Cy Vance: $580 Fine for Driver Who Killed 9-Year-Old Cooper Stock
In separate stories published yesterday, family members of Marilyn Dershowitz and Cooper Stock, both lost to traffic violence, criticized Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for his reluctance to file serious charges against motorists who kill people.
Vance declined to apply criminal charges against Koffi Komlani, the cab driver who struck 9-year-old Cooper and his father as the two walked hand in hand in an Upper West Side crosswalk in January 2014. Cooper was killed, his father was injured, and it took Vance 11 months to charge Komlani with two traffic offenses — careless driving and failure to yield.
Komlani’s attorney said weather caused the crash, the same excuse Vance’s office gave Cooper’s family for not pursuing a criminal case.
On Monday, according to the Post, prosecutors agreed to a plea arrangement for Komlani: a $580 fine and a six-month license suspension. Komlani’s attorney said Vance’s office did not ask for jail time, which would have maxed out at 15 days.
[Cooper’s mother Dana] Lerner said District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office told her they needed two misdemeanors to charge Komlani criminally — even though the prosecutor campaigned on getting rid of that case law precedent, referred to as the “rule of two.”
“It goes without saying that what happened here today does not even begin to bring justice in the death of my son Cooper Stock,” said a statement from Lerner, read yesterday in court. “Giving this man a traffic ticket for killing my son is an insult to us and to Cooper’s memory. Is a life worth nothing more than a traffic ticket?”
The New York Press reports that a civil jury last week ruled U.S. Postal Service driver Ian Clement at fault for killing cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz in 2011. Clement ran Dershowitz over, stopped his truck for a moment, then drove away. He was cleared by a jury of leaving the scene, a charge filed by Vance after the Dershowitz family complained to the media about the DA’s handling of the case.
The Press reports that Judge Sarah Netburn ruled Clement “was negligent in his operation of his vehicle, causing the accident and [Dershowitz’s] death.”
The judge rejected government claims that Ms. Dershowitz’s handling of her bicycle was partly to blame for the accident. “The Court finds the government 100% liable,” Judge Netburn wrote in her ruling.
Nathan Dershowitz, in a telephone interview after last week’s decision, said he’s convinced that Vance’s office mishandled his wife’s criminal case.
“I suggest that Cy Vance read the civil decision and I dare him to suggest that there isn’t overwhelming material in that decision that would suggest a criminal conviction here,” said Dershowitz, who, like his brother, is a lawyer in Manhattan. “The criminal case was reluctantly brought and was assigned to someone who had no knowledge of how to cross-examine a witness.”
Asked by the Press to comment, Vance’s office forwarded an old statement issued after Clement’s criminal trial, which read in part: “We will continue to file charges where we believe the evidence merits them, and do everything we can as an office to make our streets safer for everyone.”
There are many additional instances when Vance declined to seek serious penalties against motorists involved in serious crashes. Last December, for example, the Vance team assented to a $400 fine for the unlicensed driver who killed 66-year-old Keiko Ohnishi as she crossed the street in a crosswalk with the right of way. Two months earlier, Vance’s office agreed to a plea resulting in a $250 fine for a driver accused of deliberately striking a cyclist and fleeing the scene.