Change is afoot at the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. Following a meeting with advocates for crash victims, the DMV scheduled safety hearings to determine whether three drivers who caused fatal crashes would lose their licenses. The first of the three – concerning the death of three year-old Allison Liao — saw several welcome improvements in the safety hearing process, including in-person testimony from investigating police officers, presentation of video evidence, and an unusual degree of press access.
A second safety hearing, scheduled for January 27, will address the death of artist Mathieu Lefevre, killed in 2011 while cycling home in East Williamsburg. Lefevre’s parents’ demands for transparency and justice from NYPD crash investigators led to increased oversight of NYPD and jump-started the local Vision Zero movement. A DMV order suspending the driver’s license was mysteriously reversed, and the tickets issued to the driver were dismissed by a DMV judge – just as in the Liao case.
Unless NYPD investigators attend the hearing and present the evidence of wrongdoing by the driver, Leonardo Degianni (summarized below), he will receive no penalty or sanction at all — not even a traffic ticket. The Lefevre hearing presents an important test of whether NYPD and DMV are committed to ensuring meaningful consequences for sober reckless drivers who kill.
Degianni’s Involvement in the Crash
Mathieu Lefevre was struck by the driver of a 28-ton crane truck, who left the scene. Based on surveillance video recovered from a nearby warehouse and blood evidence found on the front bumper of the truck, NYPD investigators identified the truck as one driven by Leonardo Degianni. But Degianni has refused to watch the video, and his statements suggest he plans to escape responsibility for the crash by claiming that police misidentified the truck.
The NYPD detectives who investigated the crash can readily prove that the truck was Degianni’s. Although the video is not of the best quality, the detectives who collected it can establish that it contains date and time metadata consistent with the crash. Moreover, investigators can testify that they found blood on the driver’s side of the front bumper of the truck just hours after the crash. Without this testimony, the judge at the hearing will have to make an identification based on pictures and the video: