4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.

On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.

Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.

  • December 2014: Simcha Rosenblatt fatally struck 27-year-old Raul Leone-Vasquez in a crosswalk at Bay Parkway and Bath Avenue. Thompson charged Rosenblatt with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to exercise due care. The outcome of this case is unknown.
  • December 2013: The month before Thompson took office, Hynes charged Roberto Amador with aggravated unlicensed operation after he killed 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler on McGuinness Boulevard. Amador, who was charged by Manhattan DA Cy Vance with unlicensed driving for a crash that occurred just days before Detweiler’s death, pled guilty in both cases. Amador was fined $200 and $250 pursuant to plea deals with Vance and Thompson, respectively.
  • November 2013: Hynes charged Robert Brown with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to yield for striking and killing senior Maude Savage. After Thompson took office, Brown pled guilty to unlicensed operation in the second degree — a charge that may be applied when a defendant is caught driving without a license after prior convictions for unlicensed driving, or when the defendant’s license was previously suspended or revoked pursuant to a drug or alcohol related driving offense. Brown was fined $500.

The Post reported that a judge refused a request from Thompson’s office to hold Marlon Sewell on bail because, she said, “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail.” For all the public knows Sewell is still behind the wheel of his Chevy SUV.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a valid license are epidemics. That in itself is an issue worthy of examination.

    Basically, drivers at fault go ahead and leave.

    And so much damage is done by accidents that the insurance rates for novice drivers, especially young men, are so high that only the most affluent can afford them. If actually required to pay that cost, few would drive.

    Take it from me, who actually was on the books with two novice drivers in Brooklyn for a while. Good thing they were girls.

  • Eric McClure

    No. More. Thoughts. And. Prayers.

  • This person should be imprisoned until such time as the public can be guaranteed he won’t drive again. He is clearly incapable of doing so safely, and refuses to stop doing so when told not to. There is no other circumstance when this would be tolerated in society.

  • Joe R.

    If we had a law on books where where someone’s car is forfeit if they’re caught driving without a license, he wouldn’t have had a car to drive the first time he was caught driving with no license in March. It’s high time such a law is passed.

  • MatthewEH

    I am mystified how more charges aren’t being filed in Nicodemus’ death. Absolutely mystified.

  • StaceyJeans

    Agree with both you and Joe R. Something needs to be done to these unlicensed drivers beyond a slap on the wrist. Even when they kill someone the penalty is super-soft. People get put in jail for longer for growing weed than they do for murdering someone with their car.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

DA Ken Thompson Still Hasn’t Charged Driver for December Sidewalk Killing

|
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged the driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Fort Greene sidewalk with unlicensed driving, but did not file charges for taking the victim’s life. Six months after the crash, Nicodemus’s family says the DA is dragging his feet on the case. Marlon Sewell hit Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person with a Chevrolet SUV […]

Sidewalk Killer Free to Drive Thanks to Judge and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

|
A judge refused to take the license of the motorist who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk because, she said, District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges for reckless driving. Marlon Sewell was allegedly driving without a valid license when he hit Nicodemus and two other people on Fulton Street on December 6, injuring Nicodemus’s boyfriend and the […]

Brooklyn DA Charges Driver With Manslaughter for Killing Victoria Nicodemus

|
A grand jury has indicted Marlon Sewell for second-degree manslaughter six months after he jumped a curb in Fort Greene and killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus while driving with a suspended license, Gothamist reports. Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson had refrained from pressing felony charges until Nicodemus’s family pressured his office to take action. On December 6, Sewell, driving a Chevy SUV […]