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Posts from the District Attorneys Category

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Vance Drops Right of Way Charge Against Truck Driver Who Killed Senior

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a Right of Way Law charge against a truck driver who killed a senior on the Upper East Side.

On the afternoon of October 10, 2014, Victor Hernandez hit 86-year-old Peter Romano with a Coca-Cola truck while making a right turn at the corner of Third Avenue and E. 96th Street, according to reports.

“The driver wanted to keep going, people had to tell him to stop,” witness Edwin Rios, told the Post. “People were yelling please stop, please stop.”

Police said Romano was in the crosswalk and was crossing with the signal. On October 11, the NYPD Highway Division announced that the driver was arrested for failing to yield.

Vance’s office conducted a 15-month investigation of the crash. Last week, prosecutors dropped their case against Hernandez without taking it to trial.

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors said in court that Hernandez was not using his phone at the time of the crash and was not impaired. Prosecutors told the court that Hernandez stopped at the light and that several people crossed in front of his truck before he proceeded to turn.

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

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Gwendolyn Booker, Killed by School Bus Driver on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalk

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Image: Google Maps

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed on Atlantic since last August. Image: Google Maps

Another pedestrian was killed on Atlantic Avenue when a motorist struck a woman on the sidewalk.

Gwendolyn Booker, 50, was walking on Atlantic near Schenectady Avenue last Friday at around 6:30 p.m. when a school bus driver mounted the curb, according to NYPD and published accounts.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

From Gothamist:

The bus struck two light poles, a gas station, and smashed into several parked cars, in addition to striking the victim.

Multiple news outlets reported that, according to unidentified police sources, a second motorist cut off the school bus driver, “causing” him or her to leave the roadway. Many reports used similar or identical language to describe the crash. None of those outlets — the Post, WCBS, WPIX, the Daily News, or WABC — apparently questioned their NYPD sources as to why steering onto the sidewalk was justifiable, how fast the bus driver was traveling at the time of the crash, or if the driver was distracted. Instead, the bus driver has been absolved in nearly all the press accounts because of a second motorist who hasn’t been located or publicly identified.

The NYPD public information office had no other details about the incident. The bus driver’s name was not released by police, and no charges had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a driver on Atlantic Avenue since last August, and the fourth Brooklyn pedestrian fatally struck on a sidewalk since last July, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. District Attorney Ken Thompson charged none of the drivers in any of those crashes for taking a life.

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DA Cy Vance Wins Conviction in Washington Heights Hit-and-Run Killing

A driver charged with fatally striking a man in Washington Heights and leaving the scene was sentenced to prison yesterday.

Antonio Ramirez. Image: WNBC

Antonio Ramirez. Image: WNBC

Jesus Fabian pled guilty to evidence tampering in the death of Antonio Ramirez, according to court records and the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The crash occurred on Audubon Avenue at W. 176th Street on October 18, 2013, as the victim walked home from the subway at the end of an overnight shift at the restaurant where he worked.

Ramirez, 40, was married with two kids, who were 14 and 9 when their father was killed. In the aftermath of the crash, local electeds noted that speeding is commonplace in the area where Ramirez lived, due in part to its proximity to the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Video of the crash showed the driver of the vehicle braking after impact, then apparently driving over the victim, according to Vance’s office. No witnesses could identify Fabian as the driver, and the car was not registered in his name, the DA’s office said. But investigators with Vance’s office and NYPD produced sufficient evidence to indict Fabian on charges of leaving the scene and tampering with evidence.

Evidence tampering is a class E felony. Prosecutors sought the maximum sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years, according to Vance’s office. On Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Judge James Burke sentenced Fabian to three to six years.

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Charges Reduced in Manhattan Hit-and-Run Death of Charity Hicks

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Charges have been reduced against a driver who allegedly killed a woman on a Manhattan sidewalk and fled the scene.

On May 31, 2014, Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street, striking a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to a criminal court complaint and Gothamist. Hicks, who lived in Detroit and was in the city for a conference, suffered injuries to her head and chest. She died weeks later. A second pedestrian was also injured.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

The criminal court complaint said video reviewed by NYPD showed the SUV driver “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk” on 10th Avenue. Shanley’s cell phone, which was recovered at the scene, indicated that the user was sending a text message at the time of the collision, according to the complaint.

Investigators found Shanley, who fled the scene on foot, in New Jersey and arrested him in August 2014, the Daily News reported. He was on parole at the time of the crash.

District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and felony leaving the scene — class C and D felonies, respectively. However, the current charges against him are (class D) felony leaving the scene, criminally negligent homicide (a class E felony), and leaving the scene of an incident without reporting (a class A misdemeanor). Vance’s office declined comment on why the manslaughter charge was dismissed, as the case remains open.

In New York City, motorists accused in deadly hit-and-run crashes usually face a top charge of leaving the scene — assuming they are prosecuted at all — and are rarely charged for taking a life. So though the top charge in this case was reduced to felony leaving the scene, it’s noteworthy that Vance elected to pursue a homicide charge and succeeded in securing an indictment.

Class D felonies carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Shanley is expected to go to trial in March. He has been in jail since pleading not guilty in January 2015, court records say.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Kamil Gorski

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges and allowed a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges for a misdemeanor plea deal.

A driver charged with a felony for the hit-and-run death of a Queens pedestrian was sentenced to probation as a result of a plea deal from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Raul Reyes and a second driver hit 36-year-old Navy veteran Kamil Gorski on Metropolitan Avenue on February 3, 2015, according to Brown’s office. Gorski died at Elmhurst Hospital.

Brown did not charge the second driver, who remained at the scene. Brown charged Reyes with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, which is a class D felony, and issued a press release saying Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison.” Last December, however, Brown reduced the charges, and allowed Reyes to plead to a misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

This week, pursuant to his plea agreement with DA Brown, Reyes was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and $88 in administrative fees for leaving Kamil Gorski to die in the street, according to court records. There is no indication that the court took action against Reyes’s driver’s license.

As Streetsblog reported last month, Gorski is one of several Queens hit-and-run victims whose killers avoided a sentence that included jail time, either because Brown accepted a plea or filed no charges in the first place.

If New York City hopes to get a handle on its hit-and-run epidemic, which results in thousands of injuries and deaths annually, district attorneys will have to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Based on his record of prosecuting traffic violence over the last year, Brown earned a middling C+ in the Transportation Alternatives 2015 Vision Zero Report Card, which said the DA “seems uninterested in protecting the lives of constituents.”

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Driver Who Killed Jean Chambers Off the Streets, No Thanks to DMV

Thanks to Manhattan DA Cy Vance and Judge Daniel Conviser, the serial reckless driver who killed Jean Chambers won't be driving for a while. But he could still have his license reinstated by the New York State DMV.

Thanks to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and Judge Daniel Conviser, the serial reckless driver who killed Jean Chambers won’t be driving for a while. But he could still have his license reinstated by the New York State DMV.

A driver with a staggering record of recklessness, who nevertheless had a valid New York State driver’s license, was sentenced to jail time and had his license revoked for the death of Manhattan pedestrian Jean Chambers.

Roberto Mercado hit Chambers while making a left turn at West End Avenue and W. 95th Street in the late morning hours of July 10, 2014. Mercado struck Chambers as he drove through the crosswalk and into the southbound lanes while facing north.

District Attorney Cy Vance charged Mercado with homicide — an unusually serious charge for a sober New York City motorist who remained at the scene of a fatal crash. Mercado was convicted at trial last November. Yesterday Judge Daniel Conviser sentenced him to one to three years in state prison.

At the sentencing, Conviser said Mercado was completely responsible for the crash, according to the Daily News:

“To me this is not an accident … It was a violent crime. It was a crime of extraordinary violence and the fact that you didn’t intend to kill Jean Chambers is fully accounted for.”

“As New Yorkers, we shouldn’t have to be fearful … that we can be mowed down by somebody who is acting with extraordinary carelessness and extraordinary criminal negligence.”

Mercado will be eligible for parole in eight months, the Daily News reported. Conviser revoked Mercado’s license, which in New York State means he may have his driving privileges reinstated after a prescribed period of time, pending DMV approval. Update: Conviser revoked Mercado’s license for six months, according to court records, which is generally considered the minimum for revocations.

“Due to this defendant’s criminal negligence, a beloved artist, mother, wife, and community member is dead,” said Vance in a press release issued Tuesday. “Roberto Mercado’s driving record demonstrates a history of carelessness and illegal, dangerous conduct.”

Vance was apparently motivated to bring the homicide charge in part because Mercado has a rap sheet of citations, crashes, and unlicensed driving dating to the 1980s. In a letter to Conviser [PDF] sent last December, Assistant District Attorney Michael Pasinkoff, who prosecuted the case, asked that Mercado be sentenced “to the maximum term authorized by law.”

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Sidewalk Killer Free to Drive Thanks to Judge and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

A judge refused to take the license of the motorist who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk because, she said, District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges for reckless driving.

Marlon Sewell was allegedly driving without a valid license when he hit Nicodemus and two other people on Fulton Street on December 6, injuring Nicodemus’s boyfriend and the third victim. Thompson filed a top charge of unlicensed aggravated operation, a low-level misdemeanor and the same charge that police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

The DA did not charge Sewell, who reportedly has a history of driving without regard for others’ safety, for the act of killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims — declining even to file charges under the Right of Way Law.

In December Judge Marguerite Dougherty denied a request from Thompson’s office to hold Sewell on bail based on the charges against him. “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail,” Dougherty said last month. On Monday Dougherty told prosecutors “they had not presented an argument that would revoke … Sewell’s driver’s license,” according to DNAinfo.

“There are no allegations of the defendant recklessly driving,” said Dougherty.

She added that Sewell’s license had only been suspended at the time due to lack of child support and has since been restored.

Prosecutors told Dougherty that video evidence indicates Sewell had no “innocent reason to drive over the curb,” but DNAinfo reported that no additional charges have been filed because Sewell claimed he was “lightheaded” due to a carbon monoxide leak in his car.

Dougherty, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, said that since Sewell’s SUV was impounded there was no reason to prevent him from being able to drive legally. “It negates the necessity,” she said.

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How Seriously Does Queens DA Richard Brown Take Hit-and-Run Killings?

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

As family members rallied for justice for Queens hit-and-run victim Ovidio Jaramillo yesterday, District Attorney Richard Brown agreed to drop felony charges against another driver who left a pedestrian to die in the street.

Raul Reyes hit Kamil Gorski with a van on Metropolitan Avenue on the evening of February 3, 2015, knocking the victim to the roadway, according a press release issued by Brown’s office days after the crash. Gorski, a 36-year-old Navy veteran, was then struck by a second driver. He died at Elmhurst Hospital.

The second driver, who remained at the scene, was not charged. Brown charged Reyes with felony leaving the scene. Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison if convicted,” the February press release said.

“The defendant is accused of hitting a pedestrian and then attempting to evade justice by fleeing the scene,” Brown said in the press release. “As a result of his alleged actions, the defendant now faces serious criminal charges.”

Despite the tough talk, on Thursday, according to court records, Brown allowed Reyes to plead to misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Brown has a record of going easy on motorists who kill and injure people and not taking cases to trial — when he files charges at all — even when the driver leaves the crash scene. Here are three more examples.

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4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.

On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.

Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.

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TA Report: NYC District Attorneys Are Failing to Lead on Vision Zero

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Prosecutions by NYC district attorneys in 2014 reflect a failure to prioritize deterrence of driver behavior that causes the most harm. Chart: Transportation Alternatives, based on data from NYS DMV and NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services [PDF]

New York City district attorneys are not using the power of their offices to deter acts of traffic violence by holding reckless drivers accountable for harming innocent people, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives.

TA researchers worked with representatives from all five DA’s offices for “Justice Denied: New York City’s District Attorneys Plead Out of Vision Zero” [PDF]. They found that while most motorists who injure and kill people are sober, DAs rarely bring charges for crashes that don’t involve driver impairment.

The report says that over the past year, city DAs prosecuted at least 10,000 drivers for DWI, and fewer than 40 drivers for failing to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist, though failing to yield “led to more than six times as many crashes” as DWI. Driver impairment was a factor in 897 fatal and injury crashes, TA found, while failing to yield was a factor in 5,966 collisions. Prosecutors used the Right of Way Law in just 3 percent of applicable cases, according to TA.

TA found that hit-and-run drivers are almost never held accountable in NYC. Of 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury and death, fewer than 1 percent of drivers were prosecuted, the report says, with just 50 cases handled by trained NYPD crash investigators leading to 28 arrests.

While 70 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2014 were caused by driver behavior, according to New York State DMV data, the report says DAs brought homicide charges in less than 7 percent of fatal crashes. TA found that prosecutors brought charges in fewer than 2 percent of crashes where drivers were not impaired, fleeing police, or intentionally attacking the victim.

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