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Posts from the Ken Thompson Category

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A Look Back at Ken Thompson’s 2015 Interview With TransAlt

Photo: Transportation Alternatives/Reclaim

Photo: Transportation Alternatives/Reclaim

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson died from cancer on Sunday just a few days after publicly announcing his illness. Thompson, who took office in 2014, was considered a leader among NYC district attorneys in taking reckless driving seriously. In 2015 Transportation Alternatives spoke with Thompson about street safety and traffic justice. Streetsblog reposted this interview from TA’s Reclaim magazine.

As Brooklyn District Attorney, Ken Thompson is determined to make New York City’s streets safe and just. Reclaim sat down to discuss how he thinks that change is going to happen, what inspired him to get involved and where the fight for livable streets is going.

What put this issue on your radar?

I’ll tell you what put it on my radar. There was an incident in November of 2013 in my neighborhood. It involved a young child named Lucian Merryweather. He was only nine. It was November. It was a Saturday. It was a clear day. It was a beautiful day. He was walking down the street with his mother and his five-year-old brother. They were on the sidewalk near DeKalb Avenue. A man named Anthony Byrd ran him over and killed him.

I have a daughter who is ten and a son who is eight. I felt for the parents of Lucian Merryweather. And so I believe that we can do better as a borough and a city in making our streets safer.

I met with Lucian Merryweather’s parents after I took office. It might have been January of 2014. It was shortly after I took office. No matter what I said to them, they were inconsolable. I will never forget that meeting — just like when I met with the father of Mohammed Uddin, the 14-year-old brilliant young boy from Brooklyn Tech, who was killed in November of 2014.

I believe there’s a greater role for district attorneys to play in keeping our streets safe. I think that, in the past, some have argued that when these incidents happen, they’re an accident. Quite often, the victim is blamed for the incident without a real full-blown investigation. I think we need to change that. That is what motivated me as a father, as a concerned citizen and as the D.A. That is what prompted me to act.

And then I had Council Member Brad Lander, who I have great respect for, reach out to me. He brought Mohammed Uddin’s father to see me. Mr. Uddin cried through that whole meeting. Brad and I had some follow up conversations about what we could do. The takeaway was that we should bring folks together — safety advocates, members of the NYPD, members of my office and others — to see if we could do better in Brooklyn. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Driver Accountability Taskforce we created.

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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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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 Pleads to Manslaughter for Killing 12-Year-Old on Brooklyn Sidewalk

Update: Robert DeCarlo was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

A man who drove a stolen minivan into a woman and her two children on a Brooklyn sidewalk, killing a 12-year-old girl and leaving the other victims with life-altering injuries, has pled guilty to manslaughter.

Joie Sellers

Joie Sellers

Robert DeCarlo hit Joie Sellers, her 9-year-old sister Charlie, and their mother Marcia Landais, 38, as the victims walked on Flatlands Avenue near E. 46th Street on July 2, 2014.

The Daily News reported that DeCarlo knocked down a fence and hit a fire hydrant before coming to a stop. “He was going 120 miles an hour,” one witness told the News. “He lost control. It was crazy.”

“One of the babies was under the car,” the witness said. “We pushed the car up. I take the baby out.”

Joie died at Kings County Hospital. The Post reported that Charlie was rendered blind and paralyzed by the crash, and that Landais sustained a fractured pelvis.

DeCarlo, who reportedly had a criminal background, ran from the scene on foot, and later turned himself in to police. District Attorney Ken Thompson filed over a dozen charges against him, including manslaughter, assault, leaving the scene, driving without a license, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and speeding.

Last Friday, DeCarlo pled guilty to manslaughter, a class C felony, and four counts of assault, a class D felony, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

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Gwendolyn Booker, Killed by School Bus Driver on Atlantic Avenue Sidewalk

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Image: Google Maps

Atlantic Avenue location where a school bus driver fatally struck Gwendolyn Booker on the sidewalk last Friday. Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed on Atlantic since last August. Image: Google Maps

Another pedestrian was killed on Atlantic Avenue when a motorist struck a woman on the sidewalk.

Gwendolyn Booker, 50, was walking on Atlantic near Schenectady Avenue last Friday at around 6:30 p.m. when a school bus driver mounted the curb, according to NYPD and published accounts.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

Motorists have killed at least four people on Brooklyn sidewalks in the last seven months. DA Ken Thompson charged none of those drivers for taking a life.

From Gothamist:

The bus struck two light poles, a gas station, and smashed into several parked cars, in addition to striking the victim.

Multiple news outlets reported that, according to unidentified police sources, a second motorist cut off the school bus driver, “causing” him or her to leave the roadway. Many reports used similar or identical language to describe the crash. None of those outlets — the Post, WCBS, WPIX, the Daily News, or WABC — apparently questioned their NYPD sources as to why steering onto the sidewalk was justifiable, how fast the bus driver was traveling at the time of the crash, or if the driver was distracted. Instead, the bus driver has been absolved in nearly all the press accounts because of a second motorist who hasn’t been located or publicly identified.

The NYPD public information office had no other details about the incident. The bus driver’s name was not released by police, and no charges had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

Booker was at least the fifth pedestrian or cyclist killed by a driver on Atlantic Avenue since last August, and the fourth Brooklyn pedestrian fatally struck on a sidewalk since last July, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. District Attorney Ken Thompson charged none of the drivers in any of those crashes for taking a life.

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Family of Victoria Nicodemus: Get Reckless Drivers Off NYC Streets

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to share her department's efforts to curb traffic fatalities. Image: David Meyer

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to talk about DOT street redesigns. Photo: David Meyer

The family of Victoria Nicodemus is calling on NYPD to do more to get reckless drivers off city streets.

Nicodemus died last December when Marlon Sewell struck her with his SUV on a Fort Greene sidewalk, in a crash that injured two other pedestrians. Sewell, whose driving record reportedly includes incidents of unlicensed driving and speeding in school zones, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. This month a judge declined to revoke Sewell’s license, which was reinstated after he killed Nicodemus, because Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

Since the vigil and art installation held in her memory, Nicodemus’s siblings have joined other victims of traffic violence and their family members at Vision Zero events, to advocate for more serious charges against Sewell and changes in laws and policies that enable motorist negligence.

At a public event last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller spoke to representatives from DOT and NYPD. Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the area of Fort Greene where Nicodemus was killed, scheduled the forum in response to her death.

While Miller commended both departments for their ongoing Vision Zero efforts, he pressed NYPD to hold dangerous drivers accountable. “I’m wondering why there can’t be more done to immobilize a car, or impound a car, or create some sort of repercussions that have more of an impact that simply arresting a guy, saying ‘Ticket! We arrested him!,’ and letting him walk out the next day and get back in his car,” he asked Dennis Fulton, an NYPD crash investigator.

Fulton said the department is committed to filing additional charges against Sewell, but is limited by current laws. “I understand your sister, you know, she was on the sidewalk, she had no chance — and that’s pretty evident from the video,” Fulton said. “We’re going to act within the parameters that we’ve been dealt and we’ll do our best to bring criminal charges against the individual.”

“These are legislative proposals that we can pursue,” said Fulton, “but the police department acts within the parameters of those particular laws.”

Thompson’s office didn’t send anyone to last night’s event.

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Sidewalk Killer Free to Drive Thanks to Judge and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

A judge refused to take the license of the motorist who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk because, she said, District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges for reckless driving.

Marlon Sewell was allegedly driving without a valid license when he hit Nicodemus and two other people on Fulton Street on December 6, injuring Nicodemus’s boyfriend and the third victim. Thompson filed a top charge of unlicensed aggravated operation, a low-level misdemeanor and the same charge that police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

The DA did not charge Sewell, who reportedly has a history of driving without regard for others’ safety, for the act of killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims — declining even to file charges under the Right of Way Law.

In December Judge Marguerite Dougherty denied a request from Thompson’s office to hold Sewell on bail based on the charges against him. “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail,” Dougherty said last month. On Monday Dougherty told prosecutors “they had not presented an argument that would revoke … Sewell’s driver’s license,” according to DNAinfo.

“There are no allegations of the defendant recklessly driving,” said Dougherty.

She added that Sewell’s license had only been suspended at the time due to lack of child support and has since been restored.

Prosecutors told Dougherty that video evidence indicates Sewell had no “innocent reason to drive over the curb,” but DNAinfo reported that no additional charges have been filed because Sewell claimed he was “lightheaded” due to a carbon monoxide leak in his car.

Dougherty, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, said that since Sewell’s SUV was impounded there was no reason to prevent him from being able to drive legally. “It negates the necessity,” she said.

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Family of Victoria Nicodemus Demands Justice for Victims of Traffic Violence

Standing by his mother and CM Laurie Cumbo, Peter Miller shared memories of his sister and demanded justice for her and other victims of traffic violence. Photo: David Meyer

Peter Miller, far right, shared memories of his sister Victoria Nicodemus and demanded justice for her and other victims of traffic violence. Photo: David Meyer

Before she was killed on December 6 by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver, 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus was making a name for herself as an art curator. Last night, her colleagues at Indiewalls joined with her family, local electeds, and nearly 60 local residents to connect her life’s work with a call for justice for victims of traffic violence.

Marlon Sewell was driving his SUV without a license or insurance when he veered around a parked bus and onto the sidewalk, killing Nicodemus and injuring two others. This was the second time this year Sewell had been caught driving without a valid license — his license had recently been suspended for failing to report for multiple traffic summonses. He received two low-level misdemeanors and has not been charged with homicide.

Last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller emphasized that his sister’s death was not an accident, but the result of a chain of decisions made by Sewell and policymakers. “It was his choice to avoid damage to his car and himself as he swerved — to avoid an inanimate object — onto a sidewalk filled with unprotected pedestrians,” he said. “And it’s the city’s choice not prioritize prosecution of unlicensed and uninsured drivers.”

Her other brother, Hank Miller, demanded action from the city, state legislators, and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. “It is incumbent upon local district attorneys to pursue these types of cases more aggressively,” he said, “and consult with state and city legislators to develop statutes that give prosecutors and law enforcement better tools to combat this epidemic affecting pedestrian safety.”

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Tonight: Vigil in Fort Greene for Victoria Nicodemus

The family of Victoria Nicodemus will join with local electeds and advocates tonight to call on DA Ken Thompson to bring reckless drivers to justice.

The family of Victoria Nicodemus will join with local electeds and advocates tonight to call on DA Ken Thompson to bring reckless drivers to justice.

Two weeks ago, a curb-jumping driver struck and killed Victoria Nicodemus in Fort Greene. Tonight, her family and coworkers will join with electeds and advocates to demand justice for victims of traffic violence. The public is invited to attend.

On Sunday, December 6, at 5:30 p.m., Nicodemus, 30, was walking with her boyfriend along Fulton Street when Marlon Sewell, 39, veered his SUV around a stopped bus and onto the sidewalk. Nicodemus was struck and died from her injuries at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend, 37, and another man, 75, were also injured in the crash. Sewell was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance, two low-level misdemeanors. He was not charged with homicide.

Nicodemus was an art curator for the organization Indiewalls, which helps bring independent art to commercial spaces across the country. Tonight, Indiewalls will join her family, Transportation Alternatives, and Council Member Laurie Cumbo for a vigil and public art installation meant to call attention to traffic violence and demand that Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson prosecute the case and hold Sewell accountable for Nicodemus’ death.

The vigil starts at 6:30 p.m. at the northeast corner of Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue, by the Habana Outpost restaurant.