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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.

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4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.

On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.

Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.

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Victoria Nicodemus, 14th Person Killed by Curb-Jumping NYC Driver in 2015

The blue dot is the approximate location of the crash that killed Victoria Nicodemus. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Victoria Nicodemus photo via Daily News. Map image: DOT Vision Zero View

The blue dot is the approximate location where a driver fatally struck Victoria Nicodemus on a sidewalk in Fort Greene. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Map: DOT Vision Zero View

An alleged unlicensed driver who witnesses say was traveling at a high rate of speed struck and killed a woman on a sidewalk in Fort Greene yesterday.

Marlon Sewell, 39, drove a Chevrolet SUV over the curb at 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue, at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, striking 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, her 37-year-old boyfriend, and a 75-year-old man, according to reports.

Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. Witnesses said Sewell drove onto the sidewalk because he was driving too fast to stop for a B25 bus in front of him.

From the Daily News:

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” said witness Anthony Singh, 22, who works on the corner. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

“She lost a lot of blood,” he said. “Her body was really pale. They were pumping her chest while they took her away on the gurney.”

“This place was a madhouse,” said Byron Logan, 72, who was buying lottery tickets when the accident happened. “I’ve never seen so many people screaming.”

Nicodemus, an art curator who lived in Brooklyn Heights, died at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend and the third victim were hospitalized.

NYPD charged Sewell with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance. Aggravated unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, is the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone. Sewell was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims.

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DA Ken Thompson: Felony Plea for Driver Who Killed Roshard Charles, 5

A driver who fatally struck a little boy in Crown Heights and left the scene has pled guilty to felony hit-and-run.

On March 16, 2014, 5-year-old Roshard Charles was walking with his mother, little brother, and a friend on Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue when a driver aiming for a parking spot backed into him with a minivan. According to reports, as Roshard’s mother screamed and pounded on the van, Elizabeth Mayard drove away. Reports said Mayard ran red lights as she fled westbound on Empire, and was convinced by a witness who followed her to return to the scene.

Roshard Charles

Roshard Charles

From the Daily News:

[Witness Thomas] Barry and two others lifted the boy and put him on the hood of a parked car to try to keep him awake until help arrived, he said.

“Three or four times it was like he was going into the fetal position, and then he wasn’t moving anymore,” said a witness who lifted the boy. “He didn’t move again. He just didn’t move.”

The Daily News reported that Roshard “darted away from his mom,” a claim that did not match accounts from other media outlets, NYPD, or Roshard’s mother.

Rochelle Charles spoke with DNAinfo :

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Mayard with leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in death, a D felony, as well as misdemeanor reckless endangerment, reckless driving, careless driving, and unsafe backing of a vehicle. According to court records, last week Mayard pled guilty to leaving the scene, the top charge against her. Thompson did not charge Mayard for taking the life of Roshard Charles.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Mayard is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

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NYPD and Electeds Idle as NYC’s Hit-and-Run Epidemic Claims Another Life

It was a particularly barbaric crime: A driver fatally struck a person who was crossing the street with a walker, then left the scene. That it was the second such death in a matter of weeks is another reminder that New York City, thanks in part to indifference in Albany, is failing to meaningfully address its ongoing epidemic of deadly hit-and-run collisions.

Marlene Zotti in a family photo, via the Post.

Marlene Zotti in a family photo, via the Post.

Last Sunday at around 12:30 a.m., 59-year-old Marlene Zotti was crossing Ninth Avenue at 42nd Street in Borough Park when a man, identified in the press as Marco Ortiz, ran her over with a minivan. Ortiz allegedly did not stop to summon or render aid.

Zotti, who had diabetes, had exited the B11 bus shortly before she was hit, the Post reported. She died at the scene.

On Monday, more than 24 hours after the crash, Ortiz turned himself in at the 66th Precinct, according to the Post. The Post said Ortiz “told police he had been arguing with his wife” before hitting Zotti.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Ortiz with leaving the scene, a D felony that carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison, according to court records. Thompson filed no charges for the act of killing Marlene Zotti.

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