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Posts from the District Attorneys Category


Richard Brown: Misdemeanor Plea for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

In a deal with District Attorney Richard Brown, a driver charged with felony hit-and-run and driving without a license after fatally striking a Queens pedestrian has pled guilty to violating the city’s Right of Way Law.


Queens DA Richard Brown

Last February Valentine Gonzalez hit an unidentified woman with a box truck while turning left at Woodside Avenue and 76th Street, NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX. “Gonzalez fled, but was stopped by police a few blocks away,” Gothamist reported.

The victim died at the scene.

According to court records the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with potential sentences ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with violating the Right of Way Law — an unclassified misdemeanor — operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, and operating an unregistered vehicle.

On Monday Gonzalez pled guilty to the Right of Way Law charge, court records say. The law carries a fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was in jail for four months after his arrest, then made bail.

Richard Brown routinely pleads down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking defendants to trial, to the extent that he files charges in the first place. Last week he allowed a repeat drunk driver who was charged with 10 felonies for killing a man to plead guilty to two low-level felony counts.

Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in November.


Repeat Drunk Driver Pleads to Low-Level Felony for Killing Queens Pedestrian

A recidivist drunk driver who was charged with 10 felonies for killing a Queens pedestrian pled guilty to two low-level felony counts in a deal with District Attorney Richard Brown.


Queens DA Richard Brown

At around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, 2014, Romulo Mejia drove a Ford compact into a man who was walking at Roosevelt Avenue and 92nd Street in Jackson Heights, according to the Times Ledger.

Mejia then allegedly veered into oncoming traffic and crashed into an empty, parked car, according to the NYPD.

Police said Mejia refused to take a Breathalyzer or other sobriety field tests.

The victim died at the scene. His name and age were not reported.

Mejia, who was 42 at the time of the crash, is from Bradenton, Florida. Police told the Times Ledger he had a prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years. Court records indicate Mejia has been in jail since his arrest.

Brown charged Mejia with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of vehicular manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide, one count of aggravated DWI, one felony count of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, one misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and one misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The top charge against Mejia was aggravated vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol content of .18 or more, a class B “non-violent” felony with sentences ranging from 1 to 25 years in jail. According to court records, this week Brown allowed Mejia to plead to one count of criminally negligent homicide and one count of aggravated DWI, both class E felonies.

Class E is the lowest felony category in New York State, with a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a minimum of probation with no jail time.

In the relatively rare instances when he brings a case, Richard Brown has a history of negotiating lenient sentences for drivers who kill people, even when they were driving drunk. Mejia is scheduled to be sentenced in October.


DOT: Drivers Injured 1,323 Pedestrians and Cyclists in August, and Killed 14

Killed by NYC drivers in August: Jadann Williams and Muyassar Moustapha.

Killed by NYC drivers in August: Jadann Williams and Muyassar Moustapha.

Twenty-one people died in New York City traffic in August, and 4,891 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of August, DOT reported 88 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 9,150 injured, compared to 96 deaths and 9,628 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians and three cyclists were fatally struck by drivers. Among the victims were Rigoberto Diaz, Ernesto Perez, Muyassar Moustapha, Mallory Weisbrod, Ora Walker, Roy Amit, Lubov Brodskaya, Rochel Wahrman, Carol Carboni, Jadann Williams, and an unnamed male cyclist in Queens.

Motorists killed at one child and five seniors in August: Jadann Williams, 8; Rigoberto Diaz, 72; Muyassar Moustapha, 66; Ora Walker, 82; Lubov Brodskaya, 90; and Rochel Wahrman, 69.

Across the city, 745 pedestrians and 578 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 11 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, no motorists were known to have been charged for causing a death.

Jadann Williams was playing with other children when Reginald Auguste hit her with an SUV. Mallory Weisbrod was standing on a Manhattan sidewalk when she was fatally struck by a driver who also hit two other women. Roy Amit was crossing a Queens street in the crosswalk when a yellow cab driver backed into him. Lubov Brodskaya and Carol Carboni were hit in Brooklyn crosswalks by motorists making turns. The driver who killed Muyassar Moustapha in Brooklyn reportedly knocked his body 20 feet into the air. NYPD and district attorneys Cy Vance, Richard Brown, and Ken Thompson filed no known charges in any of those cases.

Immediately after Muyassar Moustapha was killed, police defended the driver by telling the press the victim was not in a crosswalk and the motorist had the light. NYPD told the media Ernesto Perez and the cyclist killed in Queens “ran into” the vehicles that struck them.

Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least four victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, but police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law in none of those crashes.

Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

Seven motor vehicle occupants died in the city in August, according to DOT, and 3,568 were injured.


Bronx DA Johnson Files Manslaughter Charge for Cyclist’s Hit-and-Run Death

Bronx DA Robert Johnson filed manslaughter and homicide charges against the driver accused of fatally striking Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos and leaving the scene.

Bronx DA Robert Johnson filed manslaughter and homicide charges against the driver accused of fatally striking Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos and leaving the scene.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson filed homicide charges against the man who allegedly killed cyclist Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos in a hit-and-run crash earlier this month.

Aguilar-Vallinos, 27, was on her way home from work at around 11:45 on the night of September 11 when a driver hit her with a Hyundai sedan on the City Island Bridge. The motorist did not stop. Aguilar-Vallinos suffered head trauma and died at Jacobi Hospital.

NYPD released video of the vehicle involved in the crash. The Daily News reported that 25-year-old Michael Moreno turned himself in to Johnson’s office on Tuesday.

Johnson charged Moreno with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and felony leaving the scene, according to the DA’s office. Moreno was arraigned last night and held on $500,000 bond. The case will next go to the grand jury for indictment.

The top charge against Moreno, manslaughter, is a class C felony with penalties ranging from probation to 15 years in prison.

It is rare for a New York City district attorney to bring a homicide charge against a driver who is not also accused of driving drunk. Because of a loophole in state law, drivers who may be impaired can game the system by leaving the scene of a crash, since the penalty for hit-and-run is less severe than the penalty for causing death or injury while intoxicated.

Drivers who leave the scene of a crash in NYC aren’t always charged criminally, even when they kill someone. When prosecutors decide to pursue a case, they normally charge for leaving the scene but not for the act of taking a life.

Moreno’s next court appearance is scheduled for Friday. We will follow this case at it develops.


NYPD and Electeds Idle as NYC’s Hit-and-Run Epidemic Claims Another Life

It was a particularly barbaric crime: A driver fatally struck a person who was crossing the street with a walker, then left the scene. That it was the second such death in a matter of weeks is another reminder that New York City, thanks in part to indifference in Albany, is failing to meaningfully address its ongoing epidemic of deadly hit-and-run collisions.

Marlene Zotti in a family photo, via the Post.

Marlene Zotti in a family photo, via the Post.

Last Sunday at around 12:30 a.m., 59-year-old Marlene Zotti was crossing Ninth Avenue at 42nd Street in Borough Park when a man, identified in the press as Marco Ortiz, ran her over with a minivan. Ortiz allegedly did not stop to summon or render aid.

Zotti, who had diabetes, had exited the B11 bus shortly before she was hit, the Post reported. She died at the scene.

On Monday, more than 24 hours after the crash, Ortiz turned himself in at the 66th Precinct, according to the Post. The Post said Ortiz “told police he had been arguing with his wife” before hitting Zotti.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Ortiz with leaving the scene, a D felony that carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison, according to court records. Thompson filed no charges for the act of killing Marlene Zotti.

Read more…


DA Ken Thompson: Charges for Punching Driver, No Charges for Killing Child

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson filed charges against the man accused of punching the driver who killed Jadann Williams, but did not charge the driver.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson filed charges against the man accused of punching the driver who killed Jadann Williams, but did not charge the driver.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is prosecuting the man accused of punching the driver who killed 8-year-old Jadann Williams in Flatbush, but Thompson filed no charges against the driver.

Jadann was playing with a group of kids on E. 22nd Street on the afternoon of August 26 when a man identified by the Daily News as Reginald Auguste hit her with an SUV. Jadann suffered head trauma and died at Kings County Hospital.

East 22nd Street north of Ditmas Avenue, where the crash occurred, is a narrow, two-way cul-de-sac lined with apartments. The News said Auguste “lived on the block and was known for having a lead foot.” A witness said he “tried to press the brake, but went 15 to 20 feet before he stopped,” an indication that Jadann might be alive today if Auguste had been driving slower.

“The guy was a known speeder,” another witness told the News. “You know the children are present. You have to drive at a decent speed.”

While NYPD let Auguste go, police arrested Ryan Romans, who knew Jadann and witnessed the crash, for allegedly punching Auguste in the face.

NYPD and Thompson filed a number of charges against Romans, including misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor attempted assault, misdemeanor menacing, and harassment, according to court records. The top count against Romans is the assault charge, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

Romans was released without bail after his arrest. His next court date is in October.

Read more…


James Oddo Calls for Wider Roads Hours After SI Traffic Violence Claims Life

A UPS worker who lost a leg when a Staten Island driver slammed into him in April has died. NYPD and Staten Island prosecutors issued no summonses and filed no criminal charges in the case.

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan, 52, was unloading packages from his truck at 2044 Hylan Boulevard on the morning of April 6 when a driver hit him with a Toyota sedan, according to the Staten Island Advance. NYPD told the Advance the driver was in the left, northbound lane and “tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian who crossed in front of his vehicle.”

The driver lost control of his vehicle and it swerved into the right lane, striking and pinning Ryan against the back of the UPS truck, police said.

Ryan, of Bayonne, died this week, the Advance reported.

The impact from the crash severed one of his legs, causing him to bleed profusely and go into cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma due to the loss of oxygen to his brain, and never regained consciousness, his wife [Elise Ryan] said.

“He had an anoxic brain injury — that was more of his injury than even the leg,” the grieving wife explained.

The driver who killed Ryan was not identified. Despite indications that driver speed contributed to the crash — and was likely the difference between whether Ryan lived or died — no charges were filed by police, former district attorney Dan Donovan, or acting DA Daniel Master Jr., who took office in May, after Donovan was elected to Congress.

The crash that killed Tom Ryan occurred in the 122nd Precinct — where as of July local officers had ticketed 1,180 drivers for speeding in 2015 — and in the City Council district represented by Steve Matteo.

According to DOT, while overall NYC pedestrian deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years, the number of people killed by drivers while walking in Staten Island has not declined. But making streets safer is not a priority for Staten Island electeds.

Matteo has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation. He was one of four council members, along with former Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio, to vote against lowering the city speed limit. Matteo has said he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam.

When he was on the council, Matteo’s predecessor James Oddo, who is now borough president, called for requiring an environmental review for new bike lanes. Hours after news broke of Tom Ryan’s death, Oddo took to Twitter to brag about upcoming road widenings and call for more such projects on Staten Island.


NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Killed Woman on Midtown Sidewalk

Southwest corner of Second Avenue and E. 49th Street, where a driver came to a stop after hitting three people on the sidewalk, pinning Mallory Weisbrod to a pole. Weisbrod died. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Southwest corner of Second Avenue and E. 49th Street, where a driver came to a stop after hitting three people on the sidewalk, pinning Mallory Weisbrod to a pole. Weisbrod died. The driver was not charged. Image: Google Maps

Update: Newsday identified the driver as Dimas Debrito.

A driver who hit three people on a Midtown sidewalk, killing a 24-year-old woman, was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

On Monday August 10, at around 4:24 p.m., Mallory Weisbrod was walking along Second Avenue at E. 49th Street when a motorist drove a Mercedes onto the curb, according to published accounts. Weisbrod was pinned against a pole and suffered severe injuries to her legs. The driver hit two other women — ages 21 and 23, according to WABC — one of whom was also hospitalized.

Weisbrod died last Sunday at Bellevue Hospital.

The Daily News reported that according to police, “the 64-year-old driver lost control after being cut off by another car,” and photos of the scene show the car with extensive front-end damage — indications that speed was a likely factor in the crash.

The crash happened in the 17th Precinct, where as of July local officers had ticketed 82 drivers for speeding in 2015.

The driver’s name was not released, and NYPD made no arrests. NYPD told Gothamist the investigation was “ongoing,” which usually means the Collision Investigation Squad hasn’t completed a report. Right of Way Law violations excepted, NYPD and New York City district attorneys rarely file charges for a serious crash after the driver is released from the scene.

Of the Daily News, the Post, and DNAinfo, the Daily News was the only outlet to mention the driver in its coverage of the crash.

The crash that killed Mallory Weisbrod and injured a second victim occurred in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick, and in Community Board District 6.


Driver Pleads to Felony in Hit-and-Run Death of Manhattan Pedestrian

Doohee Cho. Photo via Daily News

Doohee Cho. Photo via Daily News

A driver who killed a Union Square pedestrian pled guilty to a felony hit-and-run charge this week.

Doohee Cho, 33, was crossing Fifth Avenue between E. 15th and E. 16th streets in the early morning hours of September 28, 2014, when Macgyver Beltran hit him with a Chevrolet sedan, according to published reports.

Police arrested Beltran two days later, after releasing video of him speeding away from the scene in the visibly damaged car. Beltran had taken the car, a rental, to have it repaired, the Post reported.

Beltran, then 25, had an arrest record that included a reckless driving offense, the Post said.

According to court records, Beltran was charged with leaving the scene of an injury crash and evidence tampering, class D and E felonies, respectively. He pled guilty to both charges on Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance did not charge Beltran for the act of killing Doohee Cho.

The top charge against Beltran — leaving the scene — carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 26.


NYPD: Driver Error Caused Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle

NYPD determined that a driver pinballing down a Manhattan street caused a curb-jump crash that killed a pedestrian, but police and District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges.

Mike Rogalle

Mike Rogalle

UPS delivery man Mike Rogalle, 58, was working his Financial District route on 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.

Media reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV. The press identified the male adult passenger as an FDNY inspector, and said a woman was driving. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported in the press or disclosed by NYPD.

Last May NYPD rejected a FOIL request for documents pertaining to the crash. Vance’s office, responding to a separate FOIL filing, said it had no record of an investigation.

We appealed the NYPD FOIL denial, and in July the department sent us a one-page report on the crash, embedded below, with the name of the SUV driver and other information redacted.

According to the NYPD report, the driver, traveling westbound on Beekman, “struck the right curb then veered left” to avoid a “parked unoccupied vehicle” before “accelerating and mounting the south sidewalk,” striking Rogalle from behind and pinning him between the SUV and the entrance to 15 Beekman Street.

NYPD concluded that “operator error” caused the crash. According to the police report, the investigation was concluded on June 18, 2015 — more than three years after the crash and a few weeks after the department received the Streetsblog FOIL request.

Vance recently secured a felony indictment against a driver who injured a woman on the sidewalk near where Rogalle was killed.

Read more…