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No Homicide Charge for Unlicensed Curb-Jumping Driver Who Killed SI Woman

A motorist who crashed on a Staten Island sidewalk was charged by District Attorney Dan Donovan with driving without a license and drug possession, but not for killing one pedestrian and hospitalizing another.

Christal Aliotta. Photo via Staten Island Advance

Christal Aliotta. Photo via SI Advance

On the afternoon of June 9, a motorist jumped the curb and hit 31-year-old Christal Aliotta and her 20-year-old cousin Stephanie Canecchio as they walked along Hylan Boulevard at Cleveland Avenue in Great Kills. Aliotta, the mother of two young daughters, died at the scene. She was struck after reportedly pushing her cousin out of the driver’s path.

Police arrested Michael Fox, 23, who according to a criminal court complaint was found at the scene inside a 2005 Honda Accord with the engine running. The complaint says officers discovered a “hypodermic syringe, spoon with residue and tourniquet band” in the car, and found “two glassines containing heroin residue” in Fox’s pockets. Fox’s license had been suspended on May 23 for failure to answer a traffic summons, according to the complaint and the Staten Island Advance.

Fox was charged with possession of a controlled substance and third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, both misdemeanors. He was not charged with homicide or assault for killing Aliotta and injuring Canecchio. The criminal court complaint and arrest report only mention the victims in passing.

A spokesperson for Donovan’s office told Streetsblog prosecutors have Fox’s toxicology report, but declined to say what the results were. “[W]e are still reviewing them as the case is ongoing,” the spokesperson said via email.

On the day of her daughter’s wake, Lisa Canecchio said she wants Donovan to upgrade charges against Fox. From the Advance:

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Sidewalk-Jumping Driver Kills One Pedestrian, Injures Another in Great Kills

Photos from the scene of a Monday afternoon crash show a Honda on the sidewalk on the northeast corner of Hylan Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue. Image: Google Maps

The northwest corner of Hylan Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Update: The victim who died in this crash was identified as Christal Aliotta, 31. As of Tuesday the driver, 23-year-old Michael Fox, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and drug possession, according to the Advance.

Police say charges are pending after a curb-jumping driver killed one pedestrian and injured another in Staten Island this afternoon.

At around 1:44 p.m. a motorist drove onto the sidewalk at Hylan Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue in Great Kills, striking two women, according to the Staten Island Advance. An FDNY spokesperson said two people were transported but did not have information on their conditions. The Advance reported that, according to NYPD, one victim died at the scene, and the other was hospitalized in stable condition.

A photo published by the Advance shows a tan Honda sedan with extensive front end damage on a sidewalk surrounded by police tape. ”Several personal items, including a bag and shoes, were strewn about the sidewalk nearby,” the Advance reported.

NYPD told Streetsblog charges against the driver were forthcoming. Police had not released the names of anyone involved in the crash as of this writing.

New York City motorists have fatally struck at least 17 pedestrians on sidewalks, in open fields, and in places of business since January 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

This fatal crash occurred in the 122nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Robert Bocchino, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 122nd Precinct council meetings happen at 8 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 2320 Hylan Blvd. Call 718-667-2292 for information.

The City Council district where this fatal crash occurred is represented by Vincent Ignizio, one of the council’s most outspoken street safety critics. To encourage Ignizio to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7390, vignizio@council.nyc.gov, or @VincentIgnizio.

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Curb-Jumping Drivers in Three Crashes Injured 15 People This Morning

The driver of a Department of Correction bus knocked over bollards on Canal Street at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge today. Photo: @Shmuli

Curb-jumping motorists were involved in at least three crashes this morning, resulting in 15 injuries, including a pedestrian who was hit on a Queens sidewalk.

The driver of a Honda pickup truck crashed into the front yard of a house at 49-33 Utopia Parkway at around 5:40 this morning, critically injuring a pedestrian, according to FDNY and Gothamist. One victim was transported in cardiac arrest, an FDNY spokesperson told Streetsblog, and another person refused medical attention.

At 8:37 a.m., the driver of a Department of Correction bus toppled bollards and ended up in the middle of a traffic island on Canal Street, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. Fourteen people were transported with minor injuries, according to FDNY.

Minutes later, a driver hit a bike rack and a subway entrance at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, just outside the 78th Precinct station house. Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. One person at the scene refused medical attention, FDNY said.

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As Lucian Merryweather’s Family Grieves, Charges Against His Killer Reduced


Lucian Merryweather was one of at least 10 children age 12 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months. As his family tries to cope with his death and joins others in demanding an end to traffic violence, court records say charges were downgraded against the driver who killed Lucian and injured his younger brother, Theodore.

“Our life the way it was is over,” said Lucian’s father, Gregory Merryweather, in a video by Sam Hagens, Leon Mastik, and Pieter Munnik, posted last week on The Nabe, a site produced by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. ”So ‘normal’ isn’t really the point anymore. It’s about finding another way to exist.”

“When you step back and look at it, you are surprised that that is your new community. You never envision yourself being one of those people.”

Anthony Byrd, 59, was indicted last month for the November 2 crash, which also injured a third pedestrian. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson described what happened in a February 14 press release:

According to the indictment, video surveillance showed that on November 2, 2013, at 12:49 PM, Byrd drove his 2000 Ford Expedition westbound along Dekalb Avenue. As Byrd made a left hand turn onto Clermont Avenue, he narrowly avoided hitting two pedestrians who were walking their dog. Byrd’s S.U.V. then swerved to the right and onto a sidewalk where he struck the exterior of a restaurant, The Black Iris, located at 228 Dekalb Avenue, and a parked vehicle. Pedestrians can be seen on the video running as the vehicle made a U-turn onto the sidewalk.

Byrd then accelerated his vehicle in a diagonal direction into oncoming traffic on Dekalb Avenue. The vehicle then struck a westbound car while driving in the wrong direction along Dekalb Avenue. According to the indictment, Byrd then veered off Dekalb Avenue and onto Clermont Avenue, where he struck and broke the leg of pedestrian Elaine Driscoll, 29. Byrd then hit 4-year-old and 9-year-old brothers who were walking down the street with their mother, Anna Kovel.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. Theodore was severely injured, according to the press release.

“The death of this innocent 9-year-old child and the severe injuries to his 4-year-old brother were truly tragic and avoidable and we will seek to hold the defendant accountable for his actions,” Thompson said in the release. “The people of Brooklyn must be free to walk down the streets of our borough without fear that they may be run over or injured by a motorist driving dangerously.”

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Maude Savage and Akkas Ali, Struck by Motorists in 2013, Die From Injuries

The driver of this van barely slowed down as he turned into an occupied crosswalk, striking a senior. Image via Daily News. Video after the jump.

Charged for driving without a license, the maximum penalty against the motorist who fatally struck senior Maude Savage remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Image via Daily News

Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by a motorist in a Brooklyn crosswalk last November, died from her injuries. Though video showed Savage was crossing with the light, charges were not upgraded against the commercial driver who took a corner at speed, striking her a few feet from a grocery store she had just walked out of. After Savage’s death, the maximum penalty against the driver, who was charged the day of the crash with driving without a license, remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The crash occurred in the early afternoon of November 25 at Sutter and Euclid Avenues. In a security video, you could see Savage waiting for the pedestrian signal and looking both ways before stepping into the street. When she was midway across, the driver of a van covered in DirecTV logos entered the crosswalk, barely slowing as he made a left-hand turn. Savage tried to get out of his path, but the driver struck her with the front end of the van.

Robert Brown was charged by then-District Attorney Charles Hynes with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, a misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. He was also ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Reports in the aftermath of the crash said Savage was hospitalized with head injuries. Though several media outlets covered the crash itself — stories were pegged to the DirecTV angle, though Brown was not a DirecTV employee — we found no follow-up coverage. However, the NYPD November crash report recorded one crash at Euclid and Sutter that month, which resulted in one pedestrian fatality.

Several times in recent years, prosecutors have pursued third degree unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, as the top charge against unlicensed drivers who kill New York City pedestrians. In 2011, Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard were fatally struck by unlicensed drivers in separate crashes in Manhattan. Casal and her daughter were hit by a recidivist reckless driver as he backed up to get a parking spot; Renard was hit by a dump truck driver on an Upper East Side corner. In each case, Manhattan DA Cy Vance accepted a guilty plea to third degree unlicensed operation, and each motorist was fined $500.

Brown is next scheduled to appear in court on March 5, according to online court records.

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Curb-Jumping Cab Driver Hospitalizes at Least One Pedestrian on East Side

Photo: Lauren Kirsch

A cab driver jumped a curb and hit at least one pedestrian on the East Side this morning, in an NYPD precinct that does not enforce speeding.

Lauren Kirsch of Murray Hill took this photo at Park Avenue and E. 32nd Street at around 8 a.m. FDNY got the call for a pedestrian struck at 7:18. A spokesperson said two people were transported to Bellevue Hospital, conditions unknown.

FDNY could not confirm whether the second person was inside or outside the taxi, which ended up against a building on the northeast corner of the intersection. NYPD had no information.

This injury crash occurred in the Midtown South Precinct, where as of September local officers had issued six speeding tickets all year.

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Charles Hynes Brings Rare Felony Charge in Vehicular Killing of 9-Year-Old

Two motorists were charged for killing pedestrians in the Bronx and Brooklyn this weekend. The alleged driver in the Wakefield crash was charged with murder, and there’s a solid chance that if convicted he will face significant jail time. And though the outcome of the case is far from certain, District Attorney Charles Hynes brought a rare felony charge against the man who allegedly drove onto a sidewalk and struck a 9-year-old boy in Fort Greene.

Anthony Byrd was charged with a class D felony for the death of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather. Potential sentences range from seven years in jail to probation. Photo: Daily News

Reports in the Times, the News and the Post say that on Saturday afternoon, Anthony Byrd, 59, hit two cars and a building after swerving to avoid two people in a crosswalk at DeKalb and Clermont Avenues. He then reportedly made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on DeKalb, struck a 28-year-old woman in a crosswalk, hit a parked vehicle, and drove onto the sidewalk a second time, striking Lucian Merryweather, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother, who were standing at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. His brother was hospitalized in stable condition. The boys’ mother was not admitted to a hospital, reports said.

According to court records, Byrd was charged with assault, criminally negligent homicide, first and second degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and a number of traffic infractions, including driving against traffic on a one-way street.

It is rare for NYC prosecutors to file felony charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene of a crash, but it does happen — at least in Brooklyn. In 2010, Hynes charged Michael Oxley with homicide for the killing of cyclist Jake McDonaugh on Flatbush Avenue. In 2007, Alfred Taylor was charged with homicide for the death of a cyclist in Bedford Stuyvesant.

More unusual is that Hynes brought an assault charge in this case. Assault is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years, but which can also result in no jail time or probation. Relatively speaking, the more common top charge would be criminally negligent homicide — a class E felony, the least severe felony category, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail, and a minimum of no jail time or probation.

The rationale for bringing charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene is not usually defined, but there could be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. The Michael Oxley case hinged on the defendant running a red light. Saturday’s incident was a particularly chaotic and devastating crash, even by NYC standards, and allegedly involved wrong-way driving. Byrd is also a registered sex offender.

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Still No Charges From Queens DA Brown Against Driver Who Hit Five Kids

Nearly a month after a motorist mounted a curb and hit a group of kids near a school in Maspeth, no charges have been filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. It appears Brown’s office is leaving it up to NYPD to decide whether prosecutors will pursue a case.

On the morning of September 12, Francis Aung Lu drove a Honda SUV onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street, near Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, hitting five children outside a corner deli. Bajram Kacic, 11, suffered a leg injury. Angie Peña, 13, was hospitalized in critical condition. Marina Abadir, 14, suffered head trauma, multiple spine fractures, and required surgery on both elbows. Ashley Khan, 13, who with Abadir was pinned under the vehicle, had fractures to her pelvis and legs, among other injuries.

Michael Gomez, 13, died on September 14. Reports published in the immediate aftermath of the crash indicated Gomez had a “swollen arm.” Media outlets cited anonymous sources who said Gomez died from an asthma attack. The medical examiner’s office did not respond to a Streetsblog query concerning Gomez’s death.

When we asked Brown’s office the day after the crash if  the DA would subpoena the driver’s cell phone records and vehicle EDR data, a spokesperson said no action would be taken unless NYPD determined “criminality.” At that time NYPD said the crash was in the hands of the Collision Investigation Squad.

“The police have made no referrals to the District Attorney’s Office,” said a Brown spokesperson, in an email last Friday. “You will have to contact the NYPD for a status of their investigation.”

Streetsblog has queried the NYPD public information office several times concerning this crash, but we have yet to learn if the CIS investigation is still active. Local Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has called for traffic-calming measures and lower speed limits in the area, but it is still unknown whether law enforcement will hold this driver accountable, or even if phone records or EDR data were collected.

Since September 13, at least seven pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Queens, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include a senior and a 3-year-old child — Allison Liao, run over by a motorist in Flushing last Sunday. No charges are known to have been filed in the three of the seven cases where the driver was sober and remained at the scene.

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With No Charges From Cy Vance or NYPD, Curb-Jumping Cabbie Driving Again

Six weeks after cab driver Mohammed Himon drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and hit tourist Sian Green, severing her leg, Green is back home in England. Meanwhile, Himon is again driving a taxi, as no charges have been filed against him by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Sian Green is back home in England, and after no charges were filed by NYPD or DA Cy Vance, the cab driver who maimed her is back driving the streets. Photo: Daily News

The August 20 crash attracted international attention — a young tourist horrifically injured on a gorgeous day in the heart of Midtown, her life saved by a plumber and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Vance’s office announced investigations, which is never a given when a motorist maims or kills in NYC. Himon pleaded guilty to a suspension summons and surrendered his hack license on August 23, but the Taxi and Limousine Commission says he reclaimed it on September 26.

“Without any action having been taken against him by the DA’s office or the NYPD, there’s no lawful basis for TLC to have held it beyond the 30-day suspension he served,” said TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, “so his license was reinstated.”

After a cab driver killed a senior in the West Village last year, the TLC told Streetsblog that unless a cabbie faces criminal charges, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency can’t take action against a driver who harms a pedestrian. Potential sanctions include the suspension of a driver’s TLC license, and additional actions can be taken based on the outcome of a case.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that, due to a record-keeping error, for the past three years the TLC allowed 4,500 dangerous cabbies to keep driving without penalty, including 600 drivers with 10 or more points on their records.

According to published reports, Himon has a history or reckless driving, with three moving violations in 2011, including citations for running a red light and doing 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, resulting in nine points on his license. He was also involved in another crash that resulted in injury, reports said.

Himon reportedly drove a quarter of a block on a Midtown sidewalk with a cyclist on the hood before slamming into Green. He confessed to the media that he intentionally stepped on the gas before mounting the curb. Green has said Himon should be charged criminally. Yet city law enforcers and the agency charged with regulating cab drivers are either unable or unwilling to keep a habitually dangerous cabbie from endangering other innocent people.

Vance’s office was highly critical of our initial coverage of this crash, when we cited media tips from law enforcement sources who said Himon would not face criminal charges. Vance’s office would not comment when we asked about this case in September. We contacted the office this morning to ask if the investigation is still active. We have yet to hear back.

Update: Cy Vance’s office sent us this statement: “This case is an open and active investigation.”

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No Charges for Curb-Jumping Driver Who Killed Michael Munoz in Queens

Photo: New York Post

Another curb-jumping driver has killed a NYC pedestrian, and as usual no charges have been filed by NYPD.

Michael Munoz, 42, was selling water on a Whitestone Expressway service road at 20th Avenue, in Queens, when he was struck at around 2:15 p.m. Monday. From WABC:

The 78-year-old driver was in a black Toyota Camry when investigators say for one reason or another, the driver lost control of the vehicle and slammed into Munoz and a steel post that holds a gate entering a corporate plaza.

The car hit with such force that it nearly pushed the post out of the asphalt.

Munoz died at New York Hospital in Queens. The driver and a passenger were treated for injuries.

Michael Munoz. Photo via NY Post

Neither police nor WABC reporter Joe Torres are apparently interested in why the driver “lost control,” but Torres does include this bit of victim-blaming: “Eyewitness News has learned that Munoz sold water not just from the sidewalk, but also from right on the service road.”

At least nine NYC pedestrians have died in 2013 after motorists drove onto sidewalks, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and countless victims have sustained life-altering injuries. Unless a driver is drunk or fleeing police, curb-jump crashes, no matter how severe, rarely result in criminal charges. City Council Member Mark Weprin is exploring the possibility of legislation that would make it a crime to drive on a New York City sidewalk.

Reports say Munoz suffered a serious head injury, and that a witness performed CPR until responders arrived. He lived in a nearby hotel with his father, and was selling bottles of water to motorists after he lost his job as a tennis coach, according to the Queens Courier and the Post.

The victim’s brother told WABC that their mother was killed by a driver years ago. “I’m angry but that’s not gonna do nothing, I’m more sad because I’m not going to see my brother again,” said Raphael Munoz. “We were just making plans to go see my mother at the graveyard.”

Less than four hours after the crash, the Post reported that, according to NYPD, “no criminality” is suspected.

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