Two Dead in the Bronx as Killer Drivers Continue to Game NY Legal System

Two people are dead and another is in critical condition after separate hit-and-run crashes in the Bronx this weekend.

David Ellis in a family photo. Via Daily News

On Friday at around 11:20 p.m., David Ellis was riding a friend’s bike on Webster Avenue near East Gun Hill Road when he was struck by the driver of a Nissan Maxima traveling in the same direction, according to reports. The impact threw Ellis into the path of the driver of a Ford Explorer, who ran him over. The driver of the Maxima and a passenger fled on foot, while the second driver remained at the scene.

Ellis, 18, was a high school football standout who, according to his family, coach and teammates, was on track to play college ball. NYPD told the Daily News they had identified the occupants of the Maxima, who had not been located as of Saturday.

Less than an hour after Ellis was hit, two men crossing Grand Concourse near E. 170th Street were struck by the driver of a Honda CRV who, according to police and witnesses, never slowed down, and who stopped only when he crashed into EMS responders en route to the scene. Juan Rivera-Quintana, 42, was pronounced dead at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. The second victim, a 34-year-old male whose name was not released, was reported in critical condition as of Sunday night.

Police identified the driver as Richard Habermann, 37, from Armonk. Prosecutors said Habermann refused a breath test at the scene. After police obtained a warrant, his blood alcohol content was reportedly found to be .234 percent, roughly three times the legal limit for driving. Habermann was charged with homicide, manslaughter, vehicular assault, leaving the scene, DWI, reckless driving and other charges, according to court records.

In New York State, prosecutors have long sought to untangle legal obstacles that prevent police from obtaining crucial blood alcohol evidence from suspected drunk drivers, who now stand to benefit from the lag time between a crash and the procurement of a warrant. So onerous are the requirements that a 2009 panel, convened after high-profile pedestrian fatalities caused by off-duty NYPD personnel, set its sights mainly on shortening the warrant time frame from seven to five hours.

In addition, under current New York law drivers have an incentive to flee the scene of a crash. A bill to increase penalties for hit-and-run crashes failed in the legislature this year.

  • The infuriating thing is that, if the Maxima occupants had stuck around, they’d be facing no charges… and they still may face nothing more than charges for leaving the scene, for which it seems a good lawyer can knock that down to the equivalent of a ticket. 

    Meanwhile, Habermann was literally too drunk/stoned to flee, which could be its own novel defense against the manifold felony charges against him. (He can sacrifice himself to the DWI charges while claiming to be too intoxicated to have intent to injure, enough such that we would again be looking at a plea bargain for a light jail sentence) 

    I don’t think any of this is right, but this is all that most prosecutors think that they can get in the end, and this isn’t anything that inspires fury in the general public. It used to be something outrageous, something that the newspapers would harp upon, something that would be a political liability for the powers that be. Today, that sort of anger is directed at anything that reduces the number of parking spaces in a neighborhood.

  • Conspiracy Theorist

    Imagine if people caught with drugs in their possession could ensure that no charges would be filed as long as they said, “I didn’t know they were in my pocket!”  Eventually, after seeing this scenario played out in news report after news report, everyone from casual pot smokers to the most murderous, dangerous drug dealers would know to say this if they were caught by the NYPD.  We’d have a drug problem of epidemic proportions.  “Oh, you didn’t KNOW you had a kilo of coke stuffed in your shorts?  You’re free to go then.”

    That’s pretty much how it goes with these hit-and-runs.  “You didn’t KNOW you hit anyone?  Well, that explains why you left the scene.  Sorry to both you!”

    I can’t help but wonder motorists have started to internalize the idea that fleeing the scene is not only a good idea if you want to sober up, but also a good way to support the “I didn’t see him” defense.

  • Eric McClure

    Keep protecting killer drivers, Albany.

  • Jesse Greene

    Armonk, New York: 
    As of the census of 2000, the median income for a household in the CDP is $94,508, and the median income for a family is $112,066. Males have a median income of $87,659.

    I guess Mr. Haberman is just another one of those ordinary New Yorkers trying to get from point A to point B in a city full of oppressive policies favoring those elites in the South Bronx.

  • John

    i happen to know him very well and in the just the last year he had his father die and his mother kill herself. He was given strong medication for depression and doesn’t remember from 2 hours before the accident until waking up in jail thinking he just got a DUI. I don’t stick up for him at all but many factors played into the sad events of this night and although I feel he must go do jail for taking someone’s life he is one of the really good guys who just fucked up.

  • Joe

    I also knew him, and can also vouch for his humanity – he is a good person, who made a tragic mistake. Amazingly, I only heard about this today, as the last time I saw him was quite some time ago on a job we both worked on together. It’s terrible that someone lost his life, and another was critically injured, but the man I knew had a good heart. Casey (Mr. Haberman) has suffered a great deal, and I don’t doubt that this will haunt him for many, many years to come. Let’s all learn from a good man’s bad choice.

  • A Friend

    Is he still in the joint?

  • A Friend

    I only knew him through online interactions, but Casey seemed like a really cool guy… I hope he’s doing alright.

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