No Charges From Cy Vance for Killing of Yolanda Casal

The man who killed an Upper West Side pedestrian and injured a second while backing up in pursuit of a parking spot made his first court appearance last Friday on a charge of driving without a license.On June 30, Yolanda Casal, 78, and her 41-year-old daughter Anais Emmanuel were crossing Amsterdam Avenue near West 98th Street when Edwin Carrasco, 38, of Paterson, New Jersey, drove his Ford Explorer into them. Casal was later pronounced dead at St. Luke’s Hospital; Emmanuel was hospitalized with injuries.

Reports indicated that Carrasco, who has a history of license suspensions and reckless driving, was initially charged by NYPD with driving with a suspended license, unsafe backing and failure to exercise due care.

According to the online database of the New York State Unified Court System, Carrasco was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday with a top charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor that stipulates that Carrasco drove without a license when he knew or should have known that he didn’t have a license. The charge has nothing to do with killing or injuring anyone.

We reported last week that potential charges ranged from a violation of VTL 1146 (the enforcement mechanism behind Hayley and Diego’s Law and Elle’s Law) to second degree murder, with criminally negligent homicide as the most serious charge likely to be applied.

It is possible that additional charges may be levied, pending an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. When Streetsblog checked with Vance’s office on Friday, a spokesperson said only that charges could not be revealed prior to arraignment. Further requests for information on the case have gone unanswered.

As a DA candidate, Vance pledged to hold dangerous drivers accountable for their actions, to buck the status quo of a criminal justice system that treats traffic injuries and fatalities as blameless “accidents.” Yolanda Casal was one of three people killed by drivers in Manhattan during a three-day span last week. To date, none of the drivers involved have been charged for taking a life.

  • And now another woman has been backed over by a driver too busy parking to look where he was driving, this time out in Queens.

  • Manhattan DA Cy Vance cannot bring back those lives horrifically lost, but he can save others from similar disaster by cracking down on such commonplace reckless driving. Its what he campaigned on within the Streetsblog crowd; its up to us to make him live up to that pledge.

  • Anonymous

    If an unlicensed gun owner accidentally shot and killed someone while recklessly waiving his gun around in the air, would charges be filed?  What is the moral difference between that and backing over someone with a vehicle? Is it that vehicular manslaughter happens all the time?

  • Anonymous

    If an unlicensed gun owner accidentally shot and killed someone while recklessly waiving his gun around in the air, would charges be filed?  What is the moral difference between that and backing over someone with a vehicle? Is it that vehicular manslaughter happens all the time?

  • Anonymous

    If an unlicensed gun owner accidentally shot and killed someone while recklessly waiving his gun around in the air, would charges be filed?  What is the moral difference between that and backing over someone with a vehicle? Is it that vehicular manslaughter happens all the time?

  • Anonymous

    If an unlicensed gun owner accidentally shot and killed someone while recklessly waiving his gun around in the air, would charges be filed?  What is the moral difference between that and backing over someone with a vehicle? Is it that vehicular manslaughter happens all the time?

  • Albert

    “Is it that vehicular manslaughter happens all the time?”

    Short answer: Yes.

    Longer answer: If tens of thousands of car-related deaths a year is acceptable in the US as simply the cost of doing business, why should NYC imagine it could be different?

  • krstrois

    I can’t imagine what it must be like to have someone you love die this way and to know that there isn’t even any hope of the case going to court unless the driver was drunk. It’s heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for these families. 

  • Jeff

     Look, I get it.  We’re all pretty enthusiastic about our favorite modes of transportation.  I, myself, happen to think that bicycles and trains are pretty neat.  But the difference is that I don’t think that anyone should have to die in order for me to exercise my so-called right to get around town via a bicycle and/or train.

    The fact that people think that private auto is such an awesome mode of transportation that tens of thousands of Americans have to die every year as martyrs to this great religion is just pathetic.

  • Driver

    “But the difference is that I don’t think that anyone should have to die
    in order for me to exercise my so-called right to get around town via a
    bicycle and/or train.”

    Yet people do die in train and bike accidents.  I get your point, but you seem to be ignoring the fact that people are accidentally killed by trains and (probably to a lesser extent) bikes. 
    The difference it is that your chosen mode of transportation is statistically less likely to kill someone.  It is not a perfect or victimless alternative.

  • Mark Walker

    If an unlicensed gun owner accidentally shot and killed someone while recklessly waving his gun, would he be allowed to keep the gun?

  • Mark Walker

    Driver, please compare the 32,708 Americans killed in car “accidents” in 2010 to the number killed by trains (zero, as far as I can tell) and bikes (a pittance). Oh wait, these modes of transit are not “perfect.” Forget I said anything.

  • JK

    The advocates should ask Cy Vance exactly what new law he needs so that unlicensed motorists driving backwards fast enough to kill people can be convicted and jailed for a long-time. Then, let’s get that law passed. If the law is adequate, then what is the problem? Something is profoundly wrong if our legal system is unable to hold people accountable for killing other people. And, what’s with the towel on the head and the cop waving off the photographer? Where’s the perp walk and the humiliation for killing someone?  Given his record as a scofflaw, is Mr. Carrasco being held without bail? Or is that also only for French political celebrities accused of rape? (By the way, thank you for using the word “killed” instead of some passive voice construction or “collided” or “accident.”

  • I say we do a Kickstarter campaign for Clarence and crew at Streetsblog to do a traffic version of Death Wish.

  • moocow

    At least with Morgenthau(?) I was never disappointed. I knew he was going to let the non-motoring public twist in the wind.

    And driver, though I amost never agree with your posts here, I value your contrary opinions. This time it seems like you are really reaching, is there really any defense for an unlicensed, multiple suspension Jersey driver who backs up for a parking space so quickly that he kills a mother and injures her daughter?
    Oh wait, annoyingly, I can answer my own question: he doesn’t need a defense because Cy Vance won’t prosecute him for killing with his car.

  • Andrew

    Driver, this wasn’t an accident – the car didn’t randomly jump into the air and gobble up an innocent bystander.  This was negligence – someone didn’t bother to look where he was going and as a result propelled his car into two pedestrians fast enough to kill one of them.

    This was completely avoidable.  Why can’t we get the message across to drivers that they are responsible for their actions, and that killing or injuring or even threatening others with their cars has consequences?

  • Andrew

    @45589687e8df260df565d048dab64df2:disqus Even longer answer: Because the people in the position to make changes to the status quo are far more likely to be regular drivers than the rest of the NYC population.  Any harsh penalties they impose are more likely to fall on them than on you or me.  They rarely get around on foot or bike; why should they care about protecting people who aren’t enclosed in steel cages?

    Windshield perspective, in other words.

  • Eric McClure

    Shameful. I missed the part where all NYS drivers licenses start with double-0 — license to kill.

  • Mark, to be fair, dozens of people are killed by trains every year, though the majority are suicides.

  • Kaja

    The problem is much deeper.

    In America, justice is the sanction of the state, not of the victim. Yet the State has no personal interest in the victim’s justice. It’s not like Cy Vance, the state’s agent, lost a loved one. He won’t be awake every night for the next ten years because of this.

    In reality, justice is the property (and right) of the victim; and it is passed-on like any other property, when the victim is deceased.

    The proper response to a driver backing over a pedestrian, is other pedestrians tearing him from the automobile, and presenting him, in as orderly a manner as possible, to the victim’s next-of-kin, for whatever treatment doesn’t horrify the onlookers.

    But in America, we slur this as “vigilante justice”. As if it’s somehow more violent, less natural, less organized and civilized, than our illustrious /system/ of justice. Pat ourselves on the back for our great achievement — we’ve scaled up the misery, systematized the miscarriage of justice. Created a civilization where the State is the victim of every crime, 

    And if the citizens don’t like it, well, they can sue civilly. Get some dolla dollas for their trouble. That makes it all better, right? The money?

    Our system of justice, and our society’s appreciation of it, is disgusting in theory and in practice. We should be ashamed. I can only hope that future generations are, on our behalf.

  • Joe R.

    Cool-trains and bikes are my favorite modes of transport as well.  I personally don’t get the American love affair with the automobile myself, at least as anything beyond an expensive toy.  Sure, cars are fun, I appreciate the engineering, I eagerly anticipate the coming of electric cars, I even used to read Car & Driver regularly.  My love affair with the auto ends there though because even as far back as the mid-1980s I couldn’t really see the auto as a practical means of transport, except maybe in places like Wisconsin or Nebraska or Iowa.  In any other place with reasonable population density other options are cheaper, usually faster, and less space intensive.  Besides that, they don’t require licensing to use.  The fact that these options largely don’t exist is irrelevant.  They should exist.  It boggles my mind that people would prefer to drive in a place like NYC, or even much of LI/NJ, instead of demanding that the state provide reasonable public transit options.  Just not ripping out the extensive streetcar/interurban network would have relegated the car to toy/niche status.

    I don’t get it.  Except for short distances, a car isn’t particularly comfortable compared to a train.  It’s generally slower than subways in cities, and bullet trains over intercity distances.  It costs more.  You have to worry about parking it.  It’s way more dangerous than train travel.  The American public was made to love cars through a combination of clever advertising, combined with systematic elimination of other transportation options.  It never was an awesome mode of transport.  We just don’t know any better because most Americans lack a reference point  for comparison.  Now at least the younger generation is starting to see the light.  When viewed solely as a transportation appliance, the automobile comes up massively short.  Clever commercials showing unrealistic driving scenarios on empty roads are the only thing which has worked to sell cars (along with their status symbol appeal).  That’s not working as well as it used to.  Eventually the problem will correct itself, and cars will be mostly relegated to the status of toys for the rich, much as they were 100 years ago.  It’s a shame all the people who will die or have life-changing injuries in the meantime.

  • Joe R.

    I agree 100% with everything you said.  To add to it, not only is the idea of the state as victim an abomination, but the use of juries has gotten totally out of control.  I remember back when I was a kid, generally if you served on a jury at all, it was a once in a lifetime thing.  Nowadays with the plethora of civil suits, being called for jury duty has become an annual affair for many people.  This dilutes the entire concept, basically trivializes it by making it so routine and annoying that people will render silly verdicts just to get back to their lives.  Besides that, the whole idea of strangers rendering a judgement in a case where they have no personal stake makes as little sense as the state as victim concept.  The current system doesn’t reliably convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, give anything resembling rehabilitation for those who can benefit from it, really punish those who deserve it (prisons should be unheated, unairconditioned places where convicts do hard labor from sunrise to sunset on a meager diet, and last 10 years if they’re lucky), or compensate the victims (money doesn’t resurrect the dead, or make the injured whole).  Even worse, modern “justice” makes a victim’s personal suffering into a media circus, all while costing a pretty penny.  The old system of individual justice couldn’t have been any worse than what we have today.

    I fully agree that justice should be the property of the victim.  And I can say with certainty if someone I cared about was killed through foul play, not an unavoidable accident, then I would hunt those responsible to the ends of the Earth to exact whatever justice I saw fit.  And I’ll be fully prepared to hang for it if need be, even though morally I shouldn’t be charged with a crime for standing up for my interests.

  • Driver

    Where and when did I defend the driver in this incident?!?!?
    I completely agree with Andrew that this was a case of driver negligence.

    Here is part of one of my comments from July 1st.
    “However, this accident DOES indicate involvement of a bad driver.  From
    the damage to the vehicle and victims, it was obviously not backing
    slowly, and since it was backing across what appears to be a crosswalk,
    the driver should have been extra cautious and obviously wasn’t. It
    seems to me there should at least be some other charge besides driving
    with a suspended license.  Some kind of criminal negligence, or at the
    least, reckless driving and failure to yield.”

    I also made comments about how a suspended license does not necessarily reflect ones driving ability, but these comments were of a general nature responding to commenter who felt that anyone with a suspended license must be a dangerous driver to have their license suspended.  I was NOT implying that this particular driver was safe or acting properly. 

    My comment below about trains killing people was not meant as any kind of defense of the driver in this incident or any dangerous drivers for that matter.  I wasn’t trying to imply that trains are nearly as dangerous as cars either.  I was specifically responding to Jeff’s assertion that he didn’t think anyone has to die as a result of his choice to use the train.  This is incorrect, because trains can and do kill people. Sometime it is intentional (suicide) and sometimes it is by accident (climbed on the tracks, passed out on the tracks, leaned over the platform, derailment, operator error). 

    I just want to point out the flaw in the selective thinking that trains are perfect and don’t also kill people.  Mark, google ‘nyc hit by train’ to see some of the local incidents. Or look up train accidents and fatality stats for 2010 here

  • carma

    Speaking about justice, i firmly believe that it was nothing short of the fault of the driver taking an innocent life.  but in order to convict her of a serious charge, there has to be proven intent.  Second degree murder IS NOT the proper charge in this case.  murder has to show an intent of killing.  While this particular driver was reckless, i very much doubt you can prove that she intended to mow someone down.

    Is jail time warranted.  Absolutely.  her reckless behaviors caused an innocent life to be lost.  Even a criminally negligent homicide charge will still not hold.  Usually this charge is brought on by someone killing a bystander when driving under the influence.

    The best you can push for is VTL1146 which does carry a Misdemeanor penalty.  Should she be charged with that?  absolutely.  dont hang this lady for treason, but dont let her walk away scott free.

    Think about the recent Casey Anthony case.  Prosecution pushed too far for the death penalty when they failed to show the burden of proof and here we have a killer let loose and found innocent.

    The justice system WORKS, but you need to have the correct prosecution to apply it to work.

  • Meanwhile, the NYPD could learn a lesson from the Charleston, South Carolina Police Department on how to investigate the death of a pedestrian or cyclist:

  • J:Lai

    Well, for the last 3-4 centuries individuals have ceded their claim on individual or tribal justice to the state.  This has allowed us as a society to move from feudal or clan based living to large, diverse civilizations with centralized authority.
    As with any trade, there are drawbacks, but in the case of the rule of law and the impartial court system, the advantages outweigh them.

    It’s true that our justice system can be maddeningly slow and imprecise, especially if you have a personal connection to the victim.  However, you do not need to go back very far in our own history to find examples of “vigilante justice” that involve torturing and killing people simply for being in the wrong part of town at the wrong time, or looking at a woman with the wrong skin color . . .

    If Marcia Kramer and her buddies decide that the proper response to biking through their neighborhood is to run you over with an SUV, would that be a proper response given that they consider themselves “victims”?

  • fdr

    “Alan Dershowitz: Cy Vance Stonewalling In Investigation Of My Sister-In-Law’s Death”


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