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One Month In, DA Thompson Charges Sober Driver With Manslaughter

12:54 PM EST on January 29, 2014

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has filed homicide and reckless driving charges against a sober driver who caused a violent crash in Crown Heights, killing another driver.

Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News
Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News
Ken Thompson. Photo: Daily News

On January 6, Jermaine Filmore ran a red on Eastern Parkway and hit two other vehicles, according to WABC. One of those cars hit a fourth car and then caught fire. The driver of that vehicle, a Lincoln Town Car, was killed. Court records say Filmore was charged with manslaughter, homicide, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving, among other charges.

As we reported after the crash that killed Lucian Merryweather, while it is rare for prosecutors to file homicide charges against a sober driver, there seems to be a link between serious charges and more brazen forms of recklessness. It was not completely unheard of for the previous Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, to file a homicide charge after a fatal crash caused by a sober, red light-running motorist.

However, it's encouraging to see Thompson handle a case like this so early in his tenure, and he has pledged to take traffic violence seriously. "There’s all types of criminality that could be committed by somebody driving a vehicle that hits and kills someone," Thompson told Streetsblog last November, noting that "criminality" means more than just leaving the scene and drunk or impaired driving. ”It’s not just fatalities. Beyond fatalities, somebody can be seriously injured, and not killed, but they still need justice.”

It's too early to say if the Filmore case represents a real change in how the Brooklyn DA's office approaches traffic crimes. An earlier case this year, in which a driver rear-ended another car, which then struck and killed 75-year-old pedestrian Xiaoci Hu, resulted in no charges. If Thompson is going to bring his office in line with the mayor's Vision Zero goals, there should be consequences for reckless driving of all stripes.

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