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Posts from the Hit-and-Run Category


Richard Brown: Probation for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

A driver charged with felony hit-and-run and unlicensed driving got probation and a few days of community service for a crash that killed a pedestrian, as a result of a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.


Queens DA Richard Brown

On the evening of February 22, the unidentified victim was crossing at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue, in a crosswalk and with the right of way, when Valentine Gonzalez hit her with a box truck while turning left. NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX Gonzalez fled the scene and was apprehended a short distance away.

According to court records, the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, operating an unregistered vehicle, and a violation of code Section 19-190 — the Right of Way Law — which is an unclassified misdemeanor.

In September Brown allowed Gonzalez to plead guilty to the Right of Way Law charge. The law carries a fine of up to $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was jailed for four months after his arrest.

Earlier this month Gonzalez was sentenced to three years probation and five days of community service, according to court records. Gonzalez was also fined $88. There is no indication that the court took action against Gonzalez’s driving privileges.

Richard Brown, whose leniency toward drivers who kill and injure people is well-documented, was recently elected to another term after running unopposed.


Trucker Who Killed Woman Admits Negligence, NYPD Still Blames Victim


Footage from the scene shows Floria Burton walking around a stopped truck blocking an unmarked crosswalk before the driver accelerated and ran her over. Still via Daily News

Update: The Daily News identified the Queens hit-and-run victim as Agalia Gounaris, 84, of Flushing. Police said the bus was located in Connecticut, en route to a casino, and that by that time evidence was lost due to rain. The driver was being questioned, the News reported.

Motorists took the lives of two people walking yesterday, bringing to eight the number of pedestrians killed by New York City drivers in the last week.

Floria Burton, 55, known locally as “Ms. Pat,” was pushing a laundry cart across Seneca Avenue at Bryant Avenue in Hunts Point at around 8:30 a.m. Thursday when a dump truck driver ran her over.

There are no traffic signals at Seneca and Bryant avenues. Video published by the Daily News shows Burton approach the corner and pause before walking around the front of the truck, which appears to be blocking an unmarked crosswalk. When she is directly in front of the truck, the driver accelerates into her.

Floria Burton. Photo via Daily News

Floria Burton. Photo via Daily News

Burton’s friend Maritza DeJesus, who saw what happened, spoke with the News:

“He backed up and went over her again,” she said. Burton was alive, but fading fast, DeJesus said, tears streaming down her face.

“I was talking to her. I was saying, ‘Pat, hold on! Pat, hold on! Pat, hold on!’ When she looked at me she didn’t even recognize me. She was already gone.”

Despite video evidence indicating otherwise, unnamed police sources gave the impression that an oblivious Burton stepped into the driver’s path as the truck approached. In a story with the headline “Woman talking on cell phone killed by dump truck,” the Post reported that Burton was “chatting on her cell phone when she was struck.”

“Witnesses said she was on the phone and did not see the truck coming when she was hit, according to police,” reported DNAinfo, which posted video that clearly indicates Burton was hit as she tried to walk around the stopped truck.

It is not clear from the video if Burton was talking on a phone, but she wasn’t holding one to her head. Meanwhile, NYPD filed no charges despite the driver’s admission that he wasn’t paying attention when he hit Burton. From the DNAinfo story:

Read more…


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 to $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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


Albany Alert: Urge Governor Cuomo to Amend or Kill Hit-and-Run Bill

District attorneys are calling on Albany’s three men in a room to amend or kill a bill that would affect future cases against drivers who leave the scene of a serious crash.

Prosecutors and advocates have for years asked lawmakers to address a loophole in state law that gives hit-and-run drivers an incentive to leave the scene. Since the penalty for DWI is more severe, drivers who flee the scene and sober up can essentially game the system — assuming police track them down at all. In New York City, most hit-and-run crashes go unsolved.

This session, the Assembly and State Senate passed a bill (A5266/S4747) to create the offense of aggravated leaving the scene, a class C felony, but it places a bevy of conditions on when the charge may be applied.

As passed, the charge may be applied only when a driver leaves the scene of a crash resulting in the death or serious injury of more than one person. It must be determined that the crash was caused by reckless driving, and the driver must be driving without a valid license due to a prior DWI or leaving the scene conviction, or have a prior conviction for leaving the scene or DWI in the last 10 years. 

The bill’s sponsors are Assembly Member Fred Thiele of Bridgehampton and Senator Rich Funke of Fairport.

Madeline Singas, acting district attorney in Nassau County, is opposed to the bill. Maureen McCormick, Nassau vehicular crimes chief, says her office and other prosecutors are in touch with Thiele and Funke about amending it and are asking Governor Cuomo to either not sign the current bill or veto it outright.

“The chapter amendment we are seeking — and the bill sponsors support — would simply elevate the current felony levels for leaving the scene,” McCormick told Streetsblog via email. “The E felony [New York’s least severe felony category] for leaving where there is serious injury would be elevated to a D and the D felony for fatalities would be elevated to a C.”

The bill could be sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature at any time. Transportation Alternatives is urging people to contact Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the governor’s office to ask them to amend or veto the bill.


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.