As Clara Heyworth’s Killer Walks, Judge Questions Prosecutors in Her Case

As expected, criminal charges against the driver who fatally struck Brooklyn pedestrian Clara Heyworth have been dropped. Unexpected was a critique of the case from the bench, as a judge today lambasted prosecutors for abandoning efforts to bring a suspected DWI killer to justice.

Clara Heyworth and Jacob Stevens. Photo via ##http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-07-25/news/32853160_1_unlicensed-driver-drunk-driver-car-crashes##Daily News##

In the early morning hours of July 10, 2011, Heyworth was crossing Vanderbilt Avenue to meet her husband, Jacob Stevens, when she was struck by driver Anthony Webb. She died from head injuries the following day. She was 28.

Webb, 43, was charged with driving while intoxicated, operation of a motor vehicle by an unlicensed driver, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, and assault, among other violations. But the case against Webb fell apart in light of shoddy investigative work by NYPD.

In a Brooklyn courtroom this morning, Webb pleaded guilty to unlicensed driving and driving without an insurance card, after prosecutors with the office of District Attorney Charles Hynes dropped all remaining charges.

The assistant district attorney asked for a 15-day jail sentence, the maximum term for the violations in the plea. Instead, Judge Desmond Green fined Webb $250 and ordered him to complete a drunk driving course. Stevens says Green questioned prosecutors before handing down his sentence.

“He said ‘Why are you dropping these other charges?'” says Stevens. “And the district attorney’s office said, ‘Well, you know the portable breath test it turned out hadn’t been calibrated.’ And the judge said, ‘Well, as you know, we have convicted people in cases where the portable breath test wasn’t admissible. So that’s not a good enough reason. You should be bringing these charges.'”

A lawsuit filed by Stevens against NYPD says the department’s Accident Investigation Squad called off its investigation one hour after the crash, without coming to the scene, because Heyworth was alive immediately after the collision. The suit says investigators ignored precinct officers who attempted to summon AIS because they believed Heyworth “may be likely” to die.

By the time AIS began its investigation several days later, crucial evidence was lost. According to the suit, no witnesses could be located; no pictures were taken of the crash scene; video evidence was erased; information from the vehicle’s data recorder, which would have indicated speed, was overwritten; driver blood evidence was lost; and skid marks were destroyed. The position of the victim was never recorded, making it impossible to reconstruct the crash. Police did not document vehicle damage for weeks, after the car had been taken to a repair shop.

Though the machine used to administer a breath test to Webb was later found to be working properly, the 88th Precinct had not performed a required calibration for four years, rendering results inadmissible in court.

NYPD incompetence notwithstanding, Judge Green admonished prosecutors for diminishing the strength of their own case.

Says Stevens: “The judge said, ‘I can only hear the charge that remains. I did not choose to drop the other charges. The district attorney chose to drop the other charges. I was here ready today to try the criminal charges, and it’s the district attorney’s office that chose to drop them, so that’s the only one that I can sentence on today.'”

“He seemed to be making some kind of a statement for public consumption. But of course the effect is that this guy not only walks, but he does that DMV course and he can drive again.”

Since Webb faced charges related only to driving when he should not have, Stevens was allowed to speak only to those violations in his statement to the court.

“And so I said that Clara was 28 and that we’d been married for less than two years, and that if the defendant had abided by the terms of his license and not gotten behind the wheel that night, then she’d still be alive, and we’d be looking forward to the rest of our marriage.”

  • krstrois

    Unreal. I would like to see Mr. Stevens bring NYPD to their knees. 

    I know nothing of the law — can the judge’s statement have any bearing on Mr. Stevens’ case?

  • A great way for people outside of NYC to protest the abuses and extreme slack of the NYPD would be to politely not invite Janette Sadik-Khan to speak etc at sustainable transport events.

    NYC should not get credit for her positive actions (for sure viewed relatively narrowly, i.e. leaving out e.g. negative gentrification effects) while the other “lieutenant” to Bloomberg responsible for sustainable streets, NYPD police chief Ray Kelly, continues his murderous performance.

  • Joe R.

    My bigger concern here is that Mr. Webb and others who commit carnage will be allowed back behind the wheel of a car. Once you kill or seriously injure someone when operating a motor vehicle, your driving privileges should be terminated for life whether or not criminal charges are lodged against you.

  • Southeasterner

    Completely unbelievable.  

    This is the message I’m getting from this:

    Dear potential murderers,

    If you want to kill someone don’t bother with a gun, knife or baseball bat, just get drunk and hit them with a car.  You will avoid lengthy prosecution and jail time. We won’t even take away your right to drive. 

    Sincerely,

    NY Judicial System

    If I had some money I would put that on a giant billboard with a photo of Clara. 

  • Anonymous

    And Bloomberg and the Press continue to laud Ray Kelley.  This is straight up incompetence. 

    Can someone pull Bloomberg’s quote, when confronted with journalists/transit advocates, calling for more AIS investigations and following-up on Ped/Bicyclists accidents?

    I think of it as his, “let them eat cake,” moment.  He said something like, “you can’t please them all,” or, “there’s no pleasing these people.” 

    I mean, the king is out-of-the-fucking-loop if he thinks this is acceptable.  Whatever happened to accountability and that CEO/corporate touch? When people fuck up.  You fire them.  Other people take note, and act accordingly.  I mean shit, doesn’t this guy have kids.  Bad = punish, Good = reward.

    Not, we fuck up all the time, we never actually stopped a single terror attack since 9/11 and we can’t even do the basics properly.  Oh, but you can stomp the shit out of an OWS rally.   It’s like bizarro world.  Next we’re going to here how Chris Christie is a budget and transit savant who’s laying the ground work for a growing and prosperous New Jersey with malls and roads.

  • @facebook-1803318026:disqus , that seems enormously counterproductive. This problem is driven in no small part by Ray Kelley’s own vindictive attitude towards JSK. Why give him more victories? Besides, prevention is always better than the cure. JSK is in the prevention business, and she’s doing  a standup job. 

  • Anonymous
  • Mark Walker

    Kill with a gun, cops take the gun. Kill with a knife, cops take the knife. Kill with a car, drive the car home. You’ll even be able to drive it again in the near future.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Such a needless tragedy that occurred in Ft. Greene, and a travesty that followed in a Brooklyn courtroom.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Such a needless tragedy that occurred in Ft. Greene, and a travesty that followed in a Brooklyn courtroom.

  • IRMO, the main point is to put pressure on Bloomberg to change things at the NYPD. NYCDOT will not be affected, and from what I have seen a lot of Sadik-Khan’s trips – at least the recent ones – are basically about her near-future consulting and speaking gigs (remove the “near-” if she is going to work for Quinn or whoever). Sadik-Khan should be happy if things change, especially if she stays at her job in the next administration. 

    The pressure should come in part from livable streets advocates, the majority of whom have a narrow view of what “livable” means, and never mention “gentrification” let alone “stop & frisk”, etc. Appreciating much of Sadik-Khan’s work – or taking a nuanced view on it – is fine… but the “rock star” thing is too much, especially if she is appointed by a guy who bought his way into a third term (and also buys the silence and ensures the narrowminded-ness I mention via the huge contributions of his foundation to sustainable transport groups.)Anyway, would appreciate more info about this “vindictive attitude” from Kelly towards Sadik-Khan. 

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