A hit-and-run driver may get as much as three years in jail, or no jail time at all, for striking and killing a Staten Island woman and injuring her grandson in Staten Island, under the terms of a plea deal with District Attorney Daniel Donovan.
Clara Almazo, 52, was walking home from church with her daughter and grandson at around 9:50 p.m. on April 5, 2012, when she was struck by Brian McGurk on Cary Avenue at Elizabeth Street. According to reports, Almazo pushed 8-year-old Brian Herrera-Ramirez out of the path of McGurk’s Ford SUV.
Court papers say McGurk was traveling “at a high rate of speed.” Said one witness, whose home security system caught the crash on video: “The [SUV] threw her up into the air, from 10 to 20 feet. She went flying.”
The child suffered a broken leg. Almazo, who had 10 kids and 10 grandchildren, died shortly after being transported to the hospital.
The Post reported that McGurk turned himself in to police some three hours after the crash. He was accompanied by his brother, who is an NYPD officer, and a former cop.
McGurk refused a blood alcohol test, a police source told the Advance. A source quoted by the Post noted a known loophole in New York State law that gives motorists who have been drinking an incentive to flee the scene of a crash.
“Investigators are looking into anything that may have played a role, including speeding and alcohol,” a law-enforcement source said.
“You face tougher charges if you stay and you’re drunk.”
McGurk was charged with leaving the scene and criminally negligent homicide — a Class E felony, the least severe of all felony categories. According to court records, he pled guilty to leaving the scene, a D felony that carries a penalty of up to seven years. Donovan spokesperson Douglas Auer said McGurk will be sentenced “up to a maximum of one to three years in prison,” according to the Advance. A Class D felony also allows for no jail time, or probation. Sentencing is scheduled for March 21.
“We are satisfied with the defendant’s plea to the top charge against him, and this spares everyone the uncertainty of a trial,” Auer said. Translation: When working within a system that places a low priority on bringing killer motorists to justice — thanks in no small part to complacency on the part of prosecutors and police — this is the best outcome the victim’s loved ones and the public have a right to expect.
Almazo’s family has filed a civil suit against McGurk, the New York Mets, a Staten Island restaurant and others. The suit alleges that McGurk had been drinking at Citi Field and at the restaurant before the crash.
Said family attorney Eric Richman: “This man was able to circumvent the law, and even if the best scenario plays out in the civil case, it won’t come close to providing the family the justice they deserve.”