Cy Vance: $580 Fine for Driver Who Killed 9-Year-Old Cooper Stock

Following a plea deal agreed to by Manhattan DA Cy Vance, the driver who killed Cooper Stock in a crosswalk was fined $580 and lost his driving privileges for six months.
Following a plea deal agreed to by Manhattan DA Cy Vance, the driver who killed Cooper Stock in a crosswalk was fined $580 and lost his driving privileges for six months.

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.

  • J

    Cy Vance has repeatedly shows himself to be one of the biggest obstacles to Vision Zero in NYC. His office is callous, backtracking, and apparently extremely incompetent.

    People’s lives are worth more than a few hundred dollars.

  • D’BlahZero

    Seems to me that DA Vance is basically a coward. He’s afraid to jeopardize his conviction rate by pursuing a case that could actually make good on his campaign promise to challenge the ‘rule of two.’ This is the opposite of the kind of leadership Vision Zero will require.

    The system’s prejudice in favor of motorists is truly disgusting. To think that a child holding a parent’s hand, following the rules, is killed in the street by someone negligently operating a motor vehicle and the DA does virtually nothing – it boggles the mind and turns the stomach.

  • Reader

    “Komlani’s attorney said weather caused the crash, the same excuse Vance’s office gave Cooper’s family for not pursuing a criminal case.”

    It’s one thing for a defense attorney to say this – he has to say whatever it takes to best represent his client, but it’s truly shocking that “it was raining” is among the reasons that would cause Vance not to pursue charges. It rains in NYC. It rains everywhere.

    What other kind of illegal violence does Vance accept based on such flimsy excuses? What a joke. Pedestrians are screwed.

  • Reality Broker

    Sorry I shot your mom, but it was raining and I couldn’t see where my loaded gun was pointed.

  • Mark Walker

    This just in: Manhattan DA says traffic laws and crosswalk markings don’t apply when it rains.

  • Kevin Love

    How many people are in jail for non-violent crimes?

  • JudenChino

    If it’s raining then the question is, why didn’t he drive more carefully?

    Rain, isn’t like, a giant hole in the ground that’s unobservable to the naked eye. And rain, isn’t like, a billboard falling from the sky in which you have to take immediate evasive actions.

    Presuming that Komlani has driven in the rain before, then he should be well aware that rain makes for slick driving conditions which require greater care than otherwise; Komlani did not, instead he barreled throw a turn at speed.

    I just don’t get how they can’t convict on criminally negligence homicide? If you’re negligent and your negligence was the foreseeable but for cause of someone’s harm, then you should be found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.

    http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article15.htm#p15.05

    4. “Criminal negligence.” A person acts with criminal negligence with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

    Barreling through a turn in the rain through a x-walk w/ peds isn’t a “gross deviation from the standard of care”?

  • J

    Also, Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, says human life loses value when it rains.

  • specq

    It’s not a deviation if everyone’s doing it.

  • This really bewilders me. How does NYC not have riots in the streets over this type of thing. Most don’t drive, and yet, most seem quite complacent about getting routinely run down by cars.

  • AnoNYC

    People are used to it. They don’t see it as a problem. “The costs of doing business.”

  • New Yorker

    Cy Vance doesn’t get it. He thinks he’s some sort of Clint Eastwood character fighting big-time crime. In fact, he is the Sheriff of Mayberry. Murders, rapes, grand theft auto, mob violence… this stuff is virtually non-existent in most of Manhattan compared to just 25 years ago. When it comes to random acts of violence, people trying to live and raise families in Manhattan now have much more to fear from reckless, negligent and unaccountable motorists than they have to fear from murderers and muggers. Vance believes that what happened to Cooper Stock is an “accident” and not a “crime.” He is wrong, he is clueless and he is deeply out of step with the constituency he purports to protect and serve. Please, someone good run against this guy next election.

  • JudenChino

    He’s also big on Cyber Crime! Seriously (not unimportant but that’s not exactly the core duty of a County DA).

  • Father

    Look, if you steal a bunch of money from Saks 5th Avenue and buy expensive handbags and shoes, Cy Vance is ON IT. But if it’s raining and you kill a 9-year-old…oh well. Cy Vance can’t be bothered. At best, he’ll send his least competent attorney to look into whether or not maybe possibly some sort of tiny punishment is warranted. But handbags? Top talent, baby!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/nyregion/police-say-identity-thieves-hit-saks-shoe-department.html?ref=topics&_r=0

  • Kevin Love

    And human life is not worth much when it is dry, either.

  • Kevin Love

    Which is the excuse given by members of a lynch mob.

  • dporpentine

    “The Court finds the government 100% liable,” Judge Netburn wrote in her ruling.

    I’m no expert but that seems like a pretty strong statement coming from a judge in a civil case like that. Seems like pretty strong evidence that Nathan Dershowitz is right: Vance failed in seriously failed in his responsibilities here.

    The Cooper Stock plea bargain is so depressing as to basically reduce me to tears. He was crossing with the light and holding his father’s hand . . . and he was a child. If we can’t achieve something like justice in this case, when can we?

  • Vinstar

    With DAs like Cy Vance who needs criminals?

  • Joe R.

    It would be karma if Cy Vance or a member of his family was hit by a motor vehicle. Of course, that’ll probably never happen since he mostly likely never sees city streets except behind a windshield.

    On another note, if I’m ever on a jury where a person is being tried for killing the driver of a vehicle which killed a family member that person is walking. When there’s no justice people have a right to exact their own.

  • WalkingNPR

    I know…it happens. I mean, just the other day, it was partly cloudy, so I stabbed a guy. Crazy weather!

  • Reader

    I think you should edit your comment. Wishing violence of any form on another person, however objectionable you find their behavior, is not okay. The only consequence Vance should face for not enforcing the law is being voted out of office.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not wishing violence on him. I’m just saying if it happens it’s karma in action. Something similar happened when my mom was mugged back in the 1970s. Police took a report, and my mom even picked out the guy from mugshots. The police never caught him but a few years later we read an article in the paper after he turned up dead. Gangland violence or some such sh*t. All of us thought the same thing — he had it coming. Live by the sword, die by the sword. If Cy Vance continues to let vehicular violence slid by with impunity, sooner or later even he might be caught up in it. I won’t wish it on him, but truthfully I wouldn’t feel all that bad about it, either.

  • marks

    I agree with Reader. Moderator, please remove Joe R’s offensive comment.

  • Battered wife syndrome, or something akin to Stockholm syndrome. That’s the only thing I can see.

  • Joe R.

    I removed it on my own volition thanks to be mob mentality exhibited by you and Reader. I need to rethink whether this place is worth my time any more given that it seems many here just want an echo chamber of their own views.

  • Getting used to death and destruction. How depressing a thought.

  • Some Asshole

    I think we all need to feel sad for te real victim here. After all, this guy will never see that $580 ever again. /s

    This was just dripping with sarcasm but it’s hard not to feel defeat when someone can be so negligent and /smug shrug, better luck next life. If the idea behind things like Broken Windows is to create a deterrence and present a strong front, then why is it not being applied here? Why do we need not one, but two crimes to prosecute? You wouldn’t need this requirement for larceny or drug offenses, so why here? If due care was taken and a life was still lost, then don’t you trust the trial process to establish this?

    Sorry, I don’t get it. New York City is not the kind of place where a lack of a license is cruel punishment. In such a place, the standards to be granted to operate a vehicle should be greater than other locations.

  • Some Asshole

    By that standard, I should be free to punch someone in the face because it’s night and visibility is limited.

  • Maggie

    No, I appreciate the question but I disagree. Look what danbrotherston lightheartedly proposed: riots in the streets. We’re civilized people, we’re not going to riot, and it’s hard to know what more we can do apart from calling for change and speaking up and sharpening our pencils for a good DA in the next election.

    I think Cooper Stock’s family helped found Families for Safe Streets. Through their tragedy, they’ve done so much to help change the conversation and change the city for the better. Not every politician gets it. Cy Vance obviously doesn’t and in my reading, Bill Bratton doesn’t either. AFAIK Cy Vance hasn’t even met with Families for Safe Streets. The pathetic lack of attention coming from Vance’s office is disgraceful, a truly embarrassing disservice to his constituents, and has to change.

  • Maggie

    I know what you mean. I used to live in a developing country and when crimes like theft occurred, there was no expectation that the government or justice system could properly handle it. Crowds of regular people would literally exact mob justice on the perpetrator instead. That’s a breakdown of the social compact and it’s exactly why we have a DA, prosecutors, defenders and a justice system.

    I do wonder if Cy Vance has ever put on sneakers and walked half a mile on Manhattan streets. What a tool. His office takes nearly a year to figure out charges of careless driving and failure to yield. After telling the family they won’t file charges against the driver who injured the dad and killed their kid? This is embarrassing.

  • Andrew

    How does Cy Vance get to work in the morning? Does he receive special privileges, unavailable to the general public, that might influence that decision?

  • Miles Bader

    Well to be fair, Vance isn’t killing people personally… He needs criminals to do his dirty work.

  • Tyson White

    “Komlani’s attorney said weather caused the crash, the same excuse Vance’s office gave Cooper’s family for not pursuing a criminal case.”

    With such prosecutors, who needs a defense attorney?

  • Joe R.

    I think that’s part of the problem with him and others in positions of power in this city. They rarely see the city from the perspective of people who walk or bike. In their minds this was just an unavoidable accident, nothing more, just the cost of doing business.

    And a breakdown of the social compact is exactly what I fear if this sort of thing continues. I don’t know if you lived in NYC during the high crime era from the 1970s through the early 1990s, but we were coming dangerously close to the situation you described. Now that violent crime is way down, the failure to prosecute crimes like this is inexcusable. Basically, we took over a year to decide to issue the driver a traffic ticket. And the 6 month license suspension? It should be lifetime. At least if that had been done, even with no jail time, justice would have been served in a sense.

  • I’m a civilized person. I’ve taken to the streets over this issue, not to riot, yet had to face far more from the D.A. than this killer did for “parading without a permit” (dismissed). We need more in the streets.

  • A “mob mentality” “echo chamber” against deeply insightful and innovatively original advocacy of violence?

  • Maggie

    Well said and great point. Totally agree. I’d love to see some peaceful protest here. As a Mitty-esque daydream, moving cars illegally parked on the sidewalk into Vance’s own parking spot, or in the street where his driver delivers him to work, day after day, would probably get his attention where disgusted families keep getting waved off.

  • Joe R.

    1) I didn’t advocate violence here as in suggesting someone take a pistol and hunt him down, or run him over in a car.

    2) If you want to get technical, violence, meaning the use of force, has actually solved more problems in human history than anything else. In fact, the state derives any power it has from the use of force, or threat of use of force.

    3) People here regularly advocate for the use of force against deviant drivers. After all, just asking people nicely to drive in a manner in which they don’t hurt others doesn’t seem to work all that well. Neither does passing laws, unless those laws are backed by the implicit threat of force if they’re disobeyed.

    All of the above then suggest that anyone who found my original comment (which explicitly DID NOT advocate violence) objectionable is at best a hypocrite.

    The fact is Cy Vance isn’t doing the job we elected him to do. A suggestion that perhaps traffic violence affecting him personally might change this shouldn’t be seen as objectionable. Now if I had said I’m going to personally run him over in a car if he doesn’t do his job, yes, that’s an objectionable comment and advocacy of unnecessary violence.

    It was much the same with violent crime back in the 1980s,. Many people said lawmakers didn’t get it because they were insulated from violent crime. The thinking of that era by the elected elites made criminals out to be victims of society. The oft used saying a liberal is just a conservative who hasn’t been mugged yet had a ring of truth to it. Cy Vance and others like him don’t seem to take traffic violence seriously because they view life behind a windshield. Maybe if they didn’t, if they had even one close call with a motor vehicle while walking, they might see things in a different light. That’s really what I’m getting at. To Cy vance and his ilk traffic violence is just a theoretical construct. To many on this site it’s a daily and very real fact of life. In fact, being victims or near victims of traffic violence doubtless was the reason many regulars visit this site in the first place. A problem often needs to affect you personally before you’re willing to start solving it.

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