Shock and Outrage Over DWI Killer’s Two-Year Sentence

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: If you want to get away with murder in New York City, get yourself a car.

amd_tenzing.jpgYesterday, 21-year-old Tenzing Bhutia of Queens was given a two-year prison term for the death of Julia Thomson. In the early morning hours of September 30 of last year, an intoxicated Bhutia whipped through the intersection of Bowery and East 4th Street in his family’s Mercedes. Thomson, returning home from a night out with friends, was in the crosswalk on Bowery. Bhutia’s car slammed into Thomson, who died of massive head injuries within moments. Bhutia never stopped, but the collision with Thomson’s body ripped off a rearview mirror, which helped police in tracking him down. He was found hours after the crash, arrested, and charged with vehicular homicide.

Though he could have served up to seven years if convicted of homicide, Bhutia was in the end sentenced for vehicular manslaughter, for which he will spend 730 days in jail. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rena Uviller has allowed Bhutia to remain free on bail until he graduates from Baruch College in a few weeks.

Thomson’s family had asked that he get three years for killing Julia, but even a sentence as light as that was deemed too harsh, as the judge was reportedly swayed by pleas of leniency from Bhutia and his family. Understandably, Thomson’s parents are outraged.

"Punishment…should reflect the initial stupidity of taking the family car on a drinking spree and driving at a totally irresponsible speed…," Bill and Celia Thomson said in a statement from their home in Edinburgh.

"Worst of all, [was Bhutia’s] callous attempt to get away when he knew perfectly well he had hit someone," the parents added.

 "I put the blame for my daughter’s death squarely in the hands of the
US justice system," Bill Thomson said…

Even the daily papers, which don’t have the best record when it comes to coverage of bike-ped deaths, are at a loss. "He killed beauty in DWI but will get degree before prison," wrote the Daily News. "MEASLY 2 YEARS FOR FATAL DWI," barked the Post.

Maybe the outcome of this case will finally shock the media into pressuring reluctant police and prosecutors to treat death by vehicle as a reckless act for which perpetrators should be held accountable, rather than a random "tragedy" in which everyone is a victim.

Photo of Tenzing Bhutia: New York Daily News

  • outrageous.

  • ben

    outrageous, but typical and not surprising.

  • Mark Walker

    The judge rendered his verdict, then drove home.

  • george

    we often rush to judgment without knowing all the facts in the case. was julia crossing the street at the crosswalk? did she have the right of way, or was she crossing on a red light? was she herself under the influence of alcohol or drugs? having the answers to these questions can better serve to give us an idea of who to blame for her death.

    get all the facts before labeling someone a cold-blooded killer who deserves to rot in prison.

  • Mark

    this is unbelievable!!!

  • JF

    George, we do know all the facts in the case: they were described in detail in the media and discussed thoroughly on this blog. Bhutia acted recklessly and showed depraved indifference to human life. But thanks for your eager willingness to find a way to blame the victim.

  • LS

    I lost my uncle to a drunk driver in the middle of the day. I know what its like. But sending the kid to jail for longer doesn’t bring the girl back or stop another impaired person from making an impaired decision. Have him paint crosswalks every saturday for the next 30 years of his life or something. Make him install bollards. But don’t put more people into the jail-industrial complex. We already have the most people in jail of any country this side of North Korea.

  • Your legal BAC to drive over there is 0.08? That’s insane! Across most of Australia it’s 0.05 and we have a reputation as a nation of binge drinkers who are married to their cars.

  • Vroomfondel

    I agree that the sentence is a bit disappointing, but let’s keep in mind that he got two years more than most motorized killers. (By the way, what portion of those two years is he likely to serve?)

    The real question on my mind is whether he will ever drive again. My understanding is that there will be a separate DMV case and that the law specifies minimum license revocations, but no maximum. Does anyone have any idea for how long he will have his license revoked?

  • Gizler

    The only reason he got two years more than most motorized killers is because he was drunk and fled the scene. Otherwise he surely would have gotten off clean like everyone else.

  • paulb

    I get the point about not rushing to judgment, but the guy ran away after killing someone and he didn’t turn himself in, he had to be found. Two years (maximum) and then getting his life back does seem light, to me. I get the “paying your debt to society” argument right up to causing permanent serious injury or a death. Then the “debt” idea should get more personal.

  • Spud Spudly

    He PLED GUILTY! When you plead guilty you have to stipulate to the facts. It’s not like there was a trial or disputed story. He was hammered, he was speeding, he hit a pedestrian (who was in a crosswalk) and he drove away while she died — what else do you need to know?????

  • Automobiles are the HIGHEST cause of death in the United States

  • gecko

    13. Aaron, Automobiles are the HIGHEST cause of death of people under 24 in the world.

  • gecko

    Road accidents are “the largest cause of nonnatural death among U.S. citizens overseas,” said Betsy L. Anderson, a senior consular official at the State Department.

    Road crashes are a worldwide problem, and are expected to rise. “Each year 1.2 million people die in road accidents, and 20 to 50 million are injured and survive, often with disabilities for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Etienne Krug, the director of the department of injuries and violence prevention at the World Health Organization. The figures are believed to be underreported.

    NYTimes, The Biggest Little-Noticed Hazard, by Tanya Mohn 4/17/2007

    Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death worldwide among young people aged 10-24 years. Each year nearly 400 000 people under 25 die on the world’s roads – on average more than 1000 a day.

    Most of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and among vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and those using public transport.

  • gecko

    Road accidents cost New York State over $19 billion a year yet legislators will not vote for congestion pricing or cameras at NYC intersections.


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