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Misdemeanor Charge for Accused Unlicensed Driver in Death of Queens Senior

Police said an alleged unlicensed driver was traveling in excess of 60 mph when he struck 73-year-old Rafael Diaz. Queens DA Richard Brown filed no charges for causing a death. Photo: The Forum

A motorist who allegedly killed a senior while driving without a license, who police said was speeding, and who was reportedly wanted by authorities on another vehicular charge at the time of the crash, has been charged with a misdemeanor by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Rafael Diaz, 73, was crossing Atlantic Avenue in Woodhaven at around 7:30 p.m. on May 16 when he was struck by Joel Rodriguez, according to reports. Diaz died at Jamaica Hospital. The Forum reported that an officer from the 102nd Precinct said the vehicle that hit Diaz was traveling "in excess of 60 miles per hour."

Online court records say Rodriguez, 25, was charged with driving without a license and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, a misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one.

The Post reported that, according to Brown's office, Rodriguez was wanted on a warrant issued in April for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle -- taking or operating a vehicle without the owner's consent.

Despite the allegation that he was driving without a license, the police account that he was speeding, and the outstanding warrant, Rodriguez was not charged for killing Rafael Diaz. This is not unusual. In 2011, two unlicensed drivers each pled to a top charge of third degree aggravated unlicensed operation for the deaths of Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard, pedestrians killed in separate crashes in Manhattan. In each case, the driver was fined $500.

Rodriguez is next scheduled to appear in court on October 10.

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