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Posts from the Hit-and-Run Category

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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.

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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.

richardbrown

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ethan Villavicencio, 7, Killed by Motorist Inside Bronx Restaurant [Updated]

Update: According to court records, Oduro was charged with one D felony count and two misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of an accident with injury, plus one traffic infraction. Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. DA Robert Johnson filed no charges for the act of killing Ethan Villavicencio.

A motorist drove into a Bronx restaurant Thursday, killing 7-year-old Ethan Villavicencio and injuring the boy’s sister and father.

Ethan, his 5-year-old sister and their dad were eating ice cream in Kennedy Fried Chicken at 3275 Westchester Avenue in Pelham Bay at around 5:30 p.m. when a man backed an SUV through the storefront, according to reports.

Ethan Villavicencio

Ethan Villavicencio

From the Daily News:

A Mercedes-Benz SUV reversed into the restaurant, shattering glass, overturning tables and pinning the boy against a side wall, witnesses said.

“There was a crater where the boy hit the wall,” said bus driver Luis Cruz, 52.

Ethan lay on the floor, conscious but barely able to move, Cruz said. His sister and father stood over him.

“The father was a bloody mess. He was covered with blood and he was trying to tend to his son. The blood from his face was dripping down on the boy,” Cruz said. “It was heartbreaking.”

As witnesses pounded on the vehicle, screaming at the driver that there were children under the car, the man drove away, heading west on Westchester Avenue before he was stopped by witnesses and traffic enforcement agents, reports said.

“One gentleman opened the door to try to grab the driver out to keep him from getting away,” witness Luis Cruz told the Post. “He [the driver] just pushed the gas and the person just couldn’t hold on.”

Ethan was reportedly conscious at the scene but died at Jacobi Medical Center. His sister and father were hospitalized.

Kwasi Oduro, 73, of the Bronx, was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and two counts of leaving the scene of an injury crash, according to WPIX.

Police said Oduro was attempting to park when the crash occurred. Video of the crash shows the driver backing parallel to the curb before accelerating across the sidewalk into the storefront, pausing for a few seconds, then speeding away.

Read more…

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Motorists Kill Three Pedestrians and Seriously Injure Two Kids in Five Days

New York City motorists killed three adults and seriously injured two children in five crashes since last Thursday.

Police say a driver hit 7-year-old Abriana Carrasco with a Jeep, then ran her over to get away from the scene. Photo via Daily News

Police say a driver hit 7-year-old Abriana Carrasco with a Jeep, then ran her over to get away from the scene. Photo via Daily News

At around 10 p.m. Sunday, the driver of a Jeep Wrangler hit 7-year-old Abriana Carrasco near an ice cream truck on E. 214th Street at Paulding Avenue in the Bronx, according to the Daily News.

“You could hear her crying and she was saying something, but you couldn’t hear it,” said witness Miele Rue, 38, who saw the little girl, crumpled and bleeding, on the street shortly after the collision on E. 214 St. near Paulding Ave. in Allerton. “There was ice cream on the ground and there was blood around her.”

The Post reported that the driver, who witnesses said was a woman, ran Abriana over while fleeing the scene:

“She was speeding,” one witness said of the driver. “She was going way too fast. She hit her and the little girl flew.

“The driver hit the brakes.’’

But after she stopped, the heartless driver took off and “ran over the girl with her front and back wheels,’’ a police source said.

Abriana was hospitalized in critical but stable condition with two broken legs and a broken hip. The motorist who ran her over was not immediately identified or apprehended.

“The driver was driving recklessly,” Elvis Perez, Abriana’s cousin, told the Daily News. “It’s Memorial Day weekend. You can see there’s an ice cream truck, you know there are gonna be kids. How can you just speed down the road?”

Sincere Atkins, 8, was crossing Sutphin Boulevard near 125th Avenue in Queens Monday when a driver struck him with a Toyota Corolla. The Daily News reported that Sincere was headed to join his cousin at a playground when he was hit.

Read more…

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Cy Vance Files Felony Charges for Beekman Street Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has filed felony charges against a woman accused of driving onto a downtown sidewalk, striking a pedestrian, and leaving the scene.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

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” prior to the collision, according to Downtown Express. DNAinfo reported that the driver barely missed hitting other people, including children, who were able to get out of her path. The crash occurred near Spruce Street School, where, according to parents who have kids there, it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

Police said the same car was involved in a second hit-and-run crash, involving a pedestrian in Brooklyn, shortly after Hensl was hit.

Earlier this month, Hensl said NYPD was prepared to close the case without filing charges because the woman identified as the vehicle’s owner lives in New Jersey. Police also said they were unable to find a witness who saw the driver through the vehicle’s tinted windows.

But on Wednesday the alleged driver, Tiffany Murdaugh, appeared in New York Criminal Court on multiple charges, according to Downtown Express and court records. Vance charged Murdaugh with assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident, court records say. Assault and reckless endangerment are both class D felonies, with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison.

From Downtown Express:

According to the complaint, on Tuesday evening at the First Precinct, Murdaugh was shown video of the incident and identified the 2013 white Dodge Challenger in it as her vehicle. She also told police that “she had taken the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan that morning and that no one else had driven her vehicle that day,” according to the complaint.

“I’m very relieved,” said Hensl in a phone interview. “I’m glad that she is in jail right now and not on the street.”

Hensl said the assistant district attorney who called her felt confident in the case and she will testify before the grand jury.

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Another Pedestrian Killed on Nightmarish Bronx Broadway Stretch

In 2014 drivers injured more than one pedestrian a week, on average, on the 15-block segment of Broadway where Daniel Cabrera was killed. Image: Google Maps

In 2014 drivers injured more than one pedestrian a week, on average, on the 15-block segment of Broadway where Daniel Cabrera was killed. Image: Google Maps

A hit-and-run driver killed a pedestrian last night on a stretch of Broadway in the Bronx with a history of fatalities, and where motorists injured one person walking per week last year.

Daniel Cabrera was attempting to cross Broadway at W. 225th Street in Marble Hill at around 7 p.m. yesterday when he was struck by the driver of a Dodge Magnum station wagon, according to the Daily News. The driver did not stop. Cabrera, 38, died at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Reaction to Cabrera’s death has largely focused on the fact that the driver left the scene. “When a driver flees the scene of an accident without reporting the incident or aiding the individual they’ve hit, they not only breaking the law but disregarding the well-being of others and their moral responsibility to aid them,” said a statement from local Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “In our city we cannot tolerate these callous actions.”

Hit-and-run collisions are an epidemic in New York City — thanks in part to Albany’s failure to make penalties more severe — but street conditions where this crash occurred should not be ignored as a contributing factor.

Cabrera was hit just north of the Manhattan Bridge, on a stretch of Broadway both teeming with people and overrun by speeding traffic. Stores and restaurants line Broadway from W. 225th to W. 240th Street, which borders Van Cortlandt Park. It’s dark and loud due to the elevated 1 train. Crossings are long, and drivers speed with impunity. The 50th Precinct issued just 450 speeding tickets in 2014, according to NYPD data.

CBS 2 reported that Cabrera worked at Columbia University and was headed to the Metro-North station on W. 225th Street when he was hit.

Read more…

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Unlicensed, Hit-and-Run Drivers Kill First NYC Pedestrian Victims of 2015

Motorists struck four pedestrians in two crashes in Manhattan and the Bronx over the weekend, killing two victims. One driver in the Bronx was charged with leaving the scene and reckless driving, while another remains at large. The Manhattan motorist, operating a vehicle with TLC plates, was ticketed for driving without a license, though NYPD blamed the victims in the press. The drivers were not charged for causing death and injury by NYPD or district attorneys Cy Vance and Robert Johnson.

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via Post

Wesley Mensing was killed and Erin Sauchelli injured by the driver of a vehicle with TLC plates. The driver was ticketed for unlicensed driving but was not charged with a crime by NYPD or Manhattan DA Cy Vance. Photo via New York Post

At approximately 7:18 p.m. Saturday, Wesley Mensing and Erin Sauchelli were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue north to south when Aliou Diallo, eastbound on 62nd, drove a Mercedes SUV into them, according to NYPD, the Post, and the Daily News.

Mensing, 27, a noted golf instructor who lived in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, died at the scene. He was the first known New York City pedestrian fatality of 2015. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized with head and leg injuries.

Diallo was summonsed — but was not charged criminally — for unlicensed driving, NYPD said. Citing unnamed police sources, the Post reported that Mensing and Sauchelli were “not in the crosswalk,” and an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog they were crossing E. 62nd between Lexington and Third Avenue. Yet photos of the scene show the SUV sitting on E. 62nd just a few feet from the intersection, which seems to indicate that Mensing and Sauchelli were struck within or very close to the crosswalk.

NYPD has a history of relying solely on driver testimony when investigating pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Since the Right of Way Law took effect last August, expressly making it a misdemeanor offense for motorists to injure or kill people with the right of way, police have repeatedly blamed deceased pedestrians by claiming they were outside a crosswalk when they were struck by motorists.

NYPD had no information on how fast Diallo was driving, or how he failed to see two people in the street in front of him. Regardless of how the crash occurred, it is a crime in New York State to drive a vehicle if you know or have reason to know you don’t have a valid license. The investigation is “ongoing,” according to NYPD.

Also at issue is how an alleged unlicensed driver was allowed to operate a TLC-licensed vehicle. Saturday’s crash marked at least the second time in the past year that an accused unlicensed driver killed a pedestrian or cyclist with a livery cab. Streetsblog has asked the TLC for information on the livery base associated with the SUV Diallo was driving and whether Diallo had a current hack license at the time of the crash.

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