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 third victim. Thompson filed a top charge of unlicensed aggravated operation, a low-level misdemeanor and the same charge that police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.
The DA did not charge Sewell, who reportedly has a history of driving without regard for others’ safety, for the act of killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims — declining even to file charges under the Right of Way Law.
In December Judge Marguerite Dougherty denied a request from Thompson’s office to hold Sewell on bail based on the charges against him. “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail,” Dougherty said last month. On Monday Dougherty told prosecutors “they had not presented an argument that would revoke … Sewell’s driver’s license,” according to DNAinfo.
“There are no allegations of the defendant recklessly driving,” said Dougherty.
She added that Sewell’s license had only been suspended at the time due to lack of child support and has since been restored.
Prosecutors told Dougherty that video evidence indicates Sewell had no “innocent reason to drive over the curb,” but DNAinfo reported that no additional charges have been filed because Sewell claimed he was “lightheaded” due to a carbon monoxide leak in his car.
Dougherty, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, said that since Sewell’s SUV was impounded there was no reason to prevent him from being able to drive legally. “It negates the necessity,” she said.
According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week. DNAinfo reported that Sewell’s driving record was not broached by prosecutors yesterday.
Thompson is looked to as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to traffic safety and Vision Zero. But in several instances Thompson has authorized pleas for unlicensed operation, which carries a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail, to settle cases against drivers who killed people.
Dougherty’s refusal to keep Sewell off the roads is reminiscent of a case brought by Thompson’s predecessor Charles Hynes. In 2012 Judge Desmond Green sentenced Anthony Webb, the driver who killed pedestrian Clara Heyworth, to a $250 fine and a drunk driving course after Hynes allowed Webb to plead to unlicensed driving and driving without an insurance card. Green chastised prosecutors from the bench for dropping more serious charges against Webb.
Sewell’s next court date is set for February, according to court records.