Cy Vance’s Office on Alleged DWI Pedestrian Death: No Comment

As we reported yesterday, we put in a message with the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance regarding the death of Victor Felix, the 57-year-old pedestrian struck in Harlem Sunday night by alleged drunk driver Garry Kinlock.

Cy Vance, who maintains a no comment policy on vehicular crimes, announces manslaughter charges in a crane collapse. Photo: ##http://manhattanda.org/media-center##Manhattanda.org##

Since we learned that the assistant district attorneys who comprise Vance’s vehicular crimes unit don’t always attend fatal crash scenes, we asked if his office is investigating this case. We also asked if charges against Kinlock might be upgraded from DWI, given that the victim was killed.

To their credit, Vance’s press staff replied quickly. Unfortunately, they answered neither of our questions.

“We can’t comment on charges prior to a defendant’s arraignment,” wrote a Vance spokesperson, who encouraged us to check in later.

Note that this response ignores the question of whether Vance’s office is investigating the death of a Manhattan pedestrian at the hands of an accused drunk driver. As for checking in later, if there is an optimal moment to follow up with the Vance team on vehicular crime cases, in two years Streetsblog has yet to find the sweet spot. With a few exceptions, the pattern goes like so: “No comment” prior to arraignment, then “No comment” on pending cases. Regardless of outcome, once it runs its course the final word on how or why a vehicular case is prosecuted, or not, is normally something along the lines of “We bring the top charge supported by the evidence.” Period.

By contrast, a perusal of the Manhattan DA web site finds that Vance and staff have much to say about cases they want to talk about. Press releases are searchable based on the stage of the case, from indictment through appeal. A search for statements pertaining to vehicular crimes yields two results, both announcing convictions.

There is no doubt that a certain amount of discretion is required for law enforcers to do their jobs. The trick is to mind the line between discretion and stonewalling. To martial support for beefing up vehicular crimes statutes so that drivers who injure and kill are held accountable, it is crucial that the public understand, as best as can be explained, how these cases are made and where existing law falls short. Candidate Vance, in so many words, pledged to bridge that gap.

There is also the issue of prioritizing cases — and, therefore, victims — depending on how they died. In 2009, a few months before Vance was elected, Aaron Naparstek, then Streetsblog editor-in-chief, wrote:

When a construction crane falls or a New York Giants wide receiver accidentally discharges his gun, New York City’s law enforcement community flies into a frenzy of justice-seeking. But when the killing is done by a sober, licensed driver, you can pretty much hear crickets chirping at the District Attorney’s office.

The deaths of Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard showed that, under Vance, even unlicensed drivers can expect to escape charges for killing. Presumably, an alleged drunk driver would have no chance of getting a similar break. But apparently we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Anonymous

    Having just spent a WEEK on a jury for a non-violent very low level drug possession case, I found myself getting increasing infuriated at both the police and the DA’s office as I watched an assistant DA waste five+ days of court time and the police officers lie and collude with each other on the stand with apparent impunity. 

    By the end of my service I found myself seething at that time and money the DA’s office is willing to put into essentially victimless drug cases, and how little they seem to be willing to devote to what should be vehicular homicide cases where people have actually died. 

    MInd-boggling.

  • Roberto

    Look Mr. Vance, justice for those killed by drunken & negligent drivers has to start somewhere. If not in NYC, the largest, most densely urbanized city in our country and a nucleus of global culture and intellectual thought, then where?!  We can’t continue to sweep innocent traffic victims under the carpet any longer.  Man up and set an example. What was that thing about if you can do in in New York, you can do it anywhere…

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Manhattan DA Cy Vance Unveils Strategy to Expand Traffic Safety Resources

|
During last year’s campaign for Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance came out with a broad traffic safety platform, promising to beef up investigations into deaths caused by drivers. Many of those commitments turned into official policy today, as Vance announced a significant expansion of the DA’s vehicular crimes unit. Vance also pledged to support state […]

DA Cy Vance: Most Manhattan Traffic Deaths Aren’t Crimes

|
All Cy Vance wanted to do was talk computer crime at the Yale Club, but Sofia Russo, who lost her daughter to traffic violence, wouldn’t let him stick to the script. At a Crain’s breakfast in Midtown today, the Manhattan district attorney assured the capacity crowd that his office is going after gangs, targeting terrorists, and […]

Cy Vance: Senior’s Crosswalk Death Remains Unsolved After Seven Months

|
No charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance against the driver who fatally struck 82-year-old Sui Leung in a Manhattan crosswalk last fall. Though Council Member Margaret Chin said the NYPD crash report indicated Leung was walking with the right of way, Vance’s office says the investigation has yet to conclude seven months after the […]

Did Cy Vance’s Office Investigate the Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle?

|
A Manhattan prosecutor says District Attorney Cy Vance’s office has no record of any investigation into the curb-jump crash that killed pedestrian Mike Rogalle. Rogalle, who delivered packages for UPS, was working his Financial District route on the afternoon of April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Rogalle was removed […]

Why Must a Driver Be Drunk or Fleeing Cops to Be Prosecuted for Killing?

|
On Tuesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced the sentencing of Dyson Williams, the driver who killed Mary Celine Graham while attempting to evade police. On June 22, 2010, police investigating a string of gunpoint robberies stopped a minivan occupied by Williams and William Robbins near W. 142nd Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, according to […]

Will Cy Vance Fail to Prosecute Another Serious Midtown Curb-Jump Crash?

|
New Yorkers have seen this before. On a beautiful summer day, a professional driver with a history of recklessness behind the wheel drives onto a crowded Midtown sidewalk, striking multiple people and causing serious injuries. The driver lays blame elsewhere, on factors he claims were beyond his control. Meanwhile, staff from Manhattan District Attorney Cy […]