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NYC Prosecutors Lag Behind Nassau on Traffic Justice

Seekers of traffic justice have their work cut out for them in 2009. Even as the City Council dismisses cries for help from victims and their families, January has already brought news of a nine-year-old run down by an unlicensed driver who may or may not be criminally charged, and a DWI pedestrian killer who got off with an unbelievable 16-day sentence.

In the case of the latter, at least, the Daily News reports that the victim's loved ones aren't taking it lying down. Recall that in January of last year, Florence Cioffi was struck and killed on a Lower Manhattan street by one George Anderson. Anderson, who was driving at 60 m.p.h., fled the scene in his Mercedes SUV, only to return some time later, when he refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test. Because Cioffi was also found to be intoxicated, the Manhattan DA's office chose to plead out the case, and let Anderson off with a charge of DWI and "leaving the scene of an accident." In addition to the 16 days in jail -- to be served over eight weekends -- Anderson will do 250 hours of community service and pay a fine of $350.

It should come as no surprise that Cioffi's fiance, William Mosca, does not feel justice has been done.

"It's a rich man's sentence," said Mosca. "Sixteen days for somebody who was doing 60 miles an hour, intoxicated [and] left the scene of the crime?"

Mosca, who wants the case to go before a jury and have the plea deal reversed, believes prosecutor David Hammer was more concerned about losing the case than getting justice for his fiancée.

"I kept saying we would prefer to see it go to trial. I truly believe he [Hammer] was convinced he couldn't win this case, and didn't want to have a mar on his record as losing a case," he said. 

Prosecutors and police tend to blame weak state laws -- and not without reason -- when it comes to soft pedaling cases of drivers who kill. But in this case it may be instructive to consider the crusade of Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who was recently featured on "60 Minutes" for her success in trying DWI killers as murderers. While Rice, as you can see in the story, has already put at least two people behind bars with sentences commensurate with their crimes, 89-year-old Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau and his staff continue to victimize the dead in the courtroom.

As for Alexander Aponte -- who, while driving with a suspended license, drove City Council candidate Michael Ricatto's campaign bus into Ibrihim Ahmed -- Streetsblog has a call in with the Queens DA's office to see what additional charges, if any, may be brought.

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