One Month In, DA Thompson Charges Sober Driver With Manslaughter

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has filed homicide and reckless driving charges against a sober driver who caused a violent crash in Crown Heights, killing another driver.

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News
Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

On January 6, Jermaine Filmore ran a red on Eastern Parkway and hit two other vehicles, according to WABC. One of those cars hit a fourth car and then caught fire. The driver of that vehicle, a Lincoln Town Car, was killed. Court records say Filmore was charged with manslaughter, homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, among other charges.

As we reported after the crash that killed Lucian Merryweather, while it is rare for prosecutors to file homicide charges against a sober driver, there seems to be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. It was not completely unheard of for the previous Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, to file a homicide charge after a fatal crash caused by a sober, red light-running motorist.

However, it’s encouraging to see Thompson handle a case like this so early in his tenure, and he has pledged to take traffic violence seriously. “There’s all types of criminality that could be committed by somebody driving a vehicle that hits and kills someone,” Thompson told Streetsblog last November, noting that “criminality” means more than just leaving the scene and drunk or impaired driving. ”It’s not just fatalities. Beyond fatalities, somebody can be seriously injured, and not killed, but they still need justice.”

It’s too early to say if the Filmore case represents a real change in how the Brooklyn DA’s office approaches traffic crimes. An earlier case this year, in which a driver rear-ended another car, which then struck and killed 75-year-old pedestrian Xiaoci Hu, resulted in no charges. If Thompson is going to bring his office in line with the mayor’s Vision Zero goals, there should be consequences for reckless driving of all stripes.

  • Kevin Love

    This is great. The good news just keeps coming.

    The next steps in this progression of enforcing the law are:

    1) Criminal charges whenever police witness a criminally negligent car driver who does not crash, kill or injure anyone. Police observe these crimes every day… and ignore the violent, dangerous criminal instead of enforcing the law.

    2) Denial of bail to unlicensed drivers on the grounds that (Duhhh…) they are likely to continue to drive unlicensed if let out of prison. This routinely happens in every other civilized country that I know of. See, for example:

    http://www.saultstar.com/2013/09/10/suspect-in-fatality-denied-bail

  • chekpeds

    Question is would the same charges have been levied if the victim had been a pedestrian or a bicyclist?

  • Nathanael

    Congratulations to Thompson for actually enforcing the law.

    Reckless driving is a crime. And this was severely reckless driving.

  • Nathanael

    I’d probably grant bail if the unlicensed driver voluntarily turned over his car.

  • Kevin Love

    What is to stop him from using another car?

  • Bellamy Greene

    I happen to know Mr. Filmore personally and the statements in this article are misleading to readers. This case is 3 years old and was brought to court before Mr. Thompson was voted into office. This is not the typical case whereas drivers have clearly been at fault for causing accidents by joy riding or not paying atrention. Mr. Filmore is no criminal and this was merely a tragic accident that could happen to anyone. Too many innocent people are having their lives ruined in order to boost someone’s career.

  • Ian Turner

    Maybe it could happen to anyone who engages in red-light running.

  • Bellamy Greene

    It’s regretful that you don’t know all of the facts of the case and would make that assumption. You can’t believe everything you read and accept it at face value. As I’ve stated previously, this article has misinformed readers within accurate details. If it were you, you’d hope that others would be fair and open minded in your behalf.

  • po

    Police say he ran the light. If they have nothing to back up that assertion, and it’s true as you say that he was not at fault, why would this case be moving forward when so many others do not? If they can’t make their case in court, how would this help anyone’s career?

  • Bellamy Greene

    Well you’re making your own assumptions without knowing the facts. Many cases move forward due to red tape, delays and lazy people not doing their jobs. Lets be honest, just because they’re police, they’re not always correct or being honest in many cases.

    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/why-police-officers-lie-under-oath.html

    http://nypost.com/2014/02/21/cops-hit-my-car-then-arrested-me-to-cover-it-up-suit/

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