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Driver Pleads to Manslaughter for Killing 12-Year-Old on Brooklyn Sidewalk

A man who drove a stolen minivan into a woman and her two children on a Brooklyn sidewalk, killing a 12-year-old girl and leaving the other victims with life-altering injuries, has pled guilty to manslaughter.

Joie Sellers

Joie Sellers

Robert DeCarlo hit Joie Sellers, her 9-year-old sister Charlie, and their mother Marcia Landais, 38, as the victims walked on Flatlands Avenue near E. 46th Street on July 2, 2014.

The Daily News reported that DeCarlo knocked down a fence and hit a fire hydrant before coming to a stop. “He was going 120 miles an hour,” one witness told the News. “He lost control. It was crazy.”

“One of the babies was under the car,” the witness said. “We pushed the car up. I take the baby out.”

Joie died at Kings County Hospital. The Post reported that Charlie was rendered blind and paralyzed by the crash, and that Landais sustained a fractured pelvis.

DeCarlo, who reportedly had a criminal background, ran from the scene on foot, and later turned himself in to police. District Attorney Ken Thompson filed over a dozen charges against him, including manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene, driving without a license, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and speeding.

Last Friday, DeCarlo pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony, and four counts of assault, a class D felony, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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Driver Who Killed Charity Hicks Pleads to Homicide and Leaving the Scene

The hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a Detroit woman as she waited for a bus in Hell’s Kitchen pled guilty to homicide and felony leaving the scene. He will serve a minimum of two and a maximum of six years in prison, pursuant to a judge’s plea offer.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street on May 31, 2014, hitting a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to court documents. Shanley fled the scene on foot and was arrested in New Jersey three months later.

Shanley is the son of a deceased NYPD officer. He was on parole at the time of the crash, according to the Daily News.

A Detroit human rights activist who was in the city for a conference, Hicks suffered severe head trauma and serious injuries to her chest. She died after weeks in the hospital. The crash also injured a second pedestrian.

The criminal court complaint said video showed Shanley “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk.” Shanley’s cell phone, recovered at the scene, indicated the user was sending a text when the collision occurred, according to the complaint.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death — class C and D felonies, respectively. Vance later dropped the manslaughter charge and added a homicide charge, a less severe class E felony.

As Streetsblog reported in a prior story on this case, in New York City it is unusual for a hit-and-run driver who kills someone to be charged for taking a life. It’s possible that the evidence — crash video and phone records — coupled with Shanley’s criminal history led Vance’s office to pursue a homicide conviction despite dismissing the original manslaughter charge.

On Monday Shanley pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, criminally negligent homicide, and leaving the scene without reporting, according to Vance’s office and court records.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Dorothy Heimann, 90, in Whitestone

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges against a driver who hit a 90-year-old woman last month, causing fatal injuries.

The victim was struck in the 109th Precinct, which made news last year for initiating a crackdown on walking in response to a series of pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists.

Dorothy Heimann was crossing Clintonville Street at around 9:50 a.m. on February 7 when the driver hit her with a Jeep SUV while turning left from 17th Avenue, according to NYPD and accounts published by Gothamist and Ridgewood Times.

Clintonville Street at 17th Avenue, in Whitestone, is a signalized intersection of two-way residential streets. There is no exclusive turn signal, according to Google Maps photos, so if the driver had a green light, it’s likely Heimann would have been crossing with the right of way.

Heimann, who lived in Whitestone, suffered head trauma. She died on March 4.

The Right of Way Law gives police and prosecutors a tool to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, but NYPD and city DAs rarely use it. As is usually the case when law enforcers don’t file charges for a serious crash, NYPD withheld the name of the motorist.

Gothamist reported that the driver fled the scene, but the NYPD spokesperson I talked with said she saw no indication that the crash was a hit and run.

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Epileptic Cab Driver on Trial for Murder for Bronx Sidewalk Killings

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

The driver of a green cab who killed a child and a man on a Bronx sidewalk last year was charged with murder.

The Bronx district attorney’s office said Emilio Garcia was not taking his epilepsy medication when he fatally struck 4-year-old Tierre Clark and 25-year-old Kadeem Brown on the Grand Concourse at E. 170th Street on March 20, 2015.

Press accounts published after the crash said Clark injured two other people. One of the injured victims was reportedly a 55-year-old man. The other was Sanequa Howe, Tierre’s mother, who suffered bone fractures.

“When we are waiting for the bus, she gave me a kiss and she was dancing around, she never saw it coming,” Howe told WABC.

Gothamist reported that, according to the DA’s office, Garcia was aware of his epilepsy and had been in another crash, causing injuries to a second driver, four months before Tierre and Brown were killed.

The DA’s office told Streetsblog last October that Garcia was charged with manslaughter and homicide. According to court records, current charges against Garcia are two counts of murder, one count of assault (a class D felony), two counts of negligent homicide (a class E felony), and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.

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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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