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Posts from the "Ken Thompson" Category

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Wrist Slap for DWI Killer After Brooklyn DAs Decline to Charge Homicide

A convicted drunk driver was sentenced this week to probation, a nominal fine, and a six-month license suspension for killing a Brooklyn pedestrian.

Roxana Gomez

Shortly after midnight on July 5, 2013, 27-year-old Roxana Gomez was walking at Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue when Eric Nesmith hit her with a BMW sedan, according to witness accounts and the Post. Gomez, a Columbia grad student who worked for the human rights group MADRE, suffered massive head injuries and was administered CPR by an emergency room nurse who lived near the scene. She died on July 10.

The Post reported that Nesmith, then 25, of Newark, had a BAC of .126 — far above the .08 legal limit for driving — and ”admitted to cops he had consumed up to six Coronas” while celebrating Independence Day before the crash. FDNY first responders said he was speeding. Yet Nesmith was not charged with homicide by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes or his successor Ken Thompson.

“An accident reconstruction expert concluded that alcohol was not a contributing factor in the death of the pedestrian in this case,” a spokesperson for Thompson’s office told Streetsblog in January.

Through a legal aid attorney, Nesmith pled guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, three years probation, and a $1,000 fine. On Tuesday, Judge Raymond Rodriguez sentenced him to three years probation and fined him $500, with no jail time, according to court records.

For killing Roxana Gomez while driving drunk, Eric Nesmith had his license suspended for six months, the default penalty mandated by state law, and six months with an interlock ignition device installed on his car.

Outrageous as it is, the outcome of this case is not at all unusual. New York State law and the courts effectively favor DWI killers. To get a vehicular homicide conviction, prosecutors must prove that impairment caused a motorist to operate a vehicle in a manner that caused death. Due to the vagaries of state code, this burden of proof is often insurmountable, and it is therefore common for NYC prosecutors to decline to bring homicide charges against drunk drivers who kill pedestrians.

Nesmith is due back in court in June.

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As Lucian Merryweather’s Family Grieves, Charges Against His Killer Reduced


Lucian Merryweather was one of at least 10 children age 12 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months. As his family tries to cope with his death and joins others in demanding an end to traffic violence, court records say charges were downgraded against the driver who killed Lucian and injured his younger brother, Theodore.

“Our life the way it was is over,” said Lucian’s father, Gregory Merryweather, in a video by Sam Hagens, Leon Mastik, and Pieter Munnik, posted last week on The Nabe, a site produced by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. ”So ‘normal’ isn’t really the point anymore. It’s about finding another way to exist.”

“When you step back and look at it, you are surprised that that is your new community. You never envision yourself being one of those people.”

Anthony Byrd, 59, was indicted last month for the November 2 crash, which also injured a third pedestrian. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson described what happened in a February 14 press release:

According to the indictment, video surveillance showed that on November 2, 2013, at 12:49 PM, Byrd drove his 2000 Ford Expedition westbound along Dekalb Avenue. As Byrd made a left hand turn onto Clermont Avenue, he narrowly avoided hitting two pedestrians who were walking their dog. Byrd’s S.U.V. then swerved to the right and onto a sidewalk where he struck the exterior of a restaurant, The Black Iris, located at 228 Dekalb Avenue, and a parked vehicle. Pedestrians can be seen on the video running as the vehicle made a U-turn onto the sidewalk.

Byrd then accelerated his vehicle in a diagonal direction into oncoming traffic on Dekalb Avenue. The vehicle then struck a westbound car while driving in the wrong direction along Dekalb Avenue. According to the indictment, Byrd then veered off Dekalb Avenue and onto Clermont Avenue, where he struck and broke the leg of pedestrian Elaine Driscoll, 29. Byrd then hit 4-year-old and 9-year-old brothers who were walking down the street with their mother, Anna Kovel.

Lucian was pinned under the SUV and died at the scene. Theodore was severely injured, according to the press release.

“The death of this innocent 9-year-old child and the severe injuries to his 4-year-old brother were truly tragic and avoidable and we will seek to hold the defendant accountable for his actions,” Thompson said in the release. “The people of Brooklyn must be free to walk down the streets of our borough without fear that they may be run over or injured by a motorist driving dangerously.”

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80-Year-Old Pedestrian and MTA Bus Driver Killed in Separate Crashes

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. He was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. Image: Google Maps

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. The driver was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports. Image: Google Maps

In the last 24 hours, an 80-year-old pedestrian and an MTA bus driver were killed in crashes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

At around 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, Margarita Seda was struck by the driver of a GMC vehicle as she crossed Grand Street at Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, according to WCBS and the Daily News. WCBS reported that Seda was crossing Grand north to south when the driver, traveling north on Graham, struck her while making a left turn onto Grand. Seda suffered head injuries and died at Bellevue Hospital.

The unnamed motorist was summonsed for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Grand Street and Graham Avenue are two-lane streets that meet at a signalized intersection, and there is strong evidence that the victim was in the crosswalk and had a walk signal, based on published reports and the fact that NYPD cited the driver. If it occurred as described, yesterday’s crash appears nearly identical to the one that killed Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by an unlicensed driver last November while crossing with the signal at Sutter and Euclid Avenues in East New York. The man who killed Savage was charged criminally, but only because he was driving without a license.

This type of crash is not rare. At least 30 NYC pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by turning motorists since January 2013, and for the most part the drivers were breaking the law by failing to yield. As we wrote after Savage’s death, that this deadly behavior does not apparently meet the standard of criminal negligence is a sign that New York’s criminal justice system is failing to hold drivers accountable for killing law-abiding pedestrians.

The crash that killed Margarita Seda occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso, and in the 90th Precinct, where in 2013 local officers cited 35 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians, and wrote 311 speeding tickets.

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One Month In, DA Thompson Charges Sober Driver With Manslaughter

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has filed homicide and reckless driving charges against a sober driver who caused a violent crash in Crown Heights, killing another driver.

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

On January 6, Jermaine Filmore ran a red on Eastern Parkway and hit two other vehicles, according to WABC. One of those cars hit a fourth car and then caught fire. The driver of that vehicle, a Lincoln Town Car, was killed. Court records say Filmore was charged with manslaughter, homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, among other charges.

As we reported after the crash that killed Lucian Merryweather, while it is rare for prosecutors to file homicide charges against a sober driver, there seems to be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. It was not completely unheard of for the previous Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, to file a homicide charge after a fatal crash caused by a sober, red light-running motorist.

However, it’s encouraging to see Thompson handle a case like this so early in his tenure, and he has pledged to take traffic violence seriously. ”There’s all types of criminality that could be committed by somebody driving a vehicle that hits and kills someone,” Thompson told Streetsblog last November, noting that “criminality” means more than just leaving the scene and drunk or impaired driving. ”It’s not just fatalities. Beyond fatalities, somebody can be seriously injured, and not killed, but they still need justice.”

It’s too early to say if the Filmore case represents a real change in how the Brooklyn DA’s office approaches traffic crimes. An earlier case this year, in which a driver rear-ended another car, which then struck and killed 75-year-old pedestrian Xiaoci Hu, resulted in no charges. If Thompson is going to bring his office in line with the mayor’s Vision Zero goals, there should be consequences for reckless driving of all stripes.

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Maude Savage and Akkas Ali, Struck by Motorists in 2013, Die From Injuries

The driver of this van barely slowed down as he turned into an occupied crosswalk, striking a senior. Image via Daily News. Video after the jump.

Charged for driving without a license, the maximum penalty against the motorist who fatally struck senior Maude Savage remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Image via Daily News

Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by a motorist in a Brooklyn crosswalk last November, died from her injuries. Though video showed Savage was crossing with the light, charges were not upgraded against the commercial driver who took a corner at speed, striking her a few feet from a grocery store she had just walked out of. After Savage’s death, the maximum penalty against the driver, who was charged the day of the crash with driving without a license, remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The crash occurred in the early afternoon of November 25 at Sutter and Euclid Avenues. In a security video, you could see Savage waiting for the pedestrian signal and looking both ways before stepping into the street. When she was midway across, the driver of a van covered in DirecTV logos entered the crosswalk, barely slowing as he made a left-hand turn. Savage tried to get out of his path, but the driver struck her with the front end of the van.

Robert Brown was charged by then-District Attorney Charles Hynes with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, a misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. He was also ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Reports in the aftermath of the crash said Savage was hospitalized with head injuries. Though several media outlets covered the crash itself — stories were pegged to the DirecTV angle, though Brown was not a DirecTV employee — we found no follow-up coverage. However, the NYPD November crash report recorded one crash at Euclid and Sutter that month, which resulted in one pedestrian fatality.

Several times in recent years, prosecutors have pursued third degree unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, as the top charge against unlicensed drivers who kill New York City pedestrians. In 2011, Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard were fatally struck by unlicensed drivers in separate crashes in Manhattan. Casal and her daughter were hit by a recidivist reckless driver as he backed up to get a parking spot; Renard was hit by a dump truck driver on an Upper East Side corner. In each case, Manhattan DA Cy Vance accepted a guilty plea to third degree unlicensed operation, and each motorist was fined $500.

Brown is next scheduled to appear in court on March 5, according to online court records.

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Drunk Driver Avoids Homicide Charge in Brooklyn Pedestrian Death [Updated]

A motorist who has admitted to driving drunk in a crash that killed a Brooklyn pedestrian was not charged with homicide by District Attorney Charles Hynes or his successor Ken Thompson. He was allowed to plead guilty this week to a top charge of misdemeanor DWI, court records say, and faces a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

Roxana Gomez

Roxana Gomez

At around 12:25 a.m. on July 5, 2013, 27-year-old Roxana Gomez was walking at Flatbush Avenue and St. Marks Avenue when she was hit by a BMW sedan driven by Eric Nesmith, according to witness accounts and the Post. Gomez suffered massive head injuries, and was administered CPR by an emergency room nurse who lived near the scene. She died on July 10.

The Post reported that Nesmith, 25, of Newark, ”admitted to cops he had consumed up to six Coronas at a family gathering” before the crash. His BAC was .126, the Post said.

According to online court records, Nesmith pled guilty Thursday to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a license revocation of at least six months.

It is unclear why this defendant was not charged for killing someone while driving drunk. Streetsblog contacted the Brooklyn district attorney’s office several times regarding this case, by phone and email, but public relations staff stopped responding to our queries not long after the crash. We have another message in with Thompson’s office concerning the Nesmith plea.

Nesmith is scheduled to be sentenced on March 25.

Update: We received the following statement from Thompson’s office: ”An accident reconstruction expert concluded that alcohol was not a contributing factor in the death of the pedestrian in this case.”

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After Street Safety March, Ken Thompson Talks Tough on Traffic Justice

After street safety demonstrators packed last night’s 88th Precinct community council meeting to demand action after the death of 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather on a Fort Greene sidewalk, elected officials spoke to the audience of well over 100 people. Brooklyn District Attorney-elect Ken Thompson, sitting quietly near the back, only spoke after an audience member asked him if he would combat traffic violence more aggressively than his predecessor, Charles Hynes. Although he didn’t reveal many details, Thompson offered a small glimpse into how he views the DA’s role in combatting dangerous driving.

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

“What I intend to do is take these cases very seriously,” he said. “I intend to do things differently. I can’t tell you right now how that’s going to play out, but there’s going to be a change with me.” Thompson encouraged people concerned about traffic violence to reach out to him before he takes office in January. (Streetsblog reached out to the Thompson campaign twice during the race for DA. The campaign did not respond to our queries.)

“Maybe there needs to be certain prosecutors assigned to these cases,” Thompson said, “so we don’t have every fatality blamed on the victim.”

After the meeting, Streetsblog pressed Thompson for details about his plans: Would he review all NYPD crash investigations? Would he seek to make more use of the state’s reckless driving law? Thompson avoided offering specifics: “We should thoroughly investigate and follow the evidence wherever it leads us. And when I’m Brooklyn DA, I intend to investigate and prosecute motorists that deserve to be investigated and prosecuted,” he said. “I’m going to take an aggressive approach to this issue.”

Thompson’s most substantive responses came after I asked if he will increase the size of the vehicular crimes unit. “That’s something I’m thinking about,” he said. ”You have to think long and hard about when there were other prosecutions under the current administration.”

Hynes has filed charges against the driver who killed Merryweather. He has prosecuted a handful of cases in recent years against other drivers involved in fatal crashes that did not involve alcohol or fleeing the scene.

“There’s all types of criminality that could be committed by somebody driving a vehicle that hits and kills someone,” Thompson said, emphasizing that “criminality” does not just include leaving the scene and drunk or impaired driving. ”It’s not just fatalities. Beyond fatalities, somebody can be seriously injured, and not killed, but they still need justice.”

Thompson, who lives in Clinton Hill, said he was saddened by Merryweather’s death. ”I have a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. I’m here to learn more about this because the DA’s office has to change,” he said. “The DA has to play a role. That’s why I’m here.”

Thompson was followed by Public Advocate-elect Letitia James, who currently represents the area on the City Council and has made street safety a top issue before assuming her new office. ”We need to put an end to this,” she said, “so running a red light does not result in death, it results in a ticket.”

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