Vance Nets Felony Indictment for Driver in Beekman Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

A woman accused of deliberately driving onto a sidewalk in the Financial District, injuring a pedestrian, and leaving the scene was indicted on felony charges today, according to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

Vance says Tiffany Murdaugh was behind the wheel of her Dodge Challenger on the morning of April 13, 2015, when she drove for close to half a block on a crowded Beekman Street sidewalk, nearly striking a mother and two young children before knocking another woman to the ground.

Murdaugh continued down the sidewalk “at the same high rate of speed” before turning onto Beekman Street and leaving the scene, according to the DA’s office. Murdaugh was allegedly involved in a second collision in Brooklyn shortly after the Manhattan crash.

The Manhattan victim, 37-year-old Heather Hensl, was hospitalized with a broken leg and a head laceration.

The Downtown Express reported that video showed the driver “backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam” before hitting Hensl. Police and prosecutors reviewed video evidence and interviewed witnesses to build the case against Murdaugh, according to Vance’s office.

Murdaugh, 34, was charged with two counts of assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of leaving the scene. The top count of the indictment was first degree assault, a class B felony, which carries penalties ranging from five to 25 years in prison. In total, Vance charged Murdaugh with four felony offenses and one traffic violation.

“Pedestrians have the right to feel completely safe and secure on our sidewalks and when crossing the street, which is why the conduct this driver is accused of is so egregious,” Vance said in a press release. “After allegedly striking and seriously injuring a female pedestrian, the defendant is accused of fleeing the scene. There is no place for this type of recklessness in New York City.”

Citing the evidence and seriousness of the charges against Murdaugh, prosecutors asked Judge Gregory Carro to set bail at $100,000. Carro declined. Murdaugh is free on $2,500 bail.

New York City district attorneys don’t normally charge hit-and-run drivers for the act of causing injury or death, but Vance shows signs of bucking that trend. In other cases now in progress, Vance charged the drivers accused in the deaths of Robert Perry and Charity Hicks with manslaughter.

Murdaugh’s next court appearance was scheduled for August.

  • Thank goodness – and let’s hope this doesn’t get plea-bargained down to meaninglessness.

  • armyvet00

    I’m in a state of happy shock.

  • While surprising, this is entirely appropriate. The woman knowingly and willfully drove down a crowded sidewalk. I often argue that bad drivers, who injure people, shouldn’t necessarily serve prison time, but should be stripped of their license permanently. The point is to protect the public, not punish people. In this case however, she clearly knew what she was doing, and did so anyway. A serious prison sentence is appropriate, same as if she came out swinging with a baseball bat or shot a gun into a crowd.

  • Andrew

    Don’t hold your breath.

  • JudenChino

    Credit where credit is due. It could be in part b/c we collectively harassed the fuck out of Cy but nevertheless, it’s good to see this finally.

    I do wonder had she not fled . . .

  • Ari_F_S

    I want to see that video

  • KeNYC2030

    This is great, but if this level of alleged recklessness is the threshold for bringing charges against a driver, there are still essentially no consequences for the garden-variety aggressiveness and haste that maims or kills every single day in this city.

  • neroden

    Well, thank you Mr. Vance. this makes me feel a *little* bit safer.

    We may have been unnecessarily hard on the DAs.

    I’m beginning to suspect that the NYPD is the bigger problem — I suspect that NYPD is concealing killer motorists from the DA’s office, not even referring the cases.

  • Maggie

    This is great, the focus on public safety by Cy Vance.

    I really hope Bill Bratton, Ken Thompson, Richard Brown, Robert Johnson, and Daniel Master are paying attention. Every New Yorker deserves this protection and justice.

    Judge Carro was set to give an outrageously minimal sentence to the teenager who ran from police and killed Ariel Russo on the sidewalk – right up until he dragged a cop from his vehicle while he was on trial for Russo’s death. Please Judge Carro, do a better job with this one.

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