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Posts from the "Richard Brown" Category

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Angela Hurtado, 68, Killed in Queens by Unlicensed Driver Making Illegal Turn

As NYPD ramps up enforcement against pedestrians who cross mid-block and against the signal, a funeral was held last week for a senior struck in a crosswalk by an accused unlicensed driver making an illegal turn.

Angela Hurtado, 68, was crossing Grand Avenue in Maspeth at around 11:00 a.m. on January 18 when 28-year-old Abel Tinoco made an illegal left turn onto Grand from 69th Place, hitting her with an SUV, according to published reports. She died hours later from head trauma.

Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Chronicle

Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Courier

Hurtado came to the U.S. from Ecuador when she was 21, according to the Queens Courier. She was a cancer survivor and was working as a housekeeper at 3 World Trade Center on 9/11. Along with area residents, Hurtado’s daughter Zoraya B. Torres said the family wants changes at the intersection where her mother was struck, to prevent another crash.

“My mom was a very humble woman, a good-hearted person and a loving mother,” said Torres. “It’s hard to believe that something so horrible could have happened to her.”

Court records say Tinoco was charged only with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Tinoco’s license had been suspended since last October, according to the criminal complaint filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The complaint did not specify the cause of the suspension.

State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill to make it a class E felony  to cause serious injury or death while driving without a valid license, so long as the license was suspended or revoked for traffic offenses. A second bill would require drivers with suspended or revoked licenses to surrender their vehicle registrations and license plates. Gianaris held a press conference Sunday at Grand Avenue and 69th Place, calling on Albany lawmakers to pass the bills.

Since Tinoco was driving without a license and made an illegal left turn when he struck Hurtado, he should have been prosecuted for a more serious offense under the so-called “rule of two,” an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence.

City district attorneys often cite the rule of two as an obstacle to filing charges when a motorist is reported to have broken one traffic law, such as running a stop sign, before killing a pedestrian or cyclist, yet prosecutors routinely fail to adhere to the rule when a driver is accused of breaking two or more traffic laws at the time of a fatal crash.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Not Charged in Death of Queens Pedestrian Mosa Khatun

A hit-and-run driver who fatally struck a woman in Jamaica last night will not be charged with a crime, according to NYPD.

Police say the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

NYPD says the driver who killed Mosa Khatun returned after leaving the scene, but did not know she had hit someone. No charges were filed. Photo: Daily News

Mosa Khatun, 38, was struck by the driver of a Nissan SUV at the corner of Highland Avenue and 169th Street at around 10:20 p.m., according to NYPD and the Daily News:

Emergency responders rushed to the scene and found the woman on the pavement with traumatic injuries to her body, officials said.

She was taken to Queens General Hospital in critical condition, but died there a short time later, officials said.

The News reported that the driver left the scene and “returned about an hour later to talk with police.” An NYPD spokesperson confirmed this account, and said the motorist, whose name is being withheld by the department, ”Wasn’t aware she’d hit someone.”

It is not clear why the driver returned to the crash site if she did not know a crash occurred. Nevertheless, while NYPD issued summonses for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian, police filed no charges for leaving the scene. As of this morning, approximately 12 hours after Mosa Khatun was killed, NYPD had concluded its investigation.

Leaving the scene of an injury crash is a class D felony in New York State, punishable by up to seven years in jail. Yet drivers in New York City routinely escape penalty simply by claiming they “didn’t see” their deceased victims. As in this case, rather than allowing the justice system to determine innocence or guilt, police and prosecutors often decline to pursue charges.

According to Transportation Alternatives, of some 300 investigations conducted by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers, and just 15 of those investigations resulted in arrest. In December the City Council passed legislation requiring NYPD to post quarterly reports on hit-and-run crashes that result in “critical” injury.

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Still No Charges From Queens DA Brown Against Driver Who Hit Five Kids

Nearly a month after a motorist mounted a curb and hit a group of kids near a school in Maspeth, no charges have been filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. It appears Brown’s office is leaving it up to NYPD to decide whether prosecutors will pursue a case.

On the morning of September 12, Francis Aung Lu drove a Honda SUV onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street, near Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, hitting five children outside a corner deli. Bajram Kacic, 11, suffered a leg injury. Angie Peña, 13, was hospitalized in critical condition. Marina Abadir, 14, suffered head trauma, multiple spine fractures, and required surgery on both elbows. Ashley Khan, 13, who with Abadir was pinned under the vehicle, had fractures to her pelvis and legs, among other injuries.

Michael Gomez, 13, died on September 14. Reports published in the immediate aftermath of the crash indicated Gomez had a “swollen arm.” Media outlets cited anonymous sources who said Gomez died from an asthma attack. The medical examiner’s office did not respond to a Streetsblog query concerning Gomez’s death.

When we asked Brown’s office the day after the crash if  the DA would subpoena the driver’s cell phone records and vehicle EDR data, a spokesperson said no action would be taken unless NYPD determined “criminality.” At that time NYPD said the crash was in the hands of the Collision Investigation Squad.

“The police have made no referrals to the District Attorney’s Office,” said a Brown spokesperson, in an email last Friday. “You will have to contact the NYPD for a status of their investigation.”

Streetsblog has queried the NYPD public information office several times concerning this crash, but we have yet to learn if the CIS investigation is still active. Local Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has called for traffic-calming measures and lower speed limits in the area, but it is still unknown whether law enforcement will hold this driver accountable, or even if phone records or EDR data were collected.

Since September 13, at least seven pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Queens, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include a senior and a 3-year-old child — Allison Liao, run over by a motorist in Flushing last Sunday. No charges are known to have been filed in the three of the seven cases where the driver was sober and remained at the scene.

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No Charges for Curb-Jumping Driver Who Killed Michael Munoz in Queens

Photo: New York Post

Another curb-jumping driver has killed a NYC pedestrian, and as usual no charges have been filed by NYPD.

Michael Munoz, 42, was selling water on a Whitestone Expressway service road at 20th Avenue, in Queens, when he was struck at around 2:15 p.m. Monday. From WABC:

The 78-year-old driver was in a black Toyota Camry when investigators say for one reason or another, the driver lost control of the vehicle and slammed into Munoz and a steel post that holds a gate entering a corporate plaza.

The car hit with such force that it nearly pushed the post out of the asphalt.

Munoz died at New York Hospital in Queens. The driver and a passenger were treated for injuries.

Michael Munoz. Photo via NY Post

Neither police nor WABC reporter Joe Torres are apparently interested in why the driver “lost control,” but Torres does include this bit of victim-blaming: “Eyewitness News has learned that Munoz sold water not just from the sidewalk, but also from right on the service road.”

At least nine NYC pedestrians have died in 2013 after motorists drove onto sidewalks, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, and countless victims have sustained life-altering injuries. Unless a driver is drunk or fleeing police, curb-jump crashes, no matter how severe, rarely result in criminal charges. City Council Member Mark Weprin is exploring the possibility of legislation that would make it a crime to drive on a New York City sidewalk.

Reports say Munoz suffered a serious head injury, and that a witness performed CPR until responders arrived. He lived in a nearby hotel with his father, and was selling bottles of water to motorists after he lost his job as a tennis coach, according to the Queens Courier and the Post.

The victim’s brother told WABC that their mother was killed by a driver years ago. “I’m angry but that’s not gonna do nothing, I’m more sad because I’m not going to see my brother again,” said Raphael Munoz. “We were just making plans to go see my mother at the graveyard.”

Less than four hours after the crash, the Post reported that, according to NYPD, “no criminality” is suspected.

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CIS Investigating Crash That Maimed Three Kids; So Far, Richard Brown Is Not

NYPD says the Collision Investigation Squad is investigating the Thursday curb-jump crash that injured five children in Maspeth, but District Attorney Richard Brown’s office says no subpoenas for cell phone records or EDR data have been issued, as police have determined there is “no criminality.” At least three of the victims remain in the hospital with serious injuries.

Richard Brown's office says the DA is not attempting to get driver Francis-Aung Lu's cell phone records, or EDR data from his vehicle. Photo: Daily News

At 7:49 a.m. yesterday, a driver identified by the Daily News and the Post as Francis-Aung Lu drove a Honda SUV onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street, near Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, striking five kids outside a corner deli. Lu’s vehicle had to be lifted off two girls.

Media reports said Lu was dropping off his child and attempting to park. Reports said police did not expect to file charges, but NYPD told us this morning that, while Lu has not been charged or summonsed, the case is still open, and is in the hands of CIS.

This contradicts information from Brown’s office. When Streetsblog asked, via email, if the DA would subpoena the driver’s phone records and vehicle EDR data, a spokesperson replied: “The police have investigated the matter and deemed there was no criminality involved. As such, we would not issue a subpoena.”

Informed that NYPD said the case is still open, the spokesperson wrote: ”The information I have is that the police have so far deemed it non criminal. If that should change we would, of course, review the matter.”

Whatever NYPD is doing to hold this reckless motorist accountable for injuring five schoolchildren, it’s pretty clear that so far Richard Brown is doing nothing.

Despite initial reports that downplayed the victims’ injuries, the Daily News says 13-year-old Angie Pena, the first victim Lu hit, is in critical condition. “The car smashed into her and hurt her really badly,” her father said.

Marina Abadir, 14, suffered head trauma, multiple spine fractures, and had surgery on both elbows. “They’re not really sure how many bones are fractured in her body,” said Sherif El Gawly, Abadir’s uncle.

Ashley Khan, 13, who like Abadir was pinned under the vehicle, has fractures to her pelvis and legs. Khan’s arterial blood flow was affected, the News says, and she has numbness in her leg.

Meanwhile, DNAinfo reports that I.S. 73 principal Camillo Turriciano sent out a letter yesterday advising parents not to allow kids to use electronic devices on their way to school:

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Running Down Five Children on a Sidewalk Is Legal in New York City

Warning: Graphic video

DNAinfo is reporting that the driver who jumped a curb and hit five kids in Maspeth this morning, an incident captured on video, probably will not be charged.

A surveillance tape shows a group of kids on a Grand Avenue sidewalk when the driver of a Honda SUV runs one of them over, missing the others by inches. Witnesses lifted the SUV off at least one of the victims. One girl reportedly suffered a broken leg and another a broken hip. One boy has a leg injury and another was treated for a swollen arm. The victims were age 12 to 14. From DNAinfo:

Sources said that the 40-year-old driver was going shopping and was trying to pull into a space when he accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.

He remained on the scene and was not expected to be charged, sources said.

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley defended the driver. “He hit the gas instead of the brake,” said Crowley, as quoted by the Daily News. “This had everything to do with being an accident.”

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of  injury-related death for children in NYC, and an average of five kids are hit by motorists in the city each day. As a council member, Crowley should know that what happened today was not a freak occurrence.

Media reports emphasized that the motorist, whose name has not been released by NYPD, stayed at the scene and was “cooperating” with police. The Daily News downplayed the driver’s involvement, shifting blame to the vehicle: “[T]he SUV driver was trying to pull into a parking spot when his vehicle suddenly plowed into the students outside the school. The vehicle crashed into a parking meter and a nearby sign.” The Post, to its credit, led its updated story by assigning responsibility to an “out-of-control driver.”

“He is not expected to face criminal charges,” the Post said, “though it is unclear if he will be ticketed for any driving violations.”

Here is a driver caught on video slamming into kids on a sidewalk. Despite clear evidence of negligence, it appears that neither NYPD nor District Attorney Richard Brown considers this a crime — and possibly not a traffic violation.

As reader BornAgainBicyclist pointed out today, that the victims suffered mere “non life-threatening” injuries seems to have absolved the motorist, at least as far as authorities and the media are concerned. No reports that we’ve seen have questioned how this driver would face no repercussions for mounting a sidewalk and mowing down five children.

DNAinfo talked to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, who visited the victims in the hospital. “The kids are kids,” Walcott said. “They’re resilient.”

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Misdemeanor Charge for Accused Unlicensed Driver in Death of Queens Senior

Police said an alleged unlicensed driver was traveling in excess of 60 mph when he struck 73-year-old Rafael Diaz. Queens DA Richard Brown filed no charges for causing a death. Photo: The Forum

A motorist who allegedly killed a senior while driving without a license, who police said was speeding, and who was reportedly wanted by authorities on another vehicular charge at the time of the crash, has been charged with a misdemeanor by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Rafael Diaz, 73, was crossing Atlantic Avenue in Woodhaven at around 7:30 p.m. on May 16 when he was struck by Joel Rodriguez, according to reports. Diaz died at Jamaica Hospital. The Forum reported that an officer from the 102nd Precinct said the vehicle that hit Diaz was traveling “in excess of 60 miles per hour.”

Online court records say Rodriguez, 25, was charged with driving without a license and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one.

The Post reported that, according to Brown’s office, Rodriguez was wanted on a warrant issued in April for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — taking or operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Despite the allegation that he was driving without a license, the police account that he was speeding, and the outstanding warrant, Rodriguez was not charged for killing Rafael Diaz. This is not unusual. In 2011, two unlicensed drivers each pled to a top charge of third degree aggravated unlicensed operation for the deaths of Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard, pedestrians killed in separate crashes in Manhattan. In each case, the driver was fined $500.

Rodriguez is next scheduled to appear in court on October 10.

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John Eberling, 76, Latest to Die in Traffic in Eric Ulrich’s Council District

A Queens senior struck by an alleged drunk driver last week was at least the fourth person to die in traffic in Eric Ulrich’s City Council district in the last six months.

John Eberling. Photo via Daily News

John Eberling, 76, was crossing Jamaica Avenue at 80th Street at approximately 4:30 on the afternoon of February 27 when he was struck by an SUV driven by Viveshdyal Thakoordyal, according to reports.

Eberling, a retired warehouse manager, was declared dead on arrival at Jamaica Hospital.

“He was the sweetest man you could ever know,” said Eberling’s niece, Diana Freeman, to the Daily News. “When my father died, he stepped in and became my surrogate father. He gave me away at my wedding.”

Thakoordyal, 45, was charged with first degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, according to online court records.

Though Eberling’s alleged killer was arrested and charged, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has a history of granting favorable deals in DWI death cases.

Last December, Demitrios Matsoukatidis received probation for killing Ditmars senior Lizardo Aldama. Brown’s office reported that Matsoukatidis had a blood alcohol content of .16, twice the legal limit for driving. He was charged with second degree manslaughter and DWI.

One year ago, Kent Lowrie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received five years probation, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month license revocation for the death of 6-year-old Zhaneya Butcher in Jamaica. According to reports, Brown’s office feared Lowrie was not drunk enough to get a manslaughter conviction.

This fatal crash occurred in the 102nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Henry Sautner, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 102nd Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at Richmond Hill Library, 118-14 Hillside Ave. Call 718-805-3215 for information.

The City Council district where John Eberling was killed is represented by Eric Ulrich, known among other things for telling New Yorkers concerned about traffic killings to “get a life.” Since last September, at least three other people have lost their lives to motorists in Ulrich’s district: Francisco Camacho, age 59; Ramon Russel, 37; and Sheena Mathew; 38. To encourage Ulrich to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7069, eulrich@council.nyc.gov or @eric_ulrich.

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In Queens, Five Years in Jail and Six-Month License Suspension for DWI Killer

A drunk driver who killed a Queens cyclist will be free to drive again in fewer than six years, under the terms of a plea agreement from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Alex Batista was charged with second degree manslaughter, driving under the influence and leaving the scene after he ran down Roger Hernandez on Greenpoint Avenue on the night of July 18, 2012. Brown told the Sunnyside Post that Batista was driving “at a high rate of speed” when he overtook Hernandez, bouncing the victim off the windshield of his car and nearly striking several pedestrians. Police found Batista laying on a sidewalk after he crashed into a building 10 blocks away. He was also charged with disorderly conduct for being uncooperative and approaching an officer “in a threatening manner.”

Hernandez, a 37-year-old handyman who was reportedly carrying a bouquet of flowers on his bike, died at the scene.

Said Brown, last July: ”This defendant’s decision to get behind the wheel of a car while allegedly intoxicated is incomprehensible and cost an innocent young man his life. Drinking and driving is never a good idea — and all too often has deadly consequences.”

Batista could have gotten up to 15 years in jail on the manslaughter charge. On Monday he pled guilty to a top charge of assault — a D felony, the second-least severe felony category — and misdemeanor DWI, according to court records. Batista will be sentenced to five years in prison. He will not be eligible for parole, according to a spokesperson for Brown’s office.

It would be reasonable to assume that, at the very least, a motorist who commits such a wanton act of deadly violence would forfeit his driving privileges for life. But according to the Post, Batista’s license will be suspended for just six months upon the completion of his jail sentence. After three years, he will be permitted to drive without an ignition interlock device.

Alex Batista is but the latest killer motorist to benefit from the largesse of DA Brown and New York’s forgiving traffic justice system.

In another deal brokered by Brown’s office, Kent Lowrie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received five years probation, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month license revocation for hitting 6-year-old Zhaneya Butcher in Jamaica. According to reports, prosecutors feared Lowrie was not drunk enough to get a manslaughter conviction.

Last December, Demitrios Matsoukatidis received probation for killing Ditmars senior Lizardo Aldama. Brown’s office reported that Matsoukatidis had a blood alcohol content of .16, twice the legal limit for driving. Like Batista, he was charged with second degree manslaughter and DWI. Our query to Brown’s office concerning the Matsoukatidis plea bargain was not returned.

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Five Killed in Four Days: Holiday Season Marked by Pedestrian Deaths

Maria Beria, Aileen Martinez, Sheena Mathew, Ronald Sinvil, Miguel Torres

In separate crashes in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, city motorists killed five pedestrians between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Four of the crashes, which took the lives of a child and three young mothers, were hit-and-runs.

At approximately 8:45 a.m. on December 28, 11-year-old Miguel Torres of Jackson Heights was crossing at Northern Boulevard and 80th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when he was hit by the driver of a dump truck.

Miguel was on his way to participate in a school field trip to Grand Central Terminal when he was killed. Olga Gonzalez, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, told the Post: “It was so bad, when the ambulance guy came, he was crying … The car hit [Miguel] so hard his shoes came off. I just saw a little kid in the middle of the street, and I just started crying.”

The driver, who did not stop, was later located by police. To the dismay of Miguel’s grieving family, no criminal charges were filed. From DNAinfo:

“They’re just giving him summonses,” [Miguel's aunt Yolanda] Ardezzone said. “I think he should get more than summonses — jail time, so this won’t happen to another child.”

A spokeswoman for the NYPD said that although the police originally stated the child was involved in a hit-and-run, police were actually able to track down the driver at the scene.

“It appeared the driver was unaware they struck someone,” said the spokeswoman. No criminal charges had been filed by Sunday, but she said the case was still under investigation.

In New York State, a driver must know or have reason to know that he or she has caused injury in order to be charged for leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Even when police and prosecutors muster the will to bring charges — no sure thing by any means — an admission that the motorist “didn’t see” the victim serves as a reliable defense. From the Daily News:

A few hours after the incident, police found the driver of the 1988 truck in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He told police he didn’t know he had hit someone, tested negative for alcohol and had a valid driver’s license. Police said no criminal charges will be filed.

No charges, though according to the same Daily News story: “A police source said the truck’s rear wheels struck the boy, though a second source said the boy may have first been struck from the front end of the truck.”

If Queens District Attorney Richard Brown does indeed pursue a criminal case against Miguel Torres’s killer, it is a virtual lock that leaving the scene would be the top charge. Minus evidence of intoxication, a city motorist who kills a pedestrian or cyclist is practically guaranteed to escape charges for taking a life.

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