-run driver ran over a woman on the sidewalk near the spot where Rogalle was hit. Vance filed felony charges in that case. Both crashes occurred near Spruce Street School, where, according to parents who have kids there, motorists regularly use the sidewalk to drive around traffic. Spruce Street parents and administrators asked DOT for improvements to Beekman before Rogalle was killed. DOT installed a stop light and street markings at Beekman and William streets but has not implemented measures, such as bollards, to keep drivers off the sidewalk.

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