Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance secured a felony hit-and-run conviction against a truck driver who killed a senior in Hell’s Kitchen.
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.