Driver Cleared for Killing Manhattan Cyclist Says He Was “Probably” Speeding

A driver who killed a Manhattan cyclist last summer and was not charged or ticketed for the crash later told authorities he was likely speeding at the time of the collision.

Ray Deter. Photo: ##http://brewyorknewyork.com/post/7155900105/a-farewell-to-a-friend""##Brew York, New York##

Ray Deter, a popular and revered East Village bar owner, was riding east on Canal Street on the afternoon of June 27, 2011, when he was hit by an eastbound Jaguar driven by 24-year-old Anthony Guan, near the intersection of West Broadway. Guan was cited for marijuana possession but was not summonsed or criminally charged for striking Deter.

Guan had accumulated seven moving violations in three years, according to Deter’s son Jake. At a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing last March, Guan told an administrative law judge that he normally drove at or above the 30 mph speed limit on Canal, and was “probably” doing so before the crash.

From the DMV transcript [PDF]:

Q. About what speed did you approach the intersection at?

A. Probably thirty, thirty-five.

Q. What’s the speed limit at that location?

A. Thirty.

Q. Where’d you get the figure thirty to thirty­-five from?

A. Usually back then when I used to drive around Canal Street, it says on my GPS.

Q. So do you remember specifically what it said at that time?

A. No.

Q. So why‘d you say thirty to thirty-five?

A. From my past experience driving on Canal Street on my GPS.

Q: Well if the speed limit’s thirty, and you’re going thirty-five, that’s speeding so do you usually speed on Canal Street is that what you’re saying?

A. No.

Q. So why thirty-five?

A. I’m just giving you an approximate. I don’t wanna —

Q. And you don’t have any problem going thirty to thirty-five miles per hour in moderate traffic on a weekday at rush hour on Canal Street?

A. There — there wasn’t any rush hour going east. There was only rush hour going west because of down town. So there — there wasn’t any traffic at all going east bound on Canal Street.

Later in the interview, Guan says he did not see Deter until the moment of impact, when Deter reportedly turned into his path. Guan said Deter appeared “out of nowhere,” and that he did not have time to brake. A witness told DNAinfo that he heard the sound of screeching tires from inside a nearby shop, and photos from the scene showed severe impact damage to Guan’s windshield and sunroof, which was completely shattered when Deter was thrown over the car.

Yet the NYPD crash report gave no sign that police made any attempt to gauge Guan’s speed. Hours after the crash, NYPD informed reporters that Guan had been summonsed for pot possession. Despite indications that speed contributed to the severity of Deter’s injuries, and may have played a part in whether a collision could have been avoided, by the next day police were telling reporters that no charges were filed related to the crash itself. Deter, 53, was removed from life support on July 3.

Like half of all drivers who take the lives of New York City pedestrians and cyclists, Guan was not cited for careless driving under state vulnerable user laws. After the March hearing, Judge Marc Berger exonerated Guan for killing Ray Deter.

“The evidence falls to show any violation of the New York State Vehicle and Trafñc Law on the part of Mr. Guan that could have contributed to this accident,” wrote Berger [PDF]. “There was no evidence presented that would warrant taking any action against the license and/or driving privileges of Mr. Guan.”

Last week, Jake Deter stood with City Council members and other victims of traffic violence to announce a legislative package intended to compel NYPD to reform its crash investigation protocols. To this point, such efforts have been greeted with silence from Commissioner Ray Kelly and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and snide indifference from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

  • Anonymous

    How can anyone possibly hit 35 on Canal Street during Holland Tunnel traffic time?  

    The only way you can hit that speed is if you gun it [and then jam on your brakes b/c that’s what Canal Street is 18 hours of the day — And YES, there is traffic heading east on Canal Street (Manhattan Bridge, hello?)].

    At least the driver was honest.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been by that spot at the time of day, and the eastbound traffic moves fluidly.

  • Driver

    Arrested for pot possession but no suspicion of dui?  

  • If the PD and Cy Vance actually cared about deterring deadly driving and preventing traffic deaths, couldn’t they obtain information about the driver’s speed from his GPS? That’s what the SF DA is doing with the cyclist who struck and killed a pedestrian earlier this year.

    http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/06/20/in-sf-victims-of-traffic-violence-dont-have-equal-protection/

  • Anonymous

    Ben,

    At page 20, I questioned the driver about that, and he said the GPS wasn’t in the car at the time of the crash. However there is a videotape of the crash that in our view demonstrates that the driver in fact was speeding.

  • If this happened in The Netherlands, the driver would have been found guilty of killing the cyclist, even if the driver was doing 20 mph.  US laws need a major overhaul if we’re ever going to significantly improve safety.

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-401825267:disqus: Indeed. I always piss people off for saying it, but I think laws against driving under the influence are such a setback because they turn sobriety into an excuse. I honestly can’t see why the culpability of someone hitting someone else with a vehicle should be reduced because the person who hit someone else was sober.

  • guesttt

    I can. There is a higher probability you will make a mistake that could injure someone if you are driving under the influence of a drug. The point of higher penalties is to remind you that “hey, you are super fucking dangerous when you drive drunk/high/etc, so if you knowingly do it, the justice dept will ruin your life.” That’s reasonable. I can’t possibly understand why reducing dangerous situations is a setback because, with it, people get an excuse. You may be a dumb driver or you may have been staring at an advertisement even though you were sober but as of now, it is nearly impossible to observe and penalize those similarly dangerous ways of driving. We penalize what we can accurately record like BAC. I think I understand your point and I understand why people would be pissed off at you for saying it ha.

  • boring

    24 y/o rich kid with a jaguar and 7 moving violations in the space of 3 years time gets off when he kills a cyclist.

  • guesttt

    53 y/o rider dies because he wasnt wearing a helmet while riding a bike during rush hour.

  • moocow

     Bolwerk, that is something I have never thought about.  “He wasn’t drunk, so it must have been a mistake.” ie the crime is bring drunk AND killing someone, not just killing someone.
    The driving habits of those operating cars in NYC has deteriorated so dramatically, I cannot tell who is drunk, and who is just driving in the fashion that is currently acceptable and allowed on our streets.

  • moocow

    Guesttt,
     You think that’s why this man died?
    You are a moron.
    And an offensive one at that.

  • Joe R.

    @aabb7ff186c1e3335cd7b9818f2257a1:disqus If you knew anything at all about bicycle helmets, you would know that they’re virtually useless in a bike-motor vehicle collision, especially one where the motor vehicle was going over 30 mph. Let’s stop this blaming the victim nonsense. A helmet isn’t necessary for safe cycling, nor should any rider be blamed for their own injuries if they’re not wearing one. Separating bikes and motor vehicles as much as possible is what would make cycling safer, not putting a piece of styrofoam on your head which at best makes things marginally better.

  • Anonymous

    @aabb7ff186c1e3335cd7b9818f2257a1:disqus: it’s reasonable, if you want.  What isn’t reasonable is failing to dole out the exact same punishment to someone who is sober who does the exact same thing. ‘Cause let’s face it, mundane things like talking on a cell phone or applying makeup are more dangerous than a moderate BAC (which, BTW, isn’t a very reliable thing to measure, but forget that for now). The only difference with alcohol or drugs is it brings in a dimension of moral outrage that doesn’t exist with applying makeup or talking on the phone.

    But the real problem with your logic is that dangerous situations aren’t removed. They probably aren’t even limited by legal intervention. They’re simply punished differently, which reduces the perceived culpability when a sober driver, a type of driver making up like 4x as many vehicle casualties, does the exact same thing. This isn’t good because it means we stop being horrified when a sober suburban mom, if there are any not on antidepressants, kills someone.

    I wouldn’t say we should reduce the punishments for driving drunk and hurting someone, but we should raise them to the same level for those who drive sober and hurt someone.

    @twowheel:disqus: I don’t think the NYPD even cares much about moving violations if they don’t involve drinking.

  • There’s a basic legal principle that it’s unfair to convict a person of a crime unless they have a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Simple negligence–an act which a person should have known was wrong, but had no subjective awareness was wrong–is sufficient to establish civil liability, but in most cases not a culpable enough stte of mind to support a criminal charge.  In the context of traffic behavior, prosecutors look for behavior and/or circumstances from which it can be inferred that the person had some awareness of the risk that their conduct posed a substantial likelihood of harm to others, but disregarded that risk. The “rule of two” apparently has come to serve as the test for inferring the minimal level of recklessness. 

    In contrast, when it comes to DWI, legislators have written laws that specifically state it is a crime to drive while a BAC above a certain level, or to do certain other things while driving with a BAC above certain lower levels.  There is no need to investigate the circumstances of the crash or to draw inferences about the driver’s state of mind or awareness of the risk.  Blow a .18 and get behind the wheel, you’re a criminal.  Cops and prosecutors understandably focus on prosecuting drunk drivers because ther merits of the case are immediately apparent, there’s little guesswork or risk involved.   

    I wouldn’t mind the “rule of two” if it were actually written down and applied straightforwardly.  If cops knew there would be a reliable criminal charge prosecuted and a decent chance of conviction if their investigation of crashes established two or more violations, at least some of them would probably do better investigations.  But under an unwritten “rule of two,” the whole enterprise of trying to launch a criminal prosecution against a sober driver just looks risky, amorphous and not worth the trouble.  In practice, it seems like prosecutors are often using a rule of three or four.  It’s extremely difficult to establish that many violations unless there is a rigorous and timely investigation by the police.

  • guesttt

    i was wrong about that effectiveness of a helmet in this situation, so i take that back. the point i poorly made was just a response to how quickly gerald and boring wanted to blame the driver. there may be a history of poor driving but that is not evidence that he was wrong in this situation. given the evidence i think that there could be just as much blame placed on either. what really is at fault, as pointed out by joe, would be the quality of the bicycling lanes. and, possibly, the attention officers pay to accidents involving riders (especially when it comes to low enforcement of blocked lanes). but im not in favor of throwing a 24 y/o kid in jail because i assumed he was a poor driver.

  • Anonymous

    @aabb7ff186c1e3335cd7b9818f2257a1:disqus For the sake of science, you should go put on a bike helmet and get a friend to hit you with a car going 35 mph. Then get back to us about the utility of that helmet.

  • Guest

    Meanwhile the cyclist suffers the death penalty.

  • Peter Meitzler

    Couple of things.  1) Photos from the scene indicated or suggested Ray Deter was sideswiped.  2) Photos on DNAInfo at the time showed just how far the Jaguar traveled before it came to a stop..perhaps driver was really going much faster.  This whole “didn’t see the cyclist” excuse is gradually being chipped away at it. 

    Witness the success Adam White had in the case of Rasha Shamoon, brought by her family. 

    From a February 14/2012 item in Streetsblog: “Soldaner himself testified that he was unsure of many details of the crash. He said he did not see Shamoon, a point hammered by White during summation. In failing to “see what was there to be seen,” White said, Soldaner did not meet the required standard of care, even if jurors believed he had the light.”   

    Mr. Guan, the Jaguar driver, failed to see what was there to be seen…in daylight. 

    In a civil suit, the driver who killed Shamoon was found 95% responsible.

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