Two motorists were charged for killing pedestrians in the Bronx and Brooklyn this weekend. The alleged driver in the Wakefield crash was charged with murder, and there’s a solid chance that if convicted he will face significant jail time. And though the outcome of the case is far from certain, District Attorney Charles Hynes brought a rare felony charge against the man who allegedly drove onto a sidewalk and struck a 9-year-old boy in Fort Greene.
Reports in the Times, the News and the Post say that on Saturday afternoon, Anthony Byrd, 59, hit two cars and a building after swerving to avoid two people in a crosswalk at DeKalb and Clermont Avenues. He then reportedly made a U-turn and drove the wrong way on DeKalb, struck a 28-year-old woman in a crosswalk, hit a parked vehicle, and drove onto the sidewalk a second time, striking Lucian Merryweather, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother, who were standing at the northeast corner of the intersection.
Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. His brother was hospitalized in stable condition. The boys’ mother was not admitted to a hospital, reports said.
According to court records, Byrd was charged with assault, criminally negligent homicide, first and second degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and a number of traffic infractions, including driving against traffic on a one-way street.
It is rare for NYC prosecutors to file felony charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene of a crash, but it does happen — at least in Brooklyn. In 2010, Hynes charged Michael Oxley with homicide for the killing of cyclist Jake McDonaugh on Flatbush Avenue. In 2007, Alfred Taylor was charged with homicide for the death of a cyclist in Bedford Stuyvesant.
More unusual is that Hynes brought an assault charge in this case. Assault is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years, but which can also result in no jail time or probation. Relatively speaking, the more common top charge would be criminally negligent homicide — a class E felony, the least severe felony category, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in jail, and a minimum of no jail time or probation.
The rationale for bringing charges against a sober driver who remains at the scene is not usually defined, but there could be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. The Michael Oxley case hinged on the defendant running a red light. Saturday’s incident was a particularly chaotic and devastating crash, even by NYC standards, and allegedly involved wrong-way driving. Byrd is also a registered sex offender.