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Charles Hynes

After NYPD Blamed the Victim, Brooklyn DA Will Reconstruct Lefevre Crash

2:05 PM EDT on August 7, 2012

Months after NYPD blamed cyclist Mathieu Lefevre for his own death, prosecutors with the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes continue their investigation into the crash. Meanwhile, the Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended the license of the truck driver who police say fatally struck Lefevre, then left the scene.

Hynes's office has retained an expert in crash reconstructions to revisit the Lefevre collision, according to Craig Esswein, chief of the Brooklyn vehicular crimes bureau. While the time frame is uncertain, Esswein said he hopes the reconstructionist's findings will be available by fall.

Shortly after midnight on October 19, 2011, Lefevre was struck by the driver of a crane truck making a right turn at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street. The driver, who did not stop at the scene, was later identified by police as Leonardo Degianni. Though Degianni was cited for failing to signal a right turn and failure to exercise due care, a detective with the NYPD Accident Investigation Squad attributed the crash to "bicyclist error," a conclusion disputed by the Lefevres and their attorney, Steve Vaccaro.

Unlike most New York City cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, the investigation into Lefevre's death was scrutinized by city electeds and the media, due for the most part to the tenacity of bereaved family members. Last December, Lefevre's parents filed a lawsuit against NYPD after the department denied a freedom of information request seeking records pertaining to the crash. The Lefevres have spoken openly about their shabby treatment at the hands of police.

Though NYPD considers the case closed, Esswein told Streetsblog the district attorney's investigation is ongoing.

In March, the New York State DMV suspended Degianni's drivers license indefinitely "pending prosecution" of the case, according to a suspension order, a copy of which was obtained by Streetsblog.

"It's interesting to compare the response of three different agencies -- the NYPD, the DA's Office, and the DMV -- to this crash," says Vaccaro. "NYPD announced within days that there was 'no criminality,' a conclusion it confirmed with a hasty and questionable investigation. In contrast, the DA's office has ordered a formal reconstruction of the crash to determine whether the driver Degianni 'had reason to know' he had struck Lefevre and therefore should be charged with hitting and running, and the DMV has ordered Degianni not to drive until he has been cleared of charges by the DA's office."

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