DMV Judge Delays Action Against License of Driver Who Killed Allison Liao

Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao speak to reporters after the New York State DMV failed to take action against the driver’s license of the man who killed their daughter Allison. Photo: Brad Aaron
Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao speak to reporters after the New York State DMV failed to take action against the driver’s license of the man who killed their daughter Allison. Photos: Brad Aaron

An administrative law judge for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles today deferred a decision concerning the driver’s license of the motorist who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao.

In a packed hearing room at a DMV office in Jamaica, Sidney Fuchs watched video that showed an SUV driven by Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh run over Allison as she and her grandmother, Chin Hua Liao, crossed Main Street in Flushing, in a crosswalk with a walk signal. And he heard from police investigators, including the officer who summonsed Abu-Zayedeh for failure to yield and careless driving.

“My entire family has been suffering heartbreaking pain,” said Chin Hua, who stopped several times to compose herself as she described the crash via a translator. “It’s better to revoke the driver’s driver’s license.”

Fuchs twice asked Abu-Zayedeh if he wished to testify on his own behalf and, through his attorney, Abu-Zayedeh twice declined to speak. Fuchs rejected a request from Abu-Zayedeh’s attorney to dismiss the video, which Abu-Zayedeh has refused to watch, on the grounds that the person who gave it to police was not at the hearing to vouch for its authenticity.

Fuchs refused to consider documentation offered by the Liao’s attorney, Steve Vaccaro, that Abu-Zayedeh had alcohol in his system an hour after the crash. According to a civil suit filed by Allison’s family, Abu-Zayedeh told police he had consumed two glasses of wine before the collision. He tested positive for alcohol in his bloodstream, the suit says, but his BAC was below the .08 legal limit for driving. “That would be an issue for some other forum,” said Fuchs. “I prefer not to go into that.”

Fuchs also refused to allow the admission of Abu-Zayedeh’s New Jersey driving record, which Vaccaro said “demonstrates numerous violations,” and indicates that Abu-Zayedeh once surrendered his driver’s license.

“I do have my exhibits and evidence,” said Fuchs at the conclusion of the hour-long hearing. “I’ve heard the testimony. I will reserve decision.”

Volunteers displayed posters outside the DMV hearing room.
Supporters of Allison’s family displayed posters outside the DMV hearing room and on the street.

Abu-Zayedeh killed Allison on October 6, 2013. Though police concluded that Allison and Chin Hua had the right of way, neither NYPD nor Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed criminal charges against him. Ignoring evidence that the victims were crossing with a walk signal, Brown’s vehicular crimes supervisor Charles A. Testagrossa said in a December 2013 letter that the DA didn’t prosecute Abu-Zayedeh because he had a green light and stayed at the scene.

The DMV threw out the tickets NYPD issued to Abu-Zayedeh last July in a hearing that lasted less than a minute. Allison’s family learned of the hearing months later, during a deposition for the civil suit.

Fuchs told Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, that they had no legal right to participate in today’s hearing, and were “invited” as a “courtesy.”

“The driver doesn’t think he’s wrong,” said Tam, speaking to reporters this morning. “He still thinks it’s grandma’s fault. The two tickets were dismissed already. That was upsetting enough. This was the last chance that a government agency could have corrected this. And the judge viewed the video and he still didn’t make a decision. I don’t know what else he needs to know.”

Thanks mainly to the tenacity of Allison’s family and sustained media attention, today’s hearing was actually a vast improvement compared to DMV proceedings when the agency relies primarily on the driver’s version of events to determine if that same motorist should retain his driving privileges after a fatal crash.

Under DMV protocol, Allison’s family will be notified by letter of any action against Abu-Zayedeh’s license.

There will be a vigil for Allison this evening at the site of the crash, Main Street at Cherry Avenue, beginning at 6:30.

  • Brad Aaron

    I’ll add that a lot of people who weren’t paid to be there made the trip to the Jamaica DMV office early this morning. It was a tremendous show of support.

  • Eric McClure

    I felt it was important to be there. One, to show the DMV that the citizenry is watching. And two, most importantly, to support Amy and Hsi-Pei and his mom. They’re heroes in my book for everything they’ve done to try to spare other families from suffering such a terrible loss. Their strength and grace is nothing short of amazing.

  • dporpentine

    “He still thinks it’s grandma’s fault”–remember those words when someone wants to tell you about the suffering of killer drivers.

  • Perhaps he still thinks it’s grandma’s fault because of the Daily News reporters and their rush to exonerate him.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/suv-kills-3-year-old-girl-queens-article-1.1478219

  • GodblessLiaofamily

    Thanks for reporting and following up. May justice served

  • mattkime

    thanks for going. i wish i could have been there.

  • Joe

    Video of the killing here:

    Please watch this video, then stop it at 2:14, and tell me how this isn’t Criminally negligent homicide.

  • Adam Anon

    WTF is wrong with these judges? Fuchs, you are a disgrace.

  • vnm

    “I prefer not to go into that.” says the judge re possible evidence on blood alcohol. I think it is safe to say that everyone involved in this would prefer not to even be at this hearing, because they would prefer that this never happened. But it did happen, and now those whose job it is to hear relevant evidence need to hear it, even if they’d prefer not to.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree. Thanks for being there. I wish I could have been as well.

  • Eric McClure

    Thanks, guys. One of the benefits of not having a job is that it’s easy to take a day off.

  • meltyman

    If he’d run over and killed a cop instead of a 3 year-old…. then the judge would have found differently, no? So nice to live in a nation of laws, not men.

  • KeNYC2030

    I am so sorry I couldn’t attend the hearing and thanks to all who did. How ironic that it was in a place easily accessible only by car.

  • SteveVaccaro

    The presence of so many supporters at such an inconvenient place and time was so greatly appreciated by the Liaos. It was also a huge boon to the movementnfor DMV reform, Vision Zero, and livable streets. Many thanks to all who came and to Right of Way and the others who helped organize it.

    Those who couldn’t attend may want to mark their calendars for the January 27th safety hearing of Leonardo Degianni. Degianni is the driver who struck and killed Mathieu Lefevre in October 2011, while he cycled home on Morgan Avenue in East Williamsburg. Like Abu-Zayedeh, Degianni appears to maintain that he is blameless in his victom’s death, while at the same time refusing to watch the videorecording that shows his truck making an unsignalled right turn into Lefevre. Like Abu-Zaydeh, Degianni had the two tickets issued to him by the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad dismissed by a DMV ALJ, at a hearing of which the victim’s family received notice and at which they were not present.

    The Degianni hearing will be held January 27th, 9:00 am, at 2 Washington Street, near Battery Park.

  • SmokinBuddha

    My prayers goes out to Amy Tam and her family for the loss of her daughter. Drivers should let the people go by before making the turn. Also, the people should also obey the traffic signal and stop j-walking when the driver got the right of way. Vision Zero is B.S. because they totally put all the blame on the driver and no responsibility on the people who are constantly j-walking in NYC! Most of the time if there’s an accident, the person was mostly j-walking. If NYC wants less accidents, they should start giving out tickets to everybody who are j-walking. Less accidents and more money for the city coffin.

  • f h

    I watched the video, even thou the pedestrian had the right of way but why didnt tjey stop when they see the car already in front of them turning??? It would be 100% drivers fault. If he ram the kid. Over with his front wheel, but running the kid over with the rear wheel is definitely part of the peds fault. Why did they have to keep moving when half of the car if in front of them

  • MzDeeDee

    Go fuck ur self got forbid anything will happen to ur kid

  • Joe R.

    Maybe the same way the turning car supposedly didn’t see them they didn’t see the car? The “I didn’t see them defense” works both ways you know. In this case it might actually be true. A 3 year old certainly isn’t going to think to stop for a turning car. The grandmother probably had her hands full watching her granddaughter, so she may not have seen the car, either, until it ran the kid over.

    The law clearly states that crossing pedestrians with a walk signal have the right-of-way over turning cars. There’s no gray area. The driver was 100% in the wrong.

  • ttttt

    You are rifht MzDeeDee…let us hope fh never has to go through losing a child. It is the absolute worse pain in the World.

  • FlockOfSmeagols

    I feel like you didn’t actually watch the video, which is understandable because it is horrifying. However, before making completely false statements about its content, you should perhaps watch it. Allison and her grandmother were walking hand in hand in a crosswalk with a walk signal. The driver approached them from their rear right. Milliseconds later, he sucked Allison under the front left tire of the vehicle, wrenching her from her grandmother’s grasp. He then proceeds to roll over her with the rear tire, while her grandmother falls to the ground. I’ve provided the video for you here; the incident occurs at 2:14 –

  • Viv of NJ

    My prayers go to the family. While sometimes pedestrians may have contributory neglicence, it is clearly not the case in this instance. Grandma and Allison were walking slowly and predictably on green light as any traffic law abiding citizen would do. It is beyond me what else they or anyone else could have done differently to avoid the accident. It is clearly the driver’s respnsibility to see them and stop for them. What other evidence does Fuchs need and what part of the video gives him any doubt? Granted that DMV judge is just administrative and not criminal judges, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions or decisions.

  • ShameOnYouJudge

    This driver is insane, and these judges are shameful! How could a guy killing a three-year old with the right of road not prosecuted for murdering? and judges are deferring the revoking of his license? The driver must be wishing that they would do the same if the driver happened to run over judge’s 3-year old granddaughter!

  • sammy davis jr jr

    Crimes committed in other states? Not admissible!

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