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Posts from the Traffic Justice Category


Appeals Court Nixes Murder Conviction of Off-Meds Driver Who Killed Two

Auvryn Scarlett killed two people and injured a third when he crashed a garbage truck after stopping his epilepsy medication. An appeals court reduced his murder conviction but affirmed manslaughter and assault charges. Photo: Daily Mail

Auvryn Scarlett killed two people and injured a third when he crashed a garbage truck while off his epilepsy medication. An appeals court reduced his murder conviction but affirmed manslaughter and assault charges. Photo: Daily Mail

A state appeals court reduced the conviction of a commercial truck driver who killed two Manhattan pedestrians while off his epilepsy medication. According to the New York Law Journal, the ruling cited as precedent a recent decision by the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, which prosecutors feared would make it more difficult to bring cases against motorists who kill people.

Auvryn Scarlett had a seizure while driving a garbage truck on W. 35th Street in February 2008, causing the truck to jump the curb and fatally strike British tourists Jacqueline Timmins and Andrew Hardie. A third pedestrian was seriously injured. In a rare instance of a sober New York City driver charged criminally for a fatal crash, Scarlett was convicted of murder and assault.

The BBC covered the trial:

Summing up the prosecution case at New York Supreme Court, assistant district attorney Chris Ryan said Scarlett had shown a complete disregard for the safety of others.

Driving six days a week for the refuse haulage company, he knew he could have a seizure at any time “on some of the busiest streets on earth.”

He said: “It is like playing a game of Russian roulette, only instead of pointing the gun at yourself, you point it at other people. And if someone dies — that is murder.”

Prosecutors said Scarlett stopped taking his medication two weeks before the crash and did not tell his employer or the DMV he had epilepsy. At sentencing, according to the Law Journal, the judge said Scarlett stopped taking his medication because it “interfered with [his] enjoyment of liquor.”

Last week the Appellate Division, First Department of the state Supreme Court reduced Scarlett’s murder conviction to manslaughter and his first degree assault conviction to second degree assault.

Read more…


Trucker Who Killed Cyclist Anna Rodriguez Charged With Manslaughter

The truck driver who killed a cyclist in Queens yesterday was charged with homicide after he tested positive for cocaine.

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

NYPD said Dennis Forceri, 57, drove a tractor-trailer into 34-year-old Anna Rodriguez while making a right turn at 56th Road and 48th Street at around 8:45 a.m. Rodriguez suffered trauma to her head and body and died at Elmhurst Hospital.

WCBS reported that Rodriguez lived in Ridgewood and was a single mother with a young son.

A motorist, Eddie Ewald, told WCBS the area where the crash occurred, in a warehouse district, is “extremely chaotic” during morning hours. “Everybody’s speeding through here,” Ewald said.

“The car is not really paying attention to you, making turns when you’re right next to them, pulling into parking spots,” said cyclist Daniel Salvatierra. “It’s terrifying.”

DOT’s Vision Zero data map shows crashes are common on 56th Road, with many injuries to motor vehicle occupants, a sign of high-speed collisions.

Police initially said Forceri was charged with driving with a revoked license. He was later charged with first degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence of drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, failure to yield, and careless driving, according to Gothamist and AMNY. Forceri’s case did not turn up in a search of online court records early this afternoon.

NYPD has not yet released the name of the company that owns the truck Forceri was driving. Serious crashes caused by unlicensed or impaired commercial drivers are not unusual in NYC. There should be sanctions for companies that allow such drivers behind the wheel.

This morning Public Advocate Letitia James issued a statement on the most recent series of pedestrian and cyclist deaths at the hands of reckless drivers:

Over the past eleven days, five pedestrians and one cyclist were killed by motor vehicles in New York City. We must continue to work together to achieve Vision Zero, which requires good street design, education, and enforcement. Too many innocent New Yorkers are dying on our City’s streets and sidewalks, and we have a moral and civil responsibility to use every tool in our arsenal to make our City safer.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is known for pleading down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking them to trial, even when defendants are accused of committing high-level felonies like aggravated vehicular homicide and manslaughter. Streetsblog will follow the case against Forceri as it progresses.


NYPD: “No Criminality” When Drivers Collide, Kill Woman on Bronx Sidewalk

NYPD says no laws were broken when two motorists collided and one drove onto the sidewalk, killing Sheniqua Silva and injuring two other people as they waited for a bus. Image: WPIX

NYPD says no laws were broken when two motorists collided and one drove onto the sidewalk, killing Sheniqua Silva and injuring two other people as they waited for a bus. Image: WPIX

For the second time in less than a week, colliding motorists killed a person standing on a New York City sidewalk and NYPD filed no charges.

On Monday afternoon the driver of a Coca-Cola truck struck a passenger car before hitting a group of people who were waiting for a bus in Port Morris, killing 37-year-old Sheniqua Silva and injuring two other pedestrians. NYPD made no arrests after the crash and had no updates on the investigation today. Police “don’t believe there is any criminality on the part of the truck driver,” according to WNBC.

Sheniqua Silva. Image via WNBC

Sheniqua Silva. Image via WNBC

The crash occurred near the Bruckner Expressway at around 3:20 p.m. From the Times:

The fatal chain of events started on Bruckner Boulevard, the service road below the expressway, the police said. According to a preliminary investigation, a 52-year-old woman driving a 2013 Nissan S.U.V. crossed two lanes and cut in front of the truck to make a right turn on East 138th Street. Officials said the truck then struck the car before losing control.

Officials said the truck was driven by a 35-year-old man, but they did not release his name. A police spokesman said it appeared that no crime had been committed, but added that the investigation was continuing.

The truck came to a stop after hitting a building. Silva, who had just finished a shift at a nearby bakery, died at the scene. Reports said she had five children, all teenage boys. “She was always worried about our sons,” her husband, Orlando Silva, told the Daily News. “She worked hard and cared about them only.”

Read more…


Cab Driver Who Ran Over Kids on Bronx Sidewalk Blames Car

The livery cab driver who ran over four children and a woman on a Bronx sidewalk Wednesday blamed the car he was driving.

The driver, identified as Bialo Daillo, spoke with WNBC yesterday.

… Daillo … said he was heartbroken by the accident. The driver said he stepped on the break [sic] and the car wouldn’t stop. He said he feels fine physically, but is sad for those who were injured.

“I just care about the other people; I’m not bleeding. I’m sorry for the other people,” Daillo said. “Nobody wants that. Nobody wants this. I don’t know what happened.”

Daillo was driving a Toyota Camry. Video posted by WNBC shows him speed toward the intersection of Valentine Avenue and E. Kingsbridge Road, drive over a raised median, re-enter the roadway, jump the curb a second time and crash into a building where a group of children were waiting for a school bus. In the video the brake lights of the car don’t appear to activate until after Daillo is on the sidewalk where the victims were standing.

Three of the victims were a 33-year-old woman and her two kids. Two other children were also hurt. According to WNBC, an 8-year-old girl who was pinned under the car was in intensive care at Jacobi Hospital with a broken pelvis and broken legs.

Daillo, who according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission has held a for-hire vehicle license since 1998, works for Uber. Uber told Streetsblog he did not drive for the company yesterday. The TLC suspended Daillo from driving a cab pending the outcome of the NYPD investigation. Unless he is convicted of a crime or traffic offense, he will likely be reinstated by the TLC.

Immediately after the crash, anonymous police sources told the Post “no criminality was suspected.” No charges were filed yesterday. The NYPD public information office could not provide an update on the case this afternoon.

The crash occurred in the 52nd Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Ritchie Torres.

Mayor de Blasio’s office sent a statement on the crash today, after I asked for one. It did not say the mayor planned to take any action relevant to the crash, such as directing DOT to inspect the site or reform rules that allow cab drivers who harm people to retain TLC licenses.

See prior Streetsblog coverage of yesterday’s crash here, here, and here.


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.


Repeat Drunk Driver Pleads to Low-Level Felony for Killing Queens Pedestrian

A recidivist drunk driver who was charged with 10 felonies for killing a Queens pedestrian pled guilty to two low-level felony counts in a deal with District Attorney Richard Brown.


Queens DA Richard Brown

At around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, 2014, Romulo Mejia drove a Ford compact into a man who was walking at Roosevelt Avenue and 92nd Street in Jackson Heights, according to the Times Ledger.

Mejia then allegedly veered into oncoming traffic and crashed into an empty, parked car, according to the NYPD.

Police said Mejia refused to take a Breathalyzer or other sobriety field tests.

The victim died at the scene. His name and age were not reported.

Mejia, who was 42 at the time of the crash, is from Bradenton, Florida. Police told the Times Ledger he had a prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years. Court records indicate Mejia has been in jail since his arrest.

Brown charged Mejia with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, four counts of vehicular manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide, one count of aggravated DWI, one felony count of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, one misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, and one misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The top charge against Mejia was aggravated vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol content of .18 or more, a class B “non-violent” felony with sentences ranging from 1 to 25 years in jail. According to court records, this week Brown allowed Mejia to plead to one count of criminally negligent homicide and one count of aggravated DWI, both class E felonies.

Class E is the lowest felony category in New York State, with a maximum penalty of four years in jail and a minimum of probation with no jail time.

In the relatively rare instances when he brings a case, Richard Brown has a history of negotiating lenient sentences for drivers who kill people, even when they were driving drunk. Mejia is scheduled to be sentenced in October.


DOT: Drivers Injured 1,323 Pedestrians and Cyclists in August, and Killed 14

Killed by NYC drivers in August: Jadann Williams and Muyassar Moustapha.

Killed by NYC drivers in August: Jadann Williams and Muyassar Moustapha.

Twenty-one people died in New York City traffic in August, and 4,891 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of August, DOT reported 88 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 9,150 injured, compared to 96 deaths and 9,628 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians and three cyclists were fatally struck by drivers. Among the victims were Rigoberto Diaz, Ernesto Perez, Muyassar Moustapha, Mallory Weisbrod, Ora Walker, Roy Amit, Lubov Brodskaya, Rochel Wahrman, Carol Carboni, Jadann Williams, and an unnamed male cyclist in Queens.

Motorists killed at least one child and five seniors in August: Jadann Williams, 8; Rigoberto Diaz, 72; Muyassar Moustapha, 66; Ora Walker, 82; Lubov Brodskaya, 90; and Rochel Wahrman, 69.

Across the city, 745 pedestrians and 578 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 11 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, no motorists were known to have been charged for causing a death.

Jadann Williams was playing with other children when Reginald Auguste hit her with an SUV. Mallory Weisbrod was standing on a Manhattan sidewalk when she was fatally struck by a driver who also hit two other women. Roy Amit was crossing a Queens street in the crosswalk when a yellow cab driver backed into him. Lubov Brodskaya and Carol Carboni were hit in Brooklyn crosswalks by motorists making turns. The driver who killed Muyassar Moustapha in Brooklyn reportedly knocked his body 20 feet into the air. NYPD and district attorneys Cy Vance, Richard Brown, and Ken Thompson filed no known charges in any of those cases.

Immediately after Muyassar Moustapha was killed, police defended the driver by telling the press the victim was not in a crosswalk and the motorist had the light. NYPD told the media Ernesto Perez and the cyclist killed in Queens “ran into” the vehicles that struck them.

Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least four victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, but police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law in none of those crashes.

Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

Seven motor vehicle occupants died in the city in August, according to DOT, and 3,568 were injured.


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.


DA Ken Thompson: Charges for Punching Driver, No Charges for Killing Child

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson filed charges against the man accused of punching the driver who killed Jadann Williams, but did not charge the driver.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson filed charges against the man accused of punching the driver who killed Jadann Williams, but did not charge the driver.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is prosecuting the man accused of punching the driver who killed 8-year-old Jadann Williams in Flatbush, but Thompson filed no charges against the driver.

Jadann was playing with a group of kids on E. 22nd Street on the afternoon of August 26 when a man identified by the Daily News as Reginald Auguste hit her with an SUV. Jadann suffered head trauma and died at Kings County Hospital.

East 22nd Street north of Ditmas Avenue, where the crash occurred, is a narrow, two-way cul-de-sac lined with apartments. The News said Auguste “lived on the block and was known for having a lead foot.” A witness said he “tried to press the brake, but went 15 to 20 feet before he stopped,” an indication that Jadann might be alive today if Auguste had been driving slower.

“The guy was a known speeder,” another witness told the News. “You know the children are present. You have to drive at a decent speed.”

While NYPD let Auguste go, police arrested Ryan Romans, who knew Jadann and witnessed the crash, for allegedly punching Auguste in the face.

NYPD and Thompson filed a number of charges against Romans, including misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor attempted assault, misdemeanor menacing, and harassment, according to court records. The top count against Romans is the assault charge, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

Romans was released without bail after his arrest. His next court date is in October.

Read more…


James Oddo Calls for Wider Roads Hours After SI Traffic Violence Claims Life

A UPS worker who lost a leg when a Staten Island driver slammed into him in April has died. NYPD and Staten Island prosecutors issued no summonses and filed no criminal charges in the case.

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan, 52, was unloading packages from his truck at 2044 Hylan Boulevard on the morning of April 6 when a driver hit him with a Toyota sedan, according to the Staten Island Advance. NYPD told the Advance the driver was in the left, northbound lane and “tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian who crossed in front of his vehicle.”

The driver lost control of his vehicle and it swerved into the right lane, striking and pinning Ryan against the back of the UPS truck, police said.

Ryan, of Bayonne, died this week, the Advance reported.

The impact from the crash severed one of his legs, causing him to bleed profusely and go into cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma due to the loss of oxygen to his brain, and never regained consciousness, his wife [Elise Ryan] said.

“He had an anoxic brain injury — that was more of his injury than even the leg,” the grieving wife explained.

The driver who killed Ryan was not identified. Despite indications that driver speed contributed to the crash — and was likely the difference between whether Ryan lived or died — no charges were filed by police, former district attorney Dan Donovan, or acting DA Daniel Master Jr., who took office in May, after Donovan was elected to Congress.

The crash that killed Tom Ryan occurred in the 122nd Precinct — where as of July local officers had ticketed 1,180 drivers for speeding in 2015 — and in the City Council district represented by Steve Matteo.

According to DOT, while overall NYC pedestrian deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years, the number of people killed by drivers while walking in Staten Island has not declined. But making streets safer is not a priority for Staten Island electeds.

Matteo has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation. He was one of four council members, along with former Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio, to vote against lowering the city speed limit. Matteo has said he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam.

When he was on the council, Matteo’s predecessor James Oddo, who is now borough president, called for requiring an environmental review for new bike lanes. Hours after news broke of Tom Ryan’s death, Oddo took to Twitter to brag about upcoming road widenings and call for more such projects on Staten Island.