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Posts from the Richard Brown Category

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Curb Jumper’s License Revoked Six Months for Killing Mallory Weisbrod

Dimas Debrito, the curb-jumping driver who killed 24-year-old Mallory Weisbrod and injured two others last August, pled guilty on Thursday to two misdemeanors for reckless endangerment and failure to exercise due care leading to serious physical injury. He will also agree to a six-month license suspension. In another case, a driver will receive six months jail time after pleading to a fatal February hit-and-run in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance

Debrito, 64, was driving southbound on Second Avenue at more than twice the 25 mph speed limit when he veered his silver Mercedes through the intersection with 49th Street and over the southwest curb at 4:24 p.m. on August 10, 2015. He struck Weisbrod, pinning her body against a light pole, according to court documents provided by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Weisbrod succumbed to her injuries five days later.

After an investigation by NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, including video evidence, Vance brought charges against Debrito in October, according to court documents. In addition to the two charges included in the plea bargain, Vance had also been charging Debrito with a third misdemeanor, for reckless driving. A Vance spokesperson declined to comment when asked why this third charge was not included in the final plea deal.

At his sentencing on September 23, Debrito will also receive 30 days of community service, mandatory enrollment in an “aggressive driving program,” and a $1,000 fine, according to Vance’s office.

Weisbrod was one of fourteen pedestrians killed by curb-jumping drivers in 2015, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. Since her death, NYC DOT has moved forward a plan to extend the Second Avenue protected bike lane,  including the intersection where Weisbrod was killed. Protected bike lanes lead to a 22 percent reduction in pedestrian injuries in the three years after they are installed, according to DOT.

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Garbage Truck Driver Admits to Causing Crash That Killed Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs

The truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City last year admitted to causing the crash and pled guilty to violating the victim’s right of way.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Jacobs was riding north on Vernon Boulevard at around 7:15 p.m. last January 17 when Frank Alibrandi, also northbound, hit him with a Mack truck while turning right onto 41st Avenue, according to the NYPD crash report [PDF].

Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking. If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.

The crash report says Jacobs was dragged by the truck for 25 feet, and that Alibrandi kept driving for another 237 feet before stopping. Jacobs, a writer who worked as a tutor at New York City College of Technology, died at the scene. He was 36.

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged Alibrandi under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law. In addition, Alibrandi was summonsed for careless driving and failing to signal.

The truck Alibrandi was driving was owned by Manhattan Demolition, a private sanitation company. Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF].

Last month Alibrandi acknowledged in court that he did not signal before turning, and that he struck Jacobs, who was following traffic rules at the time of the collision, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Jacobs’s family. Alibrandi also admitted to failing to use due care, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the Right of Way Law violation.

Under the terms of the plea, if he pays fines totaling around $1,000 and completes a driver safety course, the misdemeanor Right of Way Law charge will be vacated and Alibrandi will be allowed to plead to a Section 19-190 traffic infraction.

Vaccaro said the DA’s office negotiated the plea agreement in consultation with Jacobs’s family after the judge indicated she might be inclined to dismiss the case.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Dorothy Heimann, 90, in Whitestone

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges against a driver who hit a 90-year-old woman last month, causing fatal injuries.

The victim was struck in the 109th Precinct, which made news last year for initiating a crackdown on walking in response to a series of pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists.

Dorothy Heimann was crossing Clintonville Street at around 9:50 a.m. on February 7 when the driver hit her with a Jeep SUV while turning left from 17th Avenue, according to NYPD and accounts published by Gothamist and Ridgewood Times.

Clintonville Street at 17th Avenue, in Whitestone, is a signalized intersection of two-way residential streets. There is no exclusive turn signal, according to Google Maps photos, so if the driver had a green light, it’s likely Heimann would have been crossing with the right of way.

Heimann, who lived in Whitestone, suffered head trauma. She died on March 4.

The Right of Way Law gives police and prosecutors a tool to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, but NYPD and city DAs rarely use it. As is usually the case when law enforcers don’t file charges for a serious crash, NYPD withheld the name of the motorist.

Gothamist reported that the driver fled the scene, but the NYPD spokesperson I talked with said she saw no indication that the crash was a hit and run.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Kamil Gorski

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges and allowed a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges for a misdemeanor plea deal.

A driver charged with a felony for the hit-and-run death of a Queens pedestrian was sentenced to probation as a result of a plea deal from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Raul Reyes and a second driver hit 36-year-old Navy veteran Kamil Gorski on Metropolitan Avenue on February 3, 2015, according to Brown’s office. Gorski died at Elmhurst Hospital.

Brown did not charge the second driver, who remained at the scene. Brown charged Reyes with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, which is a class D felony, and issued a press release saying Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison.” Last December, however, Brown reduced the charges, and allowed Reyes to plead to a misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

This week, pursuant to his plea agreement with DA Brown, Reyes was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and $88 in administrative fees for leaving Kamil Gorski to die in the street, according to court records. There is no indication that the court took action against Reyes’s driver’s license.

As Streetsblog reported last month, Gorski is one of several Queens hit-and-run victims whose killers avoided a sentence that included jail time, either because Brown accepted a plea or filed no charges in the first place.

If New York City hopes to get a handle on its hit-and-run epidemic, which results in thousands of injuries and deaths annually, district attorneys will have to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Based on his record of prosecuting traffic violence over the last year, Brown earned a middling C+ in the Transportation Alternatives 2015 Vision Zero Report Card, which said the DA “seems uninterested in protecting the lives of constituents.”

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How Seriously Does Queens DA Richard Brown Take Hit-and-Run Killings?

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

As family members rallied for justice for Queens hit-and-run victim Ovidio Jaramillo yesterday, District Attorney Richard Brown agreed to drop felony charges against another driver who left a pedestrian to die in the street.

Raul Reyes hit Kamil Gorski with a van on Metropolitan Avenue on the evening of February 3, 2015, knocking the victim to the roadway, according a press release issued by Brown’s office days after the crash. Gorski, a 36-year-old Navy veteran, was then struck by a second driver. He died at Elmhurst Hospital.

The second driver, who remained at the scene, was not charged. Brown charged Reyes with felony leaving the scene. Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison if convicted,” the February press release said.

“The defendant is accused of hitting a pedestrian and then attempting to evade justice by fleeing the scene,” Brown said in the press release. “As a result of his alleged actions, the defendant now faces serious criminal charges.”

Despite the tough talk, on Thursday, according to court records, Brown allowed Reyes to plead to misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Brown has a record of going easy on motorists who kill and injure people and not taking cases to trial — when he files charges at all — even when the driver leaves the crash scene. Here are three more examples.

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Richard Brown: Homicide Conviction for Driver Who Killed Betty DiBiaso

Queens DA Richard Brown secured a homicide plea from the hit-and-run driver who killed Betty DiBiaso. DiBiaso photo via GoFundMe

Queens DA Richard Brown secured a homicide plea from the hit-and-run driver who killed Betty DiBiaso. DiBiaso photo via GoFundMe

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown won a homicide conviction against a hit-and-run driver who killed a woman near Astoria Park last summer.

Betty Jean DiBiaso was leaving the park at around 12:26 a.m. on June 27 when Nicholas Colleran, 24, ran a stop sign and hit her with a Chevrolet sedan as she crossed Ditmars Boulevard at 19th Street in a marked crosswalk, according to a statement from Brown’s office. DiBiaso was 21 years old.

Colleran’s damaged car was found the same day, and he turned himself in at the 114th Precinct on June 28. “Colleran stated to police that he had consumed two beers prior to driving and had hit Ms. DiBiasio,” and “was unable to produce a valid driver’s license,” according to Brown’s office.

Yesterday Brown announced that Colleran pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and failure to yield.

“This case is yet another example of how deadly motor vehicles can be and the consequences of ignoring traffic regulations,” Brown said in the statement. “Driving is a privilege, not a right, and extreme caution should be exercised at all times in order to prevent lives from being senselessly destroyed.”

Acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt sentenced Colleran “to the maximum under the law — an indeterminate term of one and one-third years to four years in prison,” the statement said.

DiBiaso’s death intensified the push to get the city to calm traffic in the area of the park, with backing from City Council Member Costa Constantinides, the Astoria Park Alliance, and other citizen groups. In October Constantinides and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas hosted a public workshop to gather input on potential safety fixes.

Astoria Park is separated from the East River by Shore Boulevard, which acts as a barrier between park users and the waterfront. In August Simotas and the Alliance called on DOT to make Shore Boulevard car-free between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard. DOT rejected the car-free proposal earlier this month.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

A driver charged with felony hit-and-run and unlicensed driving got probation and a few days of community service for a crash that killed a pedestrian, as a result of a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

On the evening of February 22, the unidentified victim was crossing at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue, in a crosswalk and with the right of way, when Valentine Gonzalez hit her with a box truck while turning left. NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX Gonzalez fled the scene and was apprehended a short distance away.

According to court records, the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, operating an unregistered vehicle, and a violation of code Section 19-190 — the Right of Way Law — which is an unclassified misdemeanor.

In September Brown allowed Gonzalez to plead guilty to the Right of Way Law charge. The law carries a fine of up to $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was jailed for four months after his arrest.

Earlier this month Gonzalez was sentenced to three years probation and five days of community service, according to court records. Gonzalez was also fined $88. There is no indication that the court took action against Gonzalez’s driving privileges.

Richard Brown, whose leniency toward drivers who kill and injure people is well-documented, was recently elected to another term after running unopposed.

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Civil Suit Compels Man Who Killed Ally Liao to Stop Driving for 5 Years

The corner where Allison Liao was killed was named in her honor. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

The corner where a driver failed to yield and killed Allison Liao was named for her. Photo: Families for Safe Streets

A bereaved family has done what NYPD, city district attorneys, and the New York State DMV usually fail to do: impose meaningful sanctions against a reckless driver, who in this case took the life of 3-year-old Allison Liao.

Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh failed to yield the right of way when he struck Allison as she walked hand in hand with her grandmother across Main Street in Flushing on October 6, 2013. The DMV found Abu-Zayedeh at fault for the crash, but revoked his license for just 30 days.

Allison Liao

Allison Liao

NYPD summonsed Abu-Zayedeh for failure to yield and careless driving, but filed no criminal charges. The DMV later threw out the tickets. The chief vehicular crimes prosecutor for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Charles A. Testagrossa, wrote off the crash as a blameless “accident,” and said Abu-Zayedeh was proceeding with a green light. In stories that are still online in their original form, the press falsely reported that Allison “broke free” from her grandmother, implying the victims were at fault.

As is common when drivers injure and kill people in NYC, civil court was the victims’ only available venue to hold the motorist accountable. This month, Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, settled a suit with Abu-Zayedeh. Under the terms of the settlement, Abu-Zayedeh surrendered 75 percent of his net worth, acknowledged complete responsibility for the crash, and signed a notarized agreement to not drive or apply for a license for five years [PDF].

Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who represented the Liaos, told Streetsblog that extended loss of driving privileges and fines that are calculated as a percentage of the driver’s assets are the norm in other countries. “What we’ve attempted to do in this settlement is to bring that much more serious approach toward accountability for reckless driving to the United States in the context of this civil suit,” Vaccaro said.

“It reflects a comprehensive approach toward justice that victims’ families increasingly are taking in these types of cases, and has the potential to change the way drivers regard the risks of reckless driving,” said Vaccaro, who noted that an insurance settlement is the standard civil penalty for a serious crash. “If there are risks like having to make a public apology, having to forgo driving for years, and now with the Right of Way Law, which very much was passed in the wake of and because of Ally Liao’s death, criminal penalties, perhaps drivers will start to get the message about their awesome responsibility to drive safely.”

As members of Families for Safe Streets, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao have worked with other victims to draw attention to New York City’s reckless driving epidemic, and to advocate for legislative reforms intended to make streets safer.

“It’s been an honor to represent the Liao family,” Vaccaro said. “They should be regarded as heroes by all parents and all New Yorkers for their sacrifice and stance against traffic violence. This settlement, which I consider unprecedented, is due to their perseverance and willingness to make a comprehensive notion of justice their overriding goal.”

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Trucker Who Killed Cyclist Anna Rodriguez Charged With Manslaughter

The truck driver who killed a cyclist in Queens yesterday was charged with homicide after he tested positive for cocaine.

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

NYPD said Dennis Forceri, 57, drove a tractor-trailer into 34-year-old Anna Rodriguez while making a right turn at 56th Road and 48th Street at around 8:45 a.m. Rodriguez suffered trauma to her head and body and died at Elmhurst Hospital.

WCBS reported that Rodriguez lived in Ridgewood and was a single mother with a young son.

A motorist, Eddie Ewald, told WCBS the area where the crash occurred, in a warehouse district, is “extremely chaotic” during morning hours. “Everybody’s speeding through here,” Ewald said.

“The car is not really paying attention to you, making turns when you’re right next to them, pulling into parking spots,” said cyclist Daniel Salvatierra. “It’s terrifying.”

DOT’s Vision Zero data map shows crashes are common on 56th Road, with many injuries to motor vehicle occupants, a sign of high-speed collisions.

Police initially said Forceri was charged with driving with a revoked license. He was later charged with first degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence of drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, failure to yield, and careless driving, according to Gothamist and AMNY. Forceri’s case did not turn up in a search of online court records early this afternoon.

NYPD has not yet released the name of the company that owns the truck Forceri was driving. Serious crashes caused by unlicensed or impaired commercial drivers are not unusual in NYC. There should be sanctions for companies that allow such drivers behind the wheel.

This morning Public Advocate Letitia James issued a statement on the most recent series of pedestrian and cyclist deaths at the hands of reckless drivers:

Over the past eleven days, five pedestrians and one cyclist were killed by motor vehicles in New York City. We must continue to work together to achieve Vision Zero, which requires good street design, education, and enforcement. Too many innocent New Yorkers are dying on our City’s streets and sidewalks, and we have a moral and civil responsibility to use every tool in our arsenal to make our City safer.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is known for pleading down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking them to trial, even when defendants are accused of committing high-level felonies like aggravated vehicular homicide and manslaughter. Streetsblog will follow the case against Forceri as it progresses.

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Richard Brown: Misdemeanor Plea for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

In a deal with District Attorney Richard Brown, a driver charged with felony hit-and-run and driving without a license after fatally striking a Queens pedestrian has pled guilty to violating the city’s Right of Way Law.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

Last February Valentine Gonzalez hit an unidentified woman with a box truck while turning left at Woodside Avenue and 76th Street, NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX. “Gonzalez fled, but was stopped by police a few blocks away,” Gothamist reported.

The victim died at the scene.

According to court records the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with potential sentences ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with violating the Right of Way Law — an unclassified misdemeanor — operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, and operating an unregistered vehicle.

On Monday Gonzalez pled guilty to the Right of Way Law charge, court records say. The law carries a fine of up to $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was in jail for four months after his arrest, then made bail.

Richard Brown routinely pleads down cases against drivers who kill people, rather than taking defendants to trial, to the extent that he files charges in the first place. Last week he allowed a repeat drunk driver who was charged with 10 felonies for killing a man to plead guilty to two low-level felony counts.

Gonzalez is scheduled to be sentenced in November.