Cleared in Traffic Court, Hit-and-Run Killer Still Employed at NYC DOT

A DOT employee who crushed a Manhattan pedestrian with a dump truck and left the scene was not charged with a crime, was cleared of all traffic violations, and remains on the payroll.

It is unknown whether Harry Robinson is still driving vehicles for DOT, as the agency would not discuss details of his employment due to a pending civil case.

Roxana Sorina Buta. Photo via DNAinfo

Robinson, 64, was found not guilty in traffic court on May 9 of failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care in the killing of Roxana Buta, according to DMV records.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. on May 24, 2012, as Buta crossed Broadway at 14th Street, in the crosswalk and with the light, Robinson made a right turn, ran her over and kept going.

An aspiring actress, Buta was on her way home to East Harlem from the restaurant where she worked. She was 21.

Last June it was reported that Buta’s killer had been identified. Though Robinson’s name was not released, the attorney hired by Buta’s family said police confirmed that the driver worked for DOT. Streetsblog contacted DOT last year to verify that the driver was an agency employee and, if so, whether the driver continued to operate DOT vehicles on the job, but received no response.

DOT told us this week that Robinson has worked as a highway repair worker since 2000. A spokesperson said that, due to pending litigation, the agency was prohibited from answering specific questions, including whether internal protocols or contract rules govern the disciplining or firing of DOT employees. Buta’s family has filed a civil suit claiming negligence on the part of Robinson, DOT, the Department of Design and Construction, and Mack Trucks.

A Department of Sanitation spokesperson told Streetsblog that agency is guided by internal policies in dealing with employees who are involved in serious crashes while on the job, but did not elaborate on what those policies are. We have also reached out to the Parks Department.

The Post reports that Robinson took the corner “at an unknown speed.” Also unknown: what steps, if any, NYPD and District Attorney Cy Vance took to measure Robinson’s speed, a factor that would have determined whether Buta lived or died. But police did say Buta was talking on a cell phone and had a blood alcohol level of .06, which is perfectly legal while walking.

Robinson was reportedly excused from prosecution because authorities could not prove he knew he had run Buta over. If this is true — Vance’s office does not discuss vehicular crimes cases, even when no charges are filed — it would mean leaving the scene was the only charge considered.

Buta was one of at least 37 pedestrians and cyclists killed by hit-and-run drivers in NYC since January 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Council Member Leroy Comrie this week announced legislation that would force NYPD to report on its handling of hit-and-run crash investigations.

  • Frank Dell

    Cy Vance must go. I can’t believe I voted for this guy. Never again.

  • Frank Dell

    Cy Vance must go. I can’t believe I voted for this guy. Never again.

  • Wait, so its ok to run someone over if you had no idea you were doing it???! WTF?!

  • Anonymous

    Great message to send to all motorists who do not yield to pedestrians who cross with the walk sign. So what is the point of the walk sign? Now it it is squarely in the hands of DOT : WE NEED SPLIT PHASE SIGNALS ! EVERYWHERE. ( As you can tell i am infuriated) .

  • Andrew

    From http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf:

    Section 4-03

    TRAFFIC SIGNALS

    (a) Traffic control signals. Whenever traffic is controlled by traffic control signals exhibiting different colored lights successively, the following colors shall indicate and apply to operators of vehicles and to pedestrians, except as superseded by pedestrian control signals, as follows:

    (1) Green alone:

    (i) Vehicular traffic facing such signals may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits any such movement. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.

    Why does it matter that “authorities could not prove he knew he had run Buta over”? Whether he knew about it or not, he failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian lawfully within the intersection.

  • Andrew

    Just remember to don a blindfold before you get behind the wheel, and you’re automatically absolved of everything.

  • Andrew

    We most certainly do not – pedestrians already have to wait long enough to cross the street, and split phase signals will ensure that we have to wait even longer, while getting the bare minimum of time to actually cross the street. In practice, pedestrians will just cross against the light rather than wait unnecessarily.

    What we do need is enforcement of the existing law. The three precincts that meet at Union Square issued a combined total of 50 violations in April for not giving right-of-way to pedestrians. (If they had any interest in doing so, they’d have no difficulty issuing 50 violations in one hour at this one intersection.) The 6th Precinct alone issued three for the entire month (but during that same month issued 87 seat belt violations). That’s meaningless, and drivers know that they can get away with murder.

    Ideally, people who threaten to kill pedestrians with their cars (because they don’t feel like waiting a few seconds) should be treated no differently than people who threaten to kill others with their guns – but that would presumably require new legislation.

  • Anonymous

    I share your wish for more enforcement but i doubt we will ever get it. Even camera legislation is hopelessly stuck in Albany so we are left with engineering.
    Yes the time will be shorter, but for risk adverse pedestrians it will be safer. What is the point of having more time if I risk being killed the whole time? Alternatively there can be a 100% safe but shorter period , and then I can cross out of turn but be hyper vigilant.
    Ideally the phases dedicated to cars should be shortened everywhere.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely. Crystal clear. They just do not do it and the mayor has not instructed the police to clamp down on this deadly behavior. And the AG and the courts are not on the page either.
    Now we know what it feels to be black in this country. We are victims of WWP, walking while pedestrian .

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