Skip to content

Posts from the Traffic Justice Category


NYPD: Driver Error Caused Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle

NYPD determined that a driver pinballing down a Manhattan street caused a curb-jump crash that killed a pedestrian, but police and District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges.

Mike Rogalle

Mike Rogalle

UPS delivery man Mike Rogalle, 58, was working his Financial District route on April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Rogalle was removed from life support days later.

Media reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV. The press identified the male adult passenger as an FDNY inspector, and said a woman was driving. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported in the press or disclosed by NYPD.

Last May NYPD rejected a FOIL request for documents pertaining to the crash. Vance’s office, responding to a separate FOIL filing, said it had no record of an investigation.

We appealed the NYPD FOIL denial, and in July the department sent us a one-page report on the crash, embedded below, with the name of the SUV driver and other information redacted.

According to the NYPD report, the driver, traveling westbound on Beekman, “struck the right curb then veered left” to avoid a “parked unoccupied vehicle” before “accelerating and mounting the south sidewalk,” striking Rogalle from behind and pinning him between the SUV and the entrance to 15 Beekman Street.

NYPD concluded that “operator error” caused the crash. According to the police report, the investigation was concluded on June 18, 2015 — more than three years after the crash and a few weeks after the department received the Streetsblog FOIL request.

Vance recently secured a felony indictment against a driver who injured a woman on the sidewalk near where Rogalle was killed.

Read more…


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.


Will Ken Thompson Charge Driver Who Killed Alejandro Moran-Marin?

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed a cyclist and injured several other people in a multi-vehicle crash in Brooklyn last week, according to the office of District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Claudio Rodriguez was driving against traffic on Fourth Avenue when he hit Alejandro Moran-Marin head-on near Atlantic Avenue, according to reports. Moran-Marin died instantly.

Rodriguez hit two other vehicles, sending four people to the hospital. The crash scene stretched for blocks. Photos showed pieces of Moran-Marin’s bike protruding from the front wheel of the SUV Rodriguez was driving.

A witness told the Daily News he thought Rodriguez was trying leave the scene because he backed up after hitting the first vehicle, a Toyota sedan, before striking Moran-Marin. Published accounts said Rodriguez told police he had a seizure because he didn’t take his medication.

In 2009, sanitation truck driver Auvryn Scarlett was convicted of murder for killing two Manhattan pedestrians after failing to take medication for epilepsy.

We emailed Thompson’s office to ask about the status of the investigation, and whether NYPD or the DA had failed charges against Rodriguez. “This investigation is continuing,” a Thompson spokesperson replied.

Streetsblog will follow this story as it develops.


Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Kills Senior Near Bowery and Canal

A dangerous intersection awaiting a safety fix. A precinct that lags on street safety. And a driver who could have faced stronger charges if Albany had taken action. Image: WNBC

The driver of this truck was operating with a suspended license when he struck and killed Ka Chor Yau last week. Image: WNBC

On Friday afternoon, a dump truck driver with a suspended license struck and killed 83-year-old Ka Chor Yau, who was crossing a deadly intersection at the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The same intersection is due to receive pedestrian safety improvements this summer.

The driver, 24-year-old Maykel Felix-Tejada of Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation, the standard charge for driving without a valid license. He was not charged for any crimes related to Yau’s death. Police said Yau was outside the crosswalk and did not have the right of way.

A bill to toughen penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill passed the State Senate earlier this year but did not clear the Assembly. Under the bill, these drivers would face felony charges for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

The intersection where Yau was killed is slated to receive upgrades that would make it safer for pedestrians to cross near the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. The plan to add a crosswalk, traffic signal, and curb extensions has received the support of Manhattan Community Board 3, and DOT says implementation is slated to begin in early August, with completion in October.

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, has regularly spoken out about pedestrian deaths on Canal Street. Her bill requiring DOT to study bicycle and pedestrian safety along truck routes, including Canal Street, was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.

Read more…


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: Repeat Hit-and-Run Killer Shouldn’t Drive Again; Judge: Disagree

A driver who killed two people in separate hit-and-run crashes could be driving again in two years after a judge disregarded a sentencing recommendation from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.


Jack Montelbano killed two people in separate hit-and-run crashes. Manhattan DA Cy Vance recommended he never be allowed to drive again, but a judge revoked his license for just two years. Photo: Facebook via Gothamist

In 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. Montelbano kept driving, and was later arrested in New Jersey, where he lived and where the truck was registered.

Vance charged Montelbano with felony leaving the scene, and last month he was convicted at trial.

Montelbano had killed while driving before. Incredibly, according to Vance’s office, he fatally struck another person and left the scene at the same Manhattan intersection in 2008.

Vance’s office said Montelbano was involved in a third hit-and-run crash, after which he registered a blood alcohol content of .18.

Montelbano accumulated over 20 offenses on his driving record in 30 years, according to Vance’s office, including speeding, following too closely, and driving with a suspended license. Some of those incidents occurred while Montelbano was operating commercial vehicles, Vance’s office said.

Given the class D felony conviction and Montelbano’s exceptional history of reckless driving, prosecutors recommended a sentence of two to six years in state prison and a permanent license revocation.

Instead Judge Anthony Ferrara sentenced Montelbano to six months in jail and five years probation, and revoked his driving privileges for two years. Per the terms of the sentence, Montelbano is prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle for five years, and his New York commercial vehicle license was permanently revoked.

“This driver showed cowardly and callous disregard for human life when he knowingly abandoned a critically injured person who wound up dying from injuries related to this crash,” said Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero, in a statement emailed to Streetsblog. “Making city streets safer for all New Yorkers is a priority for this Office, and has been the guiding principle behind our participation in regular meetings with the NYC Department of Transportation, Vision Zero panels, discussions with members of Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, among others.”

In New York State, a revocation means a driver must apply to have his license reinstated. From what we can tell the process is similar in New Jersey. While it’s possible Montelbano won’t get his license back, Ferrara could have taken a reckless killer off the roads for good.


DMV: Driver Who Killed Child in Crosswalk May Drive Again After Six Months

Pursuant to a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles hearing, the former cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock will regain his driving privileges after six months.

The driver who killed Cooper Stock admitted that he failed to see Cooper and his dad in a crosswalk. After a ruling by the New York State DMV he'll be driving again soon.

The driver who killed Cooper Stock admitted that he failed to see Cooper and his dad in a crosswalk. After a ruling by the New York State DMV he’ll be driving again soon.

In January 2014 Cooper and his father Richard Stock were crossing an Upper West Side street in a crosswalk with the right of way when Koffi Komlani hit them with a yellow taxi. Komlani was summonsed for careless driving and failure to yield. NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no criminal charges against him.

Komlani pled guilty last April and was sentenced to a $580 fine and a six-month suspension of his drivers license. After a June hearing, DMV administrative law judge Marc Berger suspended Komlani’s license for 180 days. An agency spokesperson told us the DMV penalty is concurrent with the terms of Komlani’s plea arrangement.

According to the Post, video of the crash was submitted as evidence at the DMV hearing.

When two DMV judges watched it, Komlani slumped his head, closed his eyes and put a hand to his face.

He claimed he did not see Cooper in the crosswalk.

“I never saw the son!” he told the judge during the hearing to decide whether he should keep his driver’s license. “I was not on the phone. I was not drunk. I was not on anything. I just missed them!”

A license suspension in New York State means a driver gets his license back once the term of the suspension is over. Had Komlani’s license been revoked he would have been required to file an application to regain his driving privileges, subject to DMV approval.

We asked for a copy of Berger’s findings. The DMV rep directed us to file a freedom of information request.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission did not renew Komlani’s probationary hack license, but under current agency rules he could reapply to drive a cab.

“I cannot understand how any judge, in any court, would not permanently revoke that person’s license when they watched a video of him running over a child right in front of him in plain sight,” Cooper’s mother, Dana Lerner, told us via email. “This man hit my husband and killed my 9-year-old child. Why should he be allowed the privilege of driving?”


DMV: Six-Month Suspension for Driver Who Killed Sammy Cohen Eckstein

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles determined that the driver who killed 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein failed to exercise due care and did not have a valid license at the time of the crash. DMV administrative law judge Marc Berger suspended the driver’s license for six months.

Sammy Cohen Eckstein

At around 5:15 p.m. on October 8, 2013, Sammy was attempting to retrieve a ball from Prospect Park West at Third Street when Luis K. Quizhpi-Tacuri hit him with a Chevrolet van. According to findings issued by Berger on June 29 [PDF], Quizhpi-Tacuri admitted that he saw the ball in the street, and saw another driver, traveling in the same direction to his left, come to a stop. Rather than slow down or stop, Quizhpi-Tacuri passed the second vehicle on the right, striking Sammy with the right rear tire of the van.

According to the DMV report, Quizhpi-Tacuri testified at a June 26 hearing that he was traveling at 25 miles per hour when the collision occurred. He also said he was late for a 5:00 appointment.

Wrote Berger:

The sight of a ball rolling into the street in a residential area adjacent to a park in the afternoon should have warned the respondent of the likely presence of children — to carefully observe his surroundings and make appropriate adjustments, including slowing down or stopping if necessary. Additionally, the fact that the vehicle immediately to his left suddenly stopped after the ball passed should have been an indication to the respondent to use extra care instead of passing that vehicle on its right.

Berger found Quizhpi-Tacuri committed three traffic offenses: failure to use due care, passing on the right unsafely, and driving without a valid license. Berger’s report says Quizhpi-Tacuri had a Washington state license at the time of the crash, though he had lived in New York for nine years. New York requires drivers to obtain a new license within 30 days of becoming a resident.

NYPD failed to send any of the officers who investigated the crash to Quizhpi-Tacuri’s DMV hearing, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Sammy’s family.

NYPD blamed Sammy for the crash and issued no summonses or charges. No charges were filed by former Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes or his successor Ken Thompson, who took office in 2014.

Read more…


MTA Report on Fatal Bus Crash Doesn’t Say What the Post Says It Does


The MTA’s diagram of the crash that killed John Lavery last October.

The Post ran a story today blaming the death of 64-year-old John Lavery in the Bronx last October on a broken street light, not the bus driver who struck him. But the very report cited by the Post, obtained by Streetsblog [PDF], reveals that the MTA’s internal investigation ruled the collision was preventable, and that driver Theresa Gallagher failed to take the turn at a safe speed, as drivers are trained to.

Gallagher was the first MTA bus driver charged under the city’s Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor to injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. The Post’s Daniel Prendergast, citing “a damning MTA report,” writes that a “broken street lamp made it impossible for the veteran driver to see the man, who was on methadone at the time, the document shows.”

While that explanation provides convenient fodder for TWU Local 100’s campaign to exempt bus drivers from the law, it’s not what the MTA report says.

At about 1:30 a.m. on October 3, Lavery, walking with a cane, was crossing East 147th Street with the signal “in close proximity to the crosswalk” when he was struck by the “left front section” of the bus.

MTA bus drivers are instructed to take turns at no more than 5 mph and to scan intersections for pedestrians. While New York City Transit’s Office of System Safety did find that a broken street light reduced visibility at the intersection where Lavery was killed, the investigation also determined that Gallagher took the turn at 11-15 mph — more than twice as fast as bus drivers are supposed to even when visibility is ideal:

Read more…