4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers
Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.
On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.
Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.
Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.
- December 2014: Simcha Rosenblatt fatally struck 27-year-old Raul Leone-Vasquez in a crosswalk at Bay Parkway and Bath Avenue. Thompson charged Rosenblatt with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to exercise due care. The outcome of this case is unknown.
- December 2013: The month before Thompson took office, Hynes charged Roberto Amador with aggravated unlicensed operation after he killed 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler on McGuinness Boulevard. Amador, who was charged by Manhattan DA Cy Vance with unlicensed driving for a crash that occurred just days before Detweiler’s death, pled guilty in both cases. Amador was fined $200 and $250 pursuant to plea deals with Vance and Thompson, respectively.
- November 2013: Hynes charged Robert Brown with aggravated unlicensed operation and failure to yield for striking and killing senior Maude Savage. After Thompson took office, Brown pled guilty to unlicensed operation in the second degree — a charge that may be applied when a defendant is caught driving without a license after prior convictions for unlicensed driving, or when the defendant’s license was previously suspended or revoked pursuant to a drug or alcohol related driving offense. Brown was fined $500.
The Post reported that a judge refused a request from Thompson’s office to hold Marlon Sewell on bail because, she said, “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail.” For all the public knows Sewell is still behind the wheel of his Chevy SUV.