Buta Lawsuit: No Charges or Summonses for Manhattan Hit-and-Run Death

A Department of Transportation truck driver who killed 21-year-old Manhattan pedestrian Roxana Sorina Buta was not issued a summons or charged for leaving the scene, and could be behind the wheel today, according to a lawsuit filed by the Buta family.

Roxana Sorina Buta. Photo via DNAinfo

Cristina Oprea, Buta’s mother, claims that Buta’s death resulted from negligence on the part of the city, DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, Mack Trucks, and the driver, according to DNAinfo and the Post.

On May 24 at approximately 1:30 in the morning, Buta was walking across Broadway at 14th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, when the driver of a dump truck made a right turn, ran her over and kept going, according to reports. In early June, it was reported that the killer had been identified. At that time, attorney Joseph Tacopina said police had confirmed that the driver worked for NYC DOT, and that no charges had been filed by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The driver, who has yet to be named publicly, did not receive a traffic citation, according to the suit. From DNAinfo:

“Upon information and belief, the driver fled the scene and is free to continue driving New York City dump trucks recklessly, while Roxana is dead and her mother, Ms. Oprea, is simply devastated and suffers extreme emotional distress from the loss of her only child,” the lawsuit states.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that the driver must have known he had hit someone, “because the force of the impact would have obviously alerted him to this fact.”

The driver was not charged in the crash and there is no criminality suspected, police said.

The District Attorney’s office rejected multiple requests by Oprea and her lawyer, Joe Tacopina, to identify and prosecute the driver, according to the suit.

The crash that killed Buta bears resemblance to two other recent Manhattan fatalities that involved truck drivers, each of which was pursued by prosecutors, though neither driver was charged for causing a death. In 2011, Diego Tapia-Ulloa pled guilty to aggravated unlicensed operation and was fined $500 after he ran over Laurence Renard while turning a corner on the Upper East Side. Postal worker Ian Clement was cleared by a jury last month on charges of leaving the scene of the crash in Chelsea that took the life of cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz.

As we have noted previously, under New York State code, “I didn’t see her” is a credible defense. From nonsensical statutes to mercurial courts to reluctant prosecutors to indifferent police, each link in the traffic justice system is as weak as the next. In many cases, the only recourse for victims and their families is through civil action, which can afford some measure of justice but does little to keep killers off the streets.

“All [Oprea is] living for now is to make sure Roxy didn’t die in vain — to make sure the intersection is changed and made safer to make those responsible for her death be held accountable,” said Tacopina, according to the Post.

Tacopina, citing the history of crashes with injuries at the intersection where Buta was killed, also says the city should have taken action to make the street safer.

Cy Vance’s office does not comment on vehicular crimes. Streetsblog is awaiting confirmation from DOT that the driver who killed Buta is an agency employee, and if so, whether he in fact continues to drive DOT vehicles while on the job.

  • fj

    NYC transportation systems based on cars that kill people.

    It is easy to prove that the city can make completely safe systems otherwise they should not be built.

  • Ian Dutton

    I earlier commented on the DNAInfo article, when the headline arrived in my email:

    “and there is no criminality suspected, police said.”IT’S A GODDAMN HIT AND RUN. What is the f***ing NYPD smoking! A HIT AND RUN *IS* CRIMINALITY! This police negligence would be a f***ing comedy if our friends and neighbors weren’t being killed and injured! The NYPD is refusing to follow state law, hiding evidence from the public and grieving families and covering up for killers. When will this end?

  • Ian Dutton

    Ugh, Disqus really made a mess of the formatting. Sorry for the illegibility.

  • KillMoto

    “I didn’t see her” should be grounds for permanent, irrevocable loss of license.  In all of the 50 states.  Period.

    As much as I wish murderous marauding motorists would burn in hell, or at least rot in jail, I’d settle for them to be sitting comfortably shielded from the rain in a bus shelter, awaiting their ride to their new job (that involves no driving of course).  

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [wo]men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    For clarity, let’s place “doing my job” in the category of “pursuit of happiness” – since even the homeless, penniless and destitute can have Life and Liberty.  
    There’s a reason why Life is listed first.  
    Why, in this or any other case, is this person still (potentially) driving?  Why is this even a question?  

    I can imagine there will be a tipping point – Some day people will be so disgusted with the lack of traffic-violence justice that they’ll simply drag a killer motorist from their car and beat them senseless, Reginald Denny style.  I don’t want this, nobody does.  But when the Justice System inoculates the driving class from the harm they routinely do to the walking and cycling class, what are people to do?  The majority of New Yorkers walk or cycle.  The mob will fill the vacuum created by Cy Vance. 

    For the Love of god, NYC, hold reckless drivers accountable.  Something, anything.  Say a license suspension, or lacking the backbone for that, a fine for littering the streets with the carcasses of the dead. 

    My heartfelt sympathy to the family of Roxana.  Sad that NYC treats the garbage better than those killed in the name of its removal.