The driver who killed a cyclist on Flatbush Avenue yesterday has been charged with criminally negligent homicide by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
The cyclist, 18-year-old Jake McDonaugh from Windsor Terrace, was riding east on Duryea Place, according to witnesses. When he entered the intersection at Flatbush Avenue, Michael Oxley, the driver of a Dodge van, struck and killed him. Oxley has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, third degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, reckless driving, speeding, and running a red light, according to the NYPD. A court document outlining those charges can be read here [PDF].
Sober drivers who stay at the scene of a crash are rarely charged with homicide in New York. But the Brooklyn DA’s office has pursued similar charges before. In 2007, prosecutors charged Alfred Taylor with criminally negligent homicide for killing a cyclist on Fulton Street in Bed Stuy.
Street safety advocates praised the decision to aggressively prosecute Oxley. "Coming in a situation where alcohol was not a factor, these charges show that our DAs will continue to get tough on pervasive problems like speeding, running red lights and getting behind the wheel of car with a suspended license," said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. "These are all dangerous and illegal acts that cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries on our streets each year."
Readers who follow the legal repercussions of traffic crime may be wondering what distinguishes this case from the multitude of traffic fatalities where charges are not filed. The Brooklyn DA’s office wouldn’t comment on their decision, but they may have chosen to bring more serious charges for a few reasons. First, this case appears to fall under the so-called "rule of two." That’s the non-binding rule of thumb which states that criminal negligence applies when drivers violate more than one traffic law simultaneously. In this case, Oxley was seen running a red and speeding.
The DA’s charge may also have been spurred by the New York Court of Appeals’ recent Caban decision, which found that, in some cases, driving with a suspended license can be cited as evidence of criminal negligence. That may be less of a factor because the Caban decision distinguishes between drivers whose licenses have been suspended for safety reasons, and cases where driving privileges have been revoked for other reasons. According to court documents, Oxley’s license was suspended for not paying fines for speeding, not for unsafe driving itself.