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Queens DA Richard Brown: Probation for Driver Charged With Manslaughter

3:11 PM EST on December 13, 2012

A motorist charged with driving drunk and killing an elderly man in Queens will get probation thanks to a plea deal with the office of District Attorney Richard Brown, according to the New York Post.

Lizardo Aldama, 89, was a fixture in the Ditmars section of Astoria. He was taking a walk one evening last February when he was struck by Demitrios Matsoukatidis, in a crosswalk, at the intersection of 31st Street and 21st Avenue, a block from his home. Wrote the Times Ledger:

Several neighbors said that after Aldama was hit, he was dragged by the black Mercedes SUV.

“People had to scream at him [the driver] to get off of him,” said Patricia Kazakos, 50, who lives in the same building as Aldama and said she arrived at the corner after the accident.

“When I saw the cane, I knew it was him,” Kazakos said of her neighbor.

Aldama suffered a head injury and died at a nearby hospital. He had lived in Astoria for over 50 years, having fled his native Cuba by boat in 1959.

"He was very independent and he was determined to stay [in the city]," said Aldama's daughter, Maite Aldama-Foertsch, of Massapequa, to the Post. "He didn’t like the suburbs. When he would stay with me for a visit, he'd say, 'Nothing to see, nothing to do.'"

Brown's office reported that Matsoukatidis, 67, also of Astoria, showed signs of intoxication at the scene and had a blood alcohol content of .16, twice the legal limit for driving. He was charged with second degree manslaughter and DWI.

Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree is a Class D "non-violent" felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, though jail time is not mandatory. Matsoukatidis's next court date is in March, according to Brown's office.

Matsoukatidis pleaded guilty to manslaughter on December 7, court records say. A Brown spokesperson could not confirm the terms of the plea as reported by the Post, or tell us if the case against Matsoukatidis was somehow compromised, resulting in a penalty that barely rates as a slap on the wrist. Instead, the spokesperson referred us to Brown's director of communications, who at this writing had not responded to an email query.

According to the Post, Matsoukatidis will be given five years probation and 20 days of community service, and must attend DWI and victim impact programs. He apparently will retain his driving privileges, as the plea reportedly requires him to install an ignition interlock.

While District Attorney Kathleen Rice in neighboring Nassau County is renowned for securing murder convictions against DWI killers, offending motorists in New York City stand a solid chance of basically getting away with it. In another deal brokered by Brown's office, Kent Lowrie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received five years probation, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month license revocation for hitting 6-year-old Zhaneya Butcher in Jamaica. According to reports, prosecutors feared Lowrie was not drunk enough to get a manslaughter conviction.

Richard Anderson was charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene for the 2008 death of Tribeca pedestrian Florence Cioffi. Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau's office allowed Anderson to plead to DWI and leaving the scene only, and he was sentenced to 16 days in jail and community service.

Prosecutors with the office of Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes dropped criminal charges against Anthony Webb because, among other reasons, police had failed to calibrate the machine that was used to test his breath after he struck pedestrian Clara Heyworth.

When off-duty NYPD officer Andrew Kelly, who faced up to seven years for the 2009 killing of Brooklyn pedestrian Vionique Valnord, admitted he was drunk and pleaded guilty to second degree vehicular manslaughter, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail, five years probation and a one-year license suspension.

Despite an alleged BAC reading of .21, now-retired NYPD detective Kevin Spellman was acquitted of aggravated vehicular homicide and first degree vehicular manslaughter because a Bronx jury did not believe he was intoxicated when he killed 66-year-old pedestrian Drane Nikac. Under state law, it's possible Spellman will receive no jail time when he is sentenced in February.

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