How Seriously Does Queens DA Richard Brown Take Hit-and-Run Killings?
As family members rallied for justice for Queens hit-and-run victim Ovidio Jaramillo yesterday, District Attorney Richard Brown agreed to drop felony charges against another driver who left a pedestrian to die in the street.
Raul Reyes hit Kamil Gorski with a van on Metropolitan Avenue on the evening of February 3, 2015, knocking the victim to the roadway, according a press release issued by Brown’s office days after the crash. Gorski, a 36-year-old Navy veteran, was then struck by a second driver. He died at Elmhurst Hospital.
The second driver, who remained at the scene, was not charged. Brown charged Reyes with felony leaving the scene. Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison if convicted,” the February press release said.
“The defendant is accused of hitting a pedestrian and then attempting to evade justice by fleeing the scene,” Brown said in the press release. “As a result of his alleged actions, the defendant now faces serious criminal charges.”
Despite the tough talk, on Thursday, according to court records, Brown allowed Reyes to plead to misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Brown has a record of going easy on motorists who kill and injure people and not taking cases to trial — when he files charges at all — even when the driver leaves the crash scene. Here are three more examples.
- February 2015: Valentine Gonzalez fatally struck an unidentified victim, who was crossing at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue in a crosswalk and with the right of way, and left the scene. Brown charged Gonzalez with felony hit-and-run, unlicensed driving, and violating the victim’s right of way. Brown allowed Gonzalez to plead to the Right of Way Law charge. Gonzalez was sentenced to probation and five days of community service.
- October 2014: William Stafford injured an 89-year-old man at 25th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria, and was reportedly detained by witnesses as he attempted to flee the scene. Brown charged Stafford with felony assault, felony leaving the scene, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, and other offenses. Brown dropped the felony charges and allowed Stafford to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene. He was sentenced to a $500 fine and three years probation.
- January 2014: An SUV driver struck and killed 38-year-old Mosa Khatun in Jamaica. The driver returned to the scene after an hour yet told police she didn’t know she had hit someone. Brown filed no charges.
Hit-and-run drivers are almost never held accountable in NYC. A Transportation Alternatives report released this week found that of 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury and death, fewer than 1 percent of drivers were prosecuted, with just 50 cases handled by trained NYPD crash investigators, and 28 arrests.
Yesterday Assembly Member Michael DenDekker called for severe prosecutions of hit-and-run drivers. But Richard Brown, who would be tasked with prosecuting Ovidio Jaramillo’s killer, isn’t using the tools he has at his disposal.