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Posts from the Traffic Justice Category

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Garbage Truck Driver Admits to Causing Crash That Killed Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs

The truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City last year admitted to causing the crash and pled guilty to violating the victim’s right of way.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Jacobs was riding north on Vernon Boulevard at around 7:15 p.m. last January 17 when Frank Alibrandi, also northbound, hit him with a Mack truck while turning right onto 41st Avenue, according to the NYPD crash report [PDF].

Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking. If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.

The crash report says Jacobs was dragged by the truck for 25 feet, and that Alibrandi kept driving for another 237 feet before stopping. Jacobs, a writer who worked as a tutor at New York City College of Technology, died at the scene. He was 36.

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged Alibrandi under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law. In addition, Alibrandi was summonsed for careless driving and failing to signal.

The truck Alibrandi was driving was owned by Manhattan Demolition, a private sanitation company. Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF].

Last month Alibrandi acknowledged in court that he did not signal before turning, and that he struck Jacobs, who was following traffic rules at the time of the collision, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Jacobs’s family. Alibrandi also admitted to failing to use due care, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the Right of Way Law violation.

Under the terms of the plea, if he pays fines totaling around $1,000 and completes a driver safety course, the misdemeanor Right of Way Law charge will be vacated and Alibrandi will be allowed to plead to a Section 19-190 traffic infraction.

Vaccaro said the DA’s office negotiated the plea agreement in consultation with Jacobs’s family after the judge indicated she might be inclined to dismiss the case.

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Cy Vance Wins Murder Conviction for East Village Sidewalk Killing

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

A driver who killed a man and injured two others on a Manhattan sidewalk was convicted of murder, District Attorney Cy Vance announced today.

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Shaun Martin, who reportedly had a history of drunk driving, was high on PCP and methamphetamine when he tore through the East Village in a Nissan sedan at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour on the morning of June 19, 2013, according to a Vance press release.

Martin drove onto the sidewalk at Second Avenue and Fourth Street, hitting a fire hydrant, a pay phone, a muni-meter, and a tree before striking Mohammed Akkas Ali and two other people who were working outside a corner grocery store.

Ali, 62, died from injuries sustained in the crash. His two coworkers were “seriously injured,” according to Vance. A fourth victim, a man on a bike, was injured by crash debris.

Vance charged Martin with second-degree murder and a number of other felonies, including two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of assault, four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of driving while ability impaired. Judge Melissa Jackson convicted Martin of all charges this week, following a bench trial, Vance’s office said.

Said Vance in a statement:

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Driver Charged Under ROW Law After Killing Teresa Martinelli, 79, in Midtown

Teresa Martinelli was fatally injured by a motorist at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street on July 1.

Teresa Martinelli was fatally injured by a motorist at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street on July 1. Image: Google Maps

A senior hit by a driver in Midtown earlier this month has died. NYPD charged the driver with violating the victim’s right of way.

Teresa Martinelli, 79, was “knocked out of her floral print shoes” when Mieczyslaw Truskowski hit her with a Toyota pick-up truck as she crossed at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street at around 11 a.m. on July 1, the Daily News reported.

“She was breathing but bleeding out of her ears and mouth,” a witness told the News. “Her feet were underneath the truck. One leg was mangled, the other broken. I rushed up to her but didn’t dare move her. I wanted to try to help if I could, but there wasn’t much help to give.”

The location of Truskowski’s truck in a Daily News photo suggests he was turning left from southbound Second onto E. 58th, which is one-way eastbound, when the collision occurred.

Martinelli was transported to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition. The NYPD public information office told Streetsblog she died from her injuries.

Police arrested 63-year-old Truskowski and charged him with failing to yield, according to NYPD.

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Manhattan DA Vance Wins Manslaughter Conviction for High-Speed LES Crash

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance won a jury trial conviction for manslaughter in the case of a speeding motorist who killed a man walking on the Lower East Side in November of 2014.

Danny Lin was traveling at 55 mph when he hit Robert Perry on the Bowery. Photo via Bowery Boogie

Robert Perry was walking on the Bowery when Danny Lin struck him at 55 mph. Photo via Bowery Boogie

Danny Lin, 25, was driving a BMW at 55 miles per hour on the Bowery when he hit 57-year-old Robert Perry as Perry crossed the Bowery near Rivington Street, “sending the victim’s body into the air before landing more than 140 feet away,” according to Vance’s office.

Lin kept driving until he crashed into a fire hydrant a block away, narrowly avoiding several pedestrians, Vance’s office said.

Perry, who sometimes stayed at the nearby Bowery Mission, died at the hospital less than an hour after the collision.

Vance and NYPD initially charged Lin with homicide and leaving the scene. In 2015, Vance upgraded the top charge from homicide, a class E felony, to manslaughter, a class C felony. By the time the trial started, the homicide and leaving the scene charges had been dropped, according to court records, and manslaughter was the sole charge against Lin.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance successfully prosecuted Lin for manslaughter.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance successfully prosecuted Lin for manslaughter.

That Vance pursued a manslaughter charge and secured a conviction at trial in this case is noteworthy. It is uncommon for New York City district attorneys to charge drivers who kill people with manslaughter, unless the driver is impaired, fleeing police, killed the victim intentionally, or is also charged with leaving the scene. Persuading a jury to convict a sober driver for causing a death is no easy feat, even after a hit-and-run crash. According to data collected by Streetsblog, only a few times in recent years has a sober New York City driver received a manslaughter charge after being arrested at or near the scene of a fatal crash.

Said Vance in a statement:

This case serves as an unfortunate reminder of the risks associated with reckless driving and speeding. Danny Lin was fully aware of those risks as he hurtled down the Bowery at more than double the speed limit and took an innocent man’s life. He endangered the lives of pedestrians and drivers alike as he continued barreling down the street — with no regard for our laws or the safety of his fellow New Yorkers — before eventually crashing into a hydrant on a congested sidewalk, narrowly missing several bystanders. Because of the defendant’s recklessness and disregard for human life, my Office has fought to hold him accountable and will seek significant penalties for his criminal conduct.

A manslaughter conviction carries penalties ranging from probation to 15 years in prison. Lin is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

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Brooklyn DA Charges Driver With Manslaughter for Killing Victoria Nicodemus

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is OK with that.

After getting pressure from the victim’s family, DA Ken Thompson, right, filed felony charges against the driver who veered onto a Fort Greene sidewalk and killed Victoria Nicodemus, left, in December.

A grand jury has indicted Marlon Sewell for second-degree manslaughter six months after he jumped a curb in Fort Greene and killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus while driving with a suspended license, Gothamist reports. Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson had refrained from pressing felony charges until Nicodemus’s family pressured his office to take action.

On December 6, Sewell, driving a Chevy SUV on eastbound Fulton Street, veered onto a crowded sidewalk instead of slowing down for a bus pulling into a stop near S. Portland Avenue, according to witnesses. He struck Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person.

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

At first Thompson charged Sewell only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle uninsured, a traffic infraction. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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Advocates Don’t Expect Judge’s Ruling Against Right of Way Law to Hold Up

In rejecting the case against a school bus driver who struck and killed an elderly woman in a Queens crosswalk, a criminal court judge deemed the city’s Right of Way Law unconstitutional. The constitutionality of the law had previously been upheld in a different court, however, and street safety advocates don’t expect the new ruling to hold up. Applying the same logic would render criminal statutes against drunk driving unconstitutional as well, they say.

Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris

The Right-of-Way Law, enacted in 2014, made it an unclassified misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. The law was intended to overcome NYPD’s reluctance to investigate injury crashes that officers did not witness firsthand.

The decision released Friday by Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris regarded the case of Isaac Sanson, who struck and killed 85-year-old Jeanine Deutsch in the crosswalk as he turned onto 70th Road from 108th Street in Forest Hills on December 19, according to the Daily News. Deutsch succumbed to her injuries two months later, and the city charged Sanson with misdemeanor failure to yield.

In her decision, Morris sided with Sanson’s claim that the law violates his right to due process because it imposes criminal penalties without needing to prove the perpetrator’s intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.

“The very fabric of our criminal justice system is that an accused person stands before a court innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to significant constitutional protections separate and distinct from a civil case,” Morris wrote.

The decision conflicts with — but does not overrule — New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer’s ruling from December in the case of MD Hossain, a yellow cab driver who killed 58-year-old Silvia Gallo in August 2014 while turning into a crosswalk.

Scherzer argued that the Right of Way law does not presume driver guilt, since prosecutors must “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.”

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Driver Who Killed Man While Fleeing NYPD Pleads to Manslaughter

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

A driver who killed a man on a Brooklyn sidewalk while attempting to evade police pled guilty to manslaughter.

Police pulled Raymond Ramos over at Sterling Place and Schenectady Avenue in Crown Heights shortly after midnight on March 9, 2015. As officers approached his car, Ramos, then 18, drove off.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that police chased Ramos before he hit a second vehicle at Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, about a mile away from the traffic stop. The impact sent both vehicles onto the sidewalk, fatally striking 21-year-old Dave Jones.

Photos published by the Daily News show both vehicles heavily damaged and overturned in front of a neighborhood shop, next to a shattered bus shelter. Three other vehicle occupants were reported injured.

NYPD and District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Ramos with manslaughter, two counts of assault, homicide, reckless endangerment, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions. On May 31, Ramos pled guilty to manslaughter, the top charge against him, according to court records.

It was never clear how much NYPD’s pursuit contributed to the crash.

NYPD policy says police must terminate vehicular pursuits “whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” When Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio’s office if NYPD was investigating whether the police who stopped Ramos followed department protocol, we received a one-sentence, generic response: “The Crash Investigation Squad is conducting a full investigation.”

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DA Ken Thompson Still Hasn’t Charged Driver for December Sidewalk Killing

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson seems OK with that.

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson seems OK with that.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged the driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Fort Greene sidewalk with unlicensed driving, but did not file charges for taking the victim’s life. Six months after the crash, Nicodemus’s family says the DA is dragging his feet on the case.

Marlon Sewell hit Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person with a Chevrolet SUV on the afternoon of December 6, 2015, as the victims walked in front of 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue. Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. An NYPD statement said Sewell swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting a second vehicle, which witnesses said was a bus.

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

Victoria Nicodemus was 30 years old.

The current charges against Sewell are aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, a traffic infraction. For crashing on a sidewalk reportedly at a high rate of speed, killing one person and injuring two others, allegedly while driving without a valid license, Sewell faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. That’s the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling.

“It seems to my family that they’re really beginning to be OK with just standing pat on the misdemeanor charges, and for us that’s unacceptable,” says Hank Miller, Nicodemus’s brother.

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Driver Who Injured Woman on Manhattan Sidewalk Pleads to Two Felonies

Update: Tiffany Murdaugh was sentenced to two to six years in prison.

A woman who hit a pedestrian on a Lower Manhattan sidewalk and left the scene pled guilty to two felony charges this week.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On April 13, 2015, Tiffany Murdaugh drove her Dodge Challenger over the curb on Beekman Street near William Street, striking Heather Hensl and nearly hitting a second woman and two children as she sped down the sidewalk.

The crash happened outside Spruce Street School. Parents who have kids at the school told DNAinfo motorists often use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

“I just saw this woman somersaulting in the air and then she landed on the sidewalk,” a witness told DNAinfo. “[Murdaugh] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane. So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

Hensl, then 37, sustained a broken knee and a head laceration.

Murdaugh did not stop. Though police had video evidence, NYPD hesitated to file charges, in part because Murdaugh lived out of state.

A few weeks after the crash, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance charged Murdaugh with two counts of assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene. On Wednesday Murdaugh pled guilty to assault and reckless endangerment charges, both class D felonies, according to Vance’s office.

“This defendant careened onto a sidewalk near an elementary school at 8 o’clock in the morning on a school day,” Vance said in a statement. “It is a miracle that no one else was hurt by her recklessness. This driver not only narrowly missed a mother and her two young children, she seriously wounded a woman who had to endure months of physical therapy to rehabilitate her leg. I hope this conviction serves to deter reckless and illegal driving that endangers our City’s residents.”

It is rare for a motorist to be convicted of felony charges for injuring a New York City pedestrian, even in cases where the driver leaves the scene. The Vance press release said investigators relied on video and witness accounts to help make the case.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Murdaugh is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

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Driver Who Killed Xiali Yue Pleads Guilty to Violating Victim’s Right of Way

Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Brooklyn, where Alexander Smotritsky killed Xiali Yue with a car. The white arrow indicates the path of the victim, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Brooklyn, where Alexander Smotritsky killed Xiali Yue with a car. The white arrow indicates the path of the victim, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

A driver who struck and killed a woman in a Brooklyn crosswalk pled guilty to a Right of Way Law violation.

The crash happened at around 8:13 on the morning of March 16, 2015. Xiali Yue, 61, was crossing Cropsey Avenue at 21st Avenue in Bensonhurst, in a crosswalk with the walk signal, when Alexander Smotritsky hit her with a Ford compact as he turned right from 21st onto Cropsey, according to Patch and Daily News stories published shortly after the crash.

Smotritsky, then 39, was charged under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law, which is an unclassified misdemeanor. Police also charged him with careless driving, a traffic infraction.

The Right of Way Law took effect in August 2014. The crash that killed Yue was one of the early instances of NYPD applying the law to penalize a motorist for killing a person who was following traffic rules.

The Daily News used the prosecution of the driver who killed Yue — the paper’s editorial board said she was “fatally bowled over” — to criticize Section 19-190 as a “tool for changing driving habits that are generally tolerated.” Historically, sober drivers who killed people in New York City crosswalks could expect to receive no penalty at all, as long as they stayed at the scene and cooperated with police.

Section 19-190 carries a fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records say Smotritsky entered a guilty plea on April 19, and on April 29 was sentenced to a $200 fine.