In Brooklyn, Another Alleged Unlicensed Driver Faces Wrist Tap for Killing

An allegedly unlicensed driver who killed a pedestrian in a Brooklyn crosswalk last month was not charged with criminal negligence by NYPD or District Attorney Ken Thompson. Meanwhile, legislation to increase the penalty for causing a death while driving without a valid license continues to languish in Albany.

The motorist who killed Raul Leone-Vasquez was charged with unlicensed driving and careless driving, but was not charged by Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson with criminal negligence under the “rule of two.”
The motorist who killed Raul Leone-Vasquez was charged with unlicensed driving, a misdemeanor, and careless driving, a traffic infraction, but was not charged by Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson with criminal negligence.

Raul Leone-Vasquez was crossing Bay Parkway at Bath Avenue at around 6:35 a.m. on December 28 when Simcha Rosenblatt hit him with a Toyota Camry, according to the Bensonhurst Bean and the Daily News. Leone-Vasquez, 27, suffered head trauma and died at Lutheran Hospital. His death was reported by several outlets Wednesday, following an NYPD media release.

Rosenblatt, 60, of Lakewood, New Jersey, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to exercise due care. The Bensonhurst Bean and WNBC reported that, according to police, Leone-Vasquez was crossing Bay Parkway east to west, in the crosswalk, and Rosenblatt was southbound on Bay Parkway. If that account is accurate, and Leone-Vasquez had a walk signal, it appears Rosenblatt would either have been turning from Bath Avenue onto Bay Parkway or he drove south through the intersection against the light.

Aggravated unlicensed operation is a low-level misdemeanor that stipulates that Rosenblatt drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. It is common for NYPD and city prosecutors to file a top charge of aggravated unlicensed operation when an accused unlicensed driver kills a pedestrian. It’s the same charge applied by police and prosecutors when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

Third degree aggravated unlicensed operation carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Drivers who plead guilty are usually fined $500 with no jail time, though Thompson and Manhattan DA Cy Vance have allowed unlicensed drivers who killed people to plead out in exchange for lower fines.

Legislation to make it a class E felony to cause injury or death while driving without a license was rejected by the State Senate last session, and didn’t come to a vote in the Assembly. Another bill to require drivers with suspended licenses to surrender vehicle registrations and license plates did not get a vote in either chamber.

Raul Leone-Vasquez was killed in the 62nd Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Mark Treyger. Drivers killed at least three pedestrians in Treyger’s district in 2014, when his answer to Vision Zero was a bill to ban texting while biking.

  • “Drivers killed at least three pedestrians in Treyger’s district in 2014, when his answer to Vision Zero was a bill to ban texting while biking”.

    Jeez, what we’re up against. I mean in addition to prosecutors who won’t prosecute.

  • com63

    There are at least a dozen business within 100ft of that intersection. Surely one of them had a camera that could establish whether the pedestrian or the car had the right of way and they could at least release some additional information.

  • LyleLanley

    I increasingly think that these efforts to further penalize driving without a license are very misguided. A lot of work is being done detailing how the majority of license suspensions have to do with things completely unrelated to unsafe driving. In particular, a huge proportion of license suspensions are the result of an inability to pay some sort of fine: in essence, a penalty for being poor. This two-part NPR series is a good example: And of course, undocumented immigrants are forbidden from getting a driver’s license in New York.

    Unless there is some way of differentiating between those who lost their driver’s license as a result of a past driving violation and those who are unlicensed for some other reason, it seems deeply unfair to attach criminal penalties to being unlicensed.

  • Joe R.

    The answer is simple-stop using license suspensions as a punishment for things like not paying fines or child support. Stick to suspending licenses only for moving violations. Once you do that, it’s eminently fair to severely punish unlicensed driving, starting with forfeiture of the vehicle being driven, plus a lifetime driving ban.

  • D’BlahZero

    I heard that coverage on NPR. It reinforced a lot of what I already thought about the role of license suspension in our justice system. I totally agree with Joe R’s comment. However, the fact of the matter is that drivers will continue to kill people with their cars while the current regime is (or isn’t) being reformed. When an unlicensed driver kills I become significantly less sympathetic as to whether their license suspension/revocation was just or not. Charge them, arrest them. If there are mitigating circumstances around the license suspension/revocation, tell it to the judge.

  • You’re right, this seems like license suspensions are simply being used wrong. Given how difficult it seems to be to lose your license for driving poorly, its an utterly ridiculous situation.

  • Maggie

    I think you’re getting at the absurdity of the situation here, where this driver took a man’s life (!!!!!) and we’re saying, hey, are we over-penalizing the driver for driving without a license!

  • troy

    celeste was killed by unlicensed driver. lets put a stop to unlicensed driving


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