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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cy Vance to Albany: TWU Bill Would Hinder Cases Against Drunk Drivers

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sent a letter to state lawmakers warning that a bill to prevent police from detaining bus and taxi drivers at crash scenes would undermine law enforcement’s ability to collect evidence of impaired driving.

The bill, which sailed through the State Senate yesterday with no public notice and without a public hearing, would bar police from detaining many professional drivers — including bus drivers, taxi drivers, and limo drivers — following a crash. Instead, a driver suspected of breaking the law would receive a desk appearance ticket.

The bill passed the Senate at the behest of the Transport Workers Union, which doesn’t think bus drivers who kill and injure people should be subject to charges under the NYC Right of Way Law.

On Tuesday, Vance sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. It read:

Although the amended bill attempts to exclude drivers who may be driving under the influence of alcohol, police officers often conduct field sobriety tests even when there is no immediate suspicion of impairment, and must often wait a significant period of time for the arrival of equipment to conduct those tests. By prohibiting the detention of omnibus drivers at the scene of collisions, the bill prevents law enforcement from gathering evidence vital to bringing criminal charges in appropriate cases.

“In a city full of pedestrians and cyclists, we should be working on ways to make the city safer for New Yorkers, and certainly not promoting changes that would hold some drivers to a lower standard than others,” Vance wrote. “For these reasons, I urge our lawmakers to vote against this bill.”

NYPD and Mayor de Blasio’s office oppose the bill, along with Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The bill is now in the Assembly, where it’s the last day of the 2015 legislative session. Families of people killed by New York City drivers are in Albany today trying to convince Assembly members to stop the bill. You can support them by contacting your representative right now.

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Cy Vance Nets Felony Conviction of Driver Who Killed Senior Shu Ying Liu

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

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

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.

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Did Cy Vance’s Office Investigate the Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle?

Cy Vance’s office said it has no record of the crash that killed Mike Rogalle.

Cy Vance’s office said it has no record of the crash that killed Mike Rogalle.

A Manhattan prosecutor says District Attorney Cy Vance’s office has no record of any investigation into the curb-jump crash that killed pedestrian Mike Rogalle.

Rogalle, who delivered packages for UPS, was working his Financial District route on the afternoon of 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. He was 58.

Reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV. The press identified the adult passenger, a man, as an FDNY inspector. The driver was reportedly a woman. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported by the media.

NYPD and Vance filed no charges against the driver who killed Mike Rogalle.

Last month NYPD rejected a Streetsblog FOIL request for records pertaining to the crash, citing “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” On May 26 we filed a freedom of information request for documents from Vance’s office, including emails, pertaining to the case.

Assistant DA Sarah Hines responded on June 10:

Utilizing the information provided in your letter, including the name of the man who died and the date and location of the collision, which you specify, I have made diligent inquiries in this Office, including speaking with the Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Unit as well as the Unit Coordinator of that unit. Despite these inquiries, I have been unable to locate any records or documents responsive to your request.

If we do not possess the items you seek, then your request must be denied on that basis. The District Attorney’s Office cannot provide an item that does not exist or that we do not possess. If we do possess some or all of the items you seek, then your request does not “reasonably” describe them in a manner which enables me to locate them, and your request must be denied on that basis.

In the past, Vance’s PR staff told Streetsblog they could not access traffic crash cases without defendants’ names. Since very few traffic crashes in New York City result in criminal charges, there are usually no defendants to speak of. Meanwhile, NYPD generally does not divulge drivers’ names after a serious crash unless charges are filed.

This makes it impossible for the public to know why charges are not brought against Manhattan drivers who injure and kill people. In the case of Mike Rogalle, it appears that either Vance’s office is incapable of locating records when provided key details of a collision, or Vance’s office did not investigate Rogalle’s death.

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NYPD Denies Request for Files Related to Fatal Manhattan Curb-Jump Crash

Mike Rogalle appeared in a promotional video with Neil deGrasse Tyson, who noted his death on Facebook. Image: NOVA/YouTube via Facebook

Mike Rogalle appeared in a promotional video with Neil deGrasse Tyson before Rogalle was killed by a curb-jumping motorist in 2012. The driver was not charged. Image: NOVA/YouTube via Facebook

NYPD rejected a Streetsblog freedom of information request for files related to a curb-jump crash that killed a Manhattan pedestrian in the Financial District three years ago.

UPS man Mike Rogalle was working his regular route on the afternoon of April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Witnesses described an unthinkably gruesome scene, with Rogalle trapped under the vehicle before he was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Rogalle, 58, was removed from life support a few days after the crash.

Reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV at the time of the crash. The adult passenger, a man, was identified in the press as an FDNY inspector, and the driver was reportedly a woman. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported by the media.

NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges against the driver who killed Mike Rogalle.

On May 7, Streetsblog filed a FOIL request for records pertaining to the crash that killed Rogalle. On May 19, NYPD Lieutenant Richard Mantellino rejected the request, citing “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” NYPD could have released the records with personal information redacted, but instead denied our request outright. Mantellino’s letter is embedded after the jump.

Streetsblog is appealing NYPD’s rejection of our request. On Tuesday we filed a separate FOIL request for relevant records from DA Vance’s office.

Last month a hit-and-run driver ran over a woman on the sidewalk near the spot where Rogalle was hit. Vance filed felony charges in that case. Both crashes occurred near Spruce Street School, where, according to parents who have kids there, motorists regularly use the sidewalk to drive around traffic. Spruce Street parents and administrators asked DOT for improvements to Beekman before Rogalle was killed. DOT installed a stop light and street markings at Beekman and William streets but has not implemented measures, such as bollards, to keep drivers off the sidewalk.

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Cy Vance Files Felony Charges for Beekman Street Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has filed felony charges against a woman accused of driving onto a downtown sidewalk, striking a pedestrian, and leaving the scene.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

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” prior to the collision, according to Downtown Express. DNAinfo reported that the driver barely missed hitting other people, including children, who were able to get out of her path. The crash occurred near Spruce Street School, where, according to parents who have kids there, it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

Police said the same car was involved in a second hit-and-run crash, involving a pedestrian in Brooklyn, shortly after Hensl was hit.

Earlier this month, Hensl said NYPD was prepared to close the case without filing charges because the woman identified as the vehicle’s owner lives in New Jersey. Police also said they were unable to find a witness who saw the driver through the vehicle’s tinted windows.

But on Wednesday the alleged driver, Tiffany Murdaugh, appeared in New York Criminal Court on multiple charges, according to Downtown Express and court records. Vance charged Murdaugh with assault, reckless endangerment, and leaving the scene of an accident, court records say. Assault and reckless endangerment are both class D felonies, with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison.

From Downtown Express:

According to the complaint, on Tuesday evening at the First Precinct, Murdaugh was shown video of the incident and identified the 2013 white Dodge Challenger in it as her vehicle. She also told police that “she had taken the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan that morning and that no one else had driven her vehicle that day,” according to the complaint.

“I’m very relieved,” said Hensl in a phone interview. “I’m glad that she is in jail right now and not on the street.”

Hensl said the assistant district attorney who called her felt confident in the case and she will testify before the grand jury.

Read more…

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Turning Driver Kills 89-Year-Old on Upper East Side, NYPD Blames Victim

A driver makes a left turn into the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue, where John Torson was fatally struck Thursday. NYPD said the 89-year-old victim was "outside the crosswalk" when he was hit. Image: Google Maps

A driver makes a left turn into the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue, where John Torson was fatally struck Thursday. NYPD said the 89-year-old victim was “outside the crosswalk” when he was hit. Image: Google Maps

For the second time in a week, a turning driver has killed a senior on the Upper East Side. Police blamed the victim in the press.

John Torson, 89, was crossing E. 61st Street north to south at around 7:19 p.m. Thursday when a 56-year-old woman drove a Lexus SUV into him while turning left from First Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports. Torson, who lived on E. 63rd Street, was declared dead on arrival at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, police said.

The crash occurred in the 19th Precinct, where a cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old tourist Amelia Sterental on May 9. As of March, 19th Precinct officers had issued just 10 speeding tickets in 2015.

From the Post:

The driver, who remained at the scene, said Thorson “just hobbled into the middle of the street.”

“I did my best to put on the brake, but he ran into my car,” said the shaken driver, who did not want to give her name. “I feel bad for him. I hope he’s okay. But I’m so worried.”

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that, according to the Collision Investigation Squad, Torson was “outside of the marked crosswalk” when he was struck. Anonymous police sources told the Post Torson “was not in the crosswalk,” and the Daily News reported that, according to unnamed sources, the victim was “a few car-lengths west of the crosswalk.” A photo of the scene published by the Post shows the SUV sitting on 61st Street, the rear tires a few feet from the crosswalk, indicating Torson probably would not have been far from the corner.

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Will NYPD Charge Driver Who Rammed Woman on Sidewalk and Left Scene?

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who deliberately drove down a Manhattan sidewalk, rammed a pedestrian, left the scene and reportedly hit a second person in Brooklyn might not be charged with a crime, according to one of the victims.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop. In an email to Downtown Express, Hensl, a 37-year-old physician assistant, said she is on crutches and may require knee surgery, in addition to physical therapy.

The crash occurred near Spruce Street School. Parents of kids who attend the school say it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

From Downtown Express:

Video viewed by Downtown Express shows 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.

Captain Mark Iocco, the First Precinct’s commanding officer, said the same car was involved in an accident in Brooklyn about 30 minutes after that incident. The car was pulling into a parking spot and hit an elderly lady, he said at last week’s meeting of the First Precinct Community Council. The elderly woman couldn’t identify her, and could only confirm that the driver was a female, he said.

The suspect has filed an insurance claim. The police are working with the insurance company and they are “investigating her up and down,” said Iocco.

The driver barely missed striking other people on Beekman, including children, who were able to get out of her path, DNAinfo reported. “[The driver] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane,” one witness said. “So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

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No Right-of-Way Charge for Cab Driver Who Killed Senior in UES Crosswalk

An unidentified cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old Amelia Sterental in an Upper East Side crosswalk. NYPD and Cy Vance filed no charges. Image: WABC

An unidentified cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old Amelia Sterental in an Upper East Side crosswalk. NYPD and Manhattan DA Cy Vance filed no charges. Image: WABC

A yellow cab driver fatally struck a senior in an Upper East Side crosswalk Saturday, and no charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The crash occurred in the 19th Precinct, where as of March officers had issued just 10 speeding tickets in 2015.

At around 2:43 p.m. Amelia Sterental, 76, was walking north across 60th Street when the cab driver hit her with a Ford SUV while turning left from Madison Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports.

From the Daily News:

The Miami woman was thrown over the taxi and ended up crumpled on the road in front of high-end clothing stores like Barneys and Calvin Klein, witnesses said.

“It smashed her and she went airborne and went over the back (of the car),” said Frank Semmel, 39, a retired New Jersey policeman.

“A street vendor who didn’t give his name said the cabby had ‘made a fast turn’ before he struck the unidentified woman in the crosswalk,” the Post reported.

“I heard screeching of the brakes,” another witness told the Post. “People started screaming. I turned around and there was a woman on the floor.”

Sterental, who lived in Bal Harbour, Florida, died at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Police and press accounts of the crash suggest Sterental was crossing with the right of way and the cab driver was traveling at an unsafe speed. But as of this morning, NYPD and Vance had filed no charges against the driver, whose name was withheld by police.

Cab drivers turn onto 60th Street from left turn lane on Madison Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Cab drivers turn onto 60th Street from left turn lane on Madison Avenue. Image: Google Maps

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