Will Vance Victory Translate to Tougher Stance on Traffic Crime?

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance scored a significant victory last week, earning a homicide conviction in the case of a driver who killed a pedestrian in East Harlem nine years ago. But the circumstances of the crash, and their striking similarity to a 2011 fatality that resulted in a slap-on-the-wrist plea bargain, raise questions about how city prosecutors handle most pedestrian deaths.

Francesca Maytin (inset) and Lynette Caban. Photo: ##http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/glitch_gives_homicide_driver_another_krzGTHAm5Cp90GLdSxdydK##Post##

On January 2, 2003, 82-year-old Francesca Maytin was crossing Third Avenue between East 107th and East 108th streets when Lynette Caban backed her Jeep Cherokee into the intersection, striking Maytin hard enough to throw her a distance of over 18 feet, according to a Vance press release. Caban, now 39, was driving with a suspended license at the time of the collision, and had received four summonses for “similar conduct” in the three months prior. She also had a plastic bag taped over the right rear window of her vehicle, which obstructed her view. On January 13, Caban was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. She is scheduled to be sentenced in March. (The Post reports that Caban may not face jail beyond time served, and says she continues to drive using a different name.)

The Caban case was brought by Vance’s predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, and concluded only after the Court of Appeals ruled in 2010 that driving with a suspended license can be used as evidence of criminal negligence. That decision was another big win, and was hailed by Vance as “a significant step in holding drivers accountable for dangerous and unsafe operation of a vehicle.” Which makes the case of Edwin Carrasco all the more puzzling.

On June 30 of last year, Yolanda Casal, 78, and her 41-year-old daughter Anais Emmanuel were crossing Amsterdam Avenue near West 98th Street when Carrasco, 38, backed into them with his Ford Explorer. Casal was killed, Emmanuel hospitalized. Like Lynette Caban, Carrasco was driving with a suspended license. Vance did not charge Carrasco for killing Casal or injuring Emmanuel, though Carrasco was reportedly breaking at least two laws at the time of the crash. According to the online database of the New York State Unified Court System, Carrasco pled guilty to a top charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor stipulating that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known that he didn’t have one. Carrasco’s penalty: a $500 fine.

It was reported that Carrasco, like Caban, had a history of license suspensions and recklessness behind the wheel. It’s unknown whether the specifics of his record were considered in the decision not to prosecute for causing death and injury. Nor do we know if the Court of Appeals ruling — which distinguished between license suspensions for dangerous driving and, for instance, unpaid parking tickets — was a factor. We asked Vance’s office for insight into the differences between the two cases, but a spokesperson would say only that each case is decided on its own merits, and declined to elaborate.

So, as often happens when it comes to matters of traffic justice, the public is left to speculate. It is baffling that the nearly identical details surrounding the deaths of Francesca Maytin and Yolanda Casal could bring such disparate outcomes for their respective killers. It also seems the conviction of Lynette Caban shows that prosecutors can be successful with the type of case that the city’s district attorneys, including Cy Vance, are not otherwise pursuing.

  • Ben from Bed Stuy

    Maybe we should all congratulate Mr. Vance on this step forward, and remind him to prosecute other vehicular homicides in a similar manner.

  • Anonymous

    In the mid 1970’s in Brooklyn Traffic Court, it was said, off the record, that Albany wanted to keep as many drivers as possible on the road so that they could continue to get and pay for summonses and fines. Getting them off the road was counter productive (of income).

  • Since taking office, Mr. Vance has reorganized and consolidated the
    resources of the District Attorney’s Office by creating the Cybercrime
    and Identity Theft Bureau, the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, the Special
    Victims Bureau, the Public Integrity Unit, the Violent Criminal
    Enterprises Unit, and the Hate Crimes Unit.

  • Raymond Colon74

    Mr. Aaron, before attempting to write an educated article, you should EXHAUST all your resources before listening to hearsay from Mr. Vance. In People v. Caban, Ms. Caban’s license was suspended for NOT PAYING VIOLATIONS. Her license was NOT suspended for her driving record or driving conduct. Had Ms. Caban gone to DMV and paid her
    violations; her license on the date of the accident would NOT have been suspended. I am sure what I am speaking to you about is in Court records and therefore public record. So there was no difference between Mr. Carrasco’s reason for suspension and Ms. Caban’s reason for suspension. They were both suspended for LACK OF PAYMENT and nothing else. However, you state in your article that Mr. Carrasco had 23 SUSPENSIONS. That is a major difference between Ms. Caban and Mr. Carrasco yet he received a $500 fine and Ms. Caban was charged with criminally negligent homicide. WHY??? Mr. Carrasco not only killed a pedestrian backing up, but injured another as well. According to your article he was speeding. Ms. Caban was charged HARSHLY considering that she had no prior criminal record, was NOT driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance, speed was not proven in her case because there was never an exact point of impact (due to the fact that the elderly woman was removed by ambulance before the accident investigation squad arrived at the scene), the witnesses in Caban’s case have different accounts of where the woman was at the time of the accident. The witnesses to the accident in Caban’s case as well as the accident investigation leave much to be said in regards to accuracy and integrity. Ms. Caban had a 9 year old child at the time of the accident  and was a single mother. There was never intent on Ms. Caban’s behalf to cause bodily injury to the elderly woman. IT WAS AN ACCIDENT that people like Mr. Vance turn into crime for advancement in their political career. I am appalled that Mr. Carrasco was let off with a fine while Ms. Caban has been persecuted by the judicial system,( specifically by Morgenthau’s office and now by Mr. Vance’s office for 9 YEARS. Yet people are outraged at the thought of Ms. Caban possibly not serving time for this conviction. The reason why Ms. Caban may not be serving any jail time is perhaps because Ms. Caban ALREADY may have served time some years ago. I don’t see how the judicial system can punish someone twice for the same offense. I am appalled! Persecuting Ms. Caban for the past 9 years will NOT bring the elderly woman back. Ms. Caban has already paid a hig price for her accident.

  • Brad Aaron

    Judge Robert Smith, People v. Caban:

    “Defendant would have a better argument for exclusion if her license had been suspended, for example, for failure to pay parking tickets. But it was not. It was suspended for conduct frighteningly similar to the conduct that caused Francesca Maytin’s death — backing unsafely into a crosswalk.”

  • Brad Aaron

    Judge Robert Smith, People v. Caban:

    “Defendant would have a better argument for exclusion if her license had been suspended, for example, for failure to pay parking tickets. But it was not. It was suspended for conduct frighteningly similar to the conduct that caused Francesca Maytin’s death — backing unsafely into a crosswalk.”

  • dporpentine

    Persecuting Ms. Caban for the past 9 years will NOT bring the elderly woman back.

    Excellent point, if a bit disillusioning, since I’d always thought the justice system in general was able to achieve the supernatural. Never stop telling the hard truths, oh speaker of wisdom!

  • dporpentine

    Persecuting Ms. Caban for the past 9 years will NOT bring the elderly woman back.

    Excellent point, if a bit disillusioning, since I’d always thought the justice system in general was able to achieve the supernatural. Never stop telling the hard truths, oh speaker of wisdom!

  • Raymond Colon74

    Mr. Aaron, you cited what Judge Robert Smith says in the Dicta. The definition of Dicta: Dicta are judicial opinions expressed by the judges on points that do not necessarily arise in the case. Judge Robert Smith expressed his opinion based on misinformation. Unfortunately Ms. Caban’s appellate attorney did not make clear why Ms. Caban’s license had been suspended and therefore did NOT correct Judge Robert Smith. Opinions, even if expressed by a Judge are NOT facts in a case. If you check the transcripts in Caban’s recent trial, you would find that a DMV Law Judge (provided by the People) testified under oath that Ms. Caban’s license had been suspended for a LACK OF PAYMENT. Please see if you can read the transcripts so you can understand the case better before writing further. Everyone has opinions, including Mr. Vance. His opinion was that Mr. Carrasco, although having committed the SAME IDENTICAL type of accident as Ms. Caban, should only pay a $500 fine. In Caban’s case, Mr. Vance’s opinion is that Ms. Caban should be convicted of criminally negligent homicide and that she be held accountable. I guess I can opine (since it seems that anyone can write articles, try people, and even convict people based on their opinions and not FACTS) that perhaps Mr. Vance only holds WOMEN accountable for accidents and not MEN.

  • Raymond Colon

    Mr. Aaron, you cited what Judge Robert Smith says in the Dicta. The definition of Dicta: Dicta are judicial opinions expressed by the judges on points that do not necessarily arise in the case. Judge Robert Smith expressed his opinion based on misinformation. Unfortunately Ms. Caban’s appellate attorney did not make clear why Ms. Caban’s license had been suspended and therefore did NOT correct Judge Robert Smith. Opinions, even if expressed by a Judge are NOT facts in a case. If you check the transcripts in Caban’s recent trial, you would find that a DMV Law Judge (provided by the People) testified under oath that Ms. Caban’s license had been suspended for a LACK OF PAYMENT. Please see if you can read the transcripts so you can understand the case better before writing further. Everyone has opinions, including Mr. Vance. His opinion was that Mr. Carrasco, although having committed the SAME IDENTICAL type of accident as Ms. Caban, should only pay a $500 fine. In Caban’s case, Mr. Vance’s opinion is that Ms. Caban should be convicted of criminally negligent homicide and that she be held accountable. I guess I can opine (since it seems that anyone can write articles, try people, and even convict people based on their opinions and not FACTS) that perhaps Mr. Vance only holds WOMEN accountable for accidents and not MEN.

  • dporpentine

    @f7fd5ad06a0cd9337ea4767bce6a7ca0:disqus But the big question is whether changing the story will bring someone back to life. Certainly, typing in all caps does.

  • Colon Raymond74

    To dporpentine: The question also is, can an avid bicyclist truly understand driving accidents if cycling is more their thing? You would have to experience what blind spots are, where SUV car manufacturers claim they are located. Both Carrasco and Caban’s vehicles were fairly large SUVs.

  • moocow

    Colon, ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING?
    Do “fairly Large SUV” drivers understand traffic “accidents”? 
    The problem isn’t that this woman is getting jail time and some other guy gets a $500 fine, its that the other guy didn’t get jail time too.

  • Colon Raymond74

    Moocow, let me get this straight. If you were involved in a car accident and there was no malice/intent on your part, and someone died, you would expect to be convicted and placed in jail? If that is your stance, then I respect that. However, if you drive, becareful because should something like this ever happen to you (God forbid) you may view things a bit differently since you had no intent to hurt anyone. 

  • dporpentine

    @f7fd5ad06a0cd9337ea4767bce6a7ca0:disqus You’re right: being an avid cyclist, I haven’t been driving motor vehicles for nearly thirty years.
    Being an avid cyclist, I haven’t driven 24-foot moving vans in Brooklyn in Queens, let alone from coast to coast.
    But most of all, being an avid cyclist, I’m not constantly required (if I want to preserve my own life and my own limbs) to be aware of blind spots on all kinds of vehicles.
    I just kind of amble through the world on a big puffy cloud, eager to apologize in all caps for the slaughter of other human beings. That’s what being an avid cyclist is like.

  • Raymond Colon74

    dporpentine: You sound offended. Not my intention to offend you. There’s nothing wrong with bicycling. Also, I  want to be clear. I don’t condone people drinking, driving and then killing people or using drugs, driving and then killing people or people just barreling down the street with disregard for pedestrians and killing someone. What I am trying to say is that the fact that someone gets into an accident and causes the death of another person in an accident, does not automatically mean that a crime was committed. Also, having a license suspended does not change a person’s driving ability. You can have a license and be a terrible driver. Your license may have been suspended for lack of paying tickets and it doesn’t mean you suddenly become a bad driver because your license became suspended. A license suspension does not change/alter a driver’s ability/perception. Some accidents rise to the level of a crime, not all of them. That is the point I have been trying to make.

  • moocow

    Raymond, are you saying that the only reason that you should go to jail when someone dies in a crash is proof of malice or intent? I don’t (hope) think you are, but that is what it seems like. 
    Consider this, there is no such thing as an accident. I say this in a truly unsnarky manner.  When does poor judgement come into play?  Do you think that Italian cruise ship captain meant to kill or wreck a new half billion dollar cruise ship?  The guy who killed the 14 year old girl on Delancy, probably didn’t intend to kill her, (maybe just teach her a lesson and buzz her) but he did kill her by making probably more than one pretty bad decision. Same goes for what ever happened on the cruise ship.  Same for maintenance, or driving at an inappropriate speed for the surroundings, or watching blind spots. Your failure to be vigilant does not exonerate you.  But allowing “I didn’t mean to” or whoops or “I didn’t see her” is absolutely unacceptable. Except that it is.  Your actions while driving a car go further back than whether you “meant” to.
    I don’t drive, I really try not to, I let my license lapse for a year, because I didn’t want it, I may have needed it, but didn’t want it.  But if I was involved in a fatality while driving and it was due to my negligence, my poor judgement, yes, I expect to go to jail, to be responsible. (If people could hear what Teenage Car Driving Me is saying in my head right now…)
    I am a daily cyclist, and I have had jay walking peds come out of nowhere looking the wrong way and curse me out for surprising them.  I broke my collarbone hitting a jaywalker, missed 2 months of work. I didn’t intend to hit him, but I did because I ended up way to close to him. 
    Standing by the line that there “are no accidents” is a scary one, but a much safer one.

    But almost all this is moot when you consider the NYPD won’t police people even when there is very clear proof of negligence and poor judgement.

  • Colon Raymond74

    Moocow I am not saying that having no malice or intent signifies no criminal element involved. I am simply saying that while I respect your view that there are no such thing as accidents, I believe some incidents are accidents. I think speed is something to consider as well as drug use and road rage. By road rage I mean people who drive like everyone is the enemy. I think lack of caution or very bad decisions are not a reason to be exonerated by no means. Still, each case has to be analyzed well before shouting crime. Sorry about your collarbone, that must of hurt like hell. 

  • Mike

    It’s not an accident if you’re BACKING into a CROSSWALK.  It’s sociopathic behavior.  Backing into a crosswalk is never safe and never acceptable, and can never be called an “accident”.

  • dporpentine

    @2a15ea2c09af9bca9fa0232039062265:disqus Not just backing into a crosswalk, but backing into it so fast you send the person flying more than 18 feet from where she was standing.

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