Ian Clement, the U.S. Postal Service employee who drove a truck over cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz, then left the scene, has been found not guilty of hit-and-run by a Manhattan jury.
The crash occurred on July 2, 2011, as Dershowitz and her husband Nathan rode their bikes on W. 29th Street, near Ninth Avenue, in Chelsea. Video of the crash showed Clement’s truck rock back and forth at the moment of impact, stop for a time with flashers blinking, then drive away.
Clement testified on the stand that he never saw Dershowitz, either before or after the fatal collision, and said it did not occur to him until later that he may have hit someone, despite the immediate convergence of passersby and, soon after, emergency vehicles at the scene.
Clement was charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance with leaving the scene of an incident resulting in death, a felony that requires prosecutors to prove that the motorist knew or had reason to know that injury had been caused.
Media coverage of the trial tended to reflect a city press corps that is by and large unable or unwilling to report on vehicular crimes in any meaningful way. Outlets including the Daily News fixated on the notoriety of the victim’s brother-in-law, and eagerly propagated the defense narrative that Clement should not have been prosecuted. WPIX incorrectly reported that Clement was on trial for intentionally running Dershowitz over, but managed to name-check O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, former clients of Alan Dershowitz.
Though it was far and away the most publicized vehicular crimes trial in recent memory, the scourge of hit-and-run crashes and the difficulty in holding drivers accountable, thanks in part to ineffectual state statutes, was not directly addressed.
Vance released this statement just after noon today:
“We respect the jury’s verdict. However, far too many cyclists and pedestrians are killed in crashes with motorists each year, in every borough of our city. Often times these deaths are not crimes, but they are of grave concern to this Office, as they forever change the lives of victims, their families, and the drivers involved. We will continue to file charges where we believe the evidence merits them, and do everything we can as an office to make our streets safer for everyone.”
According to Vance’s office, prosecutors have filed charges for leaving the scene 127 times, including 33 incidents involving serious injury or death, so far in 2012.