We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: If you want to get away with murder in New York City, get yourself a car.
Yesterday, 21-year-old Tenzing Bhutia of Queens was given a two-year prison term for the death of Julia Thomson. In the early morning hours of September 30 of last year, an intoxicated Bhutia whipped through the intersection of Bowery and East 4th Street in his family’s Mercedes. Thomson, returning home from a night out with friends, was in the crosswalk on Bowery. Bhutia’s car slammed into Thomson, who died of massive head injuries within moments. Bhutia never stopped, but the collision with Thomson’s body ripped off a rearview mirror, which helped police in tracking him down. He was found hours after the crash, arrested, and charged with vehicular homicide.
Though he could have served up to seven years if convicted of homicide, Bhutia was in the end sentenced for vehicular manslaughter, for which he will spend 730 days in jail. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller has allowed Bhutia to remain free on bail until he graduates from Baruch College in a few weeks.
Thomson’s family had asked that he get three years for killing Julia, but even a sentence as light as that was deemed too harsh, as the judge was reportedly swayed by pleas of leniency from Bhutia and his family. Understandably, Thomson’s parents are outraged.
"Punishment…should reflect the initial stupidity of taking the family car on a drinking spree and driving at a totally irresponsible speed…," Bill and Celia Thomson said in a statement from their home in Edinburgh.
"Worst of all, [was Bhutia’s] callous attempt to get away when he knew perfectly well he had hit someone," the parents added.
"I put the blame for my daughter’s death squarely in the hands of the
US justice system," Bill Thomson said…
Even the daily papers, which don’t have the best record when it comes to coverage of bike-ped deaths, are at a loss. "He killed beauty in DWI but will get degree before prison," wrote the Daily News. "MEASLY 2 YEARS FOR FATAL DWI," barked the Post.
Maybe the outcome of this case will finally shock the media into pressuring reluctant police and prosecutors to treat death by vehicle as a reckless act for which perpetrators should be held accountable, rather than a random "tragedy" in which everyone is a victim.
Photo of Tenzing Bhutia: New York Daily News