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Driver Who Killed Charity Hicks Pleads to Homicide and Leaving the Scene

The hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a Detroit woman as she waited for a bus in Hell's Kitchen pled guilty to homicide and felony leaving the scene. He will serve a minimum of two and a maximum of six years in prison, pursuant to a judge's plea offer.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist
Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist
Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street on May 31, 2014, hitting a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to court documents. Shanley fled the scene on foot and was arrested in New Jersey three months later.

Shanley is the son of a deceased NYPD officer. He was on parole at the time of the crash, according to the Daily News.

A Detroit human rights activist who was in the city for a conference, Hicks suffered severe head trauma and serious injuries to her chest. She died after weeks in the hospital. The crash also injured a second pedestrian.

The criminal court complaint said video showed Shanley “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk.” Shanley’s cell phone, recovered at the scene, indicated the user was sending a text when the collision occurred, according to the complaint.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death -- class C and D felonies, respectively. Vance later dropped the manslaughter charge and added a homicide charge, a less severe class E felony.

As Streetsblog reported in a prior story on this case, in New York City it is unusual for a hit-and-run driver who kills someone to be charged for taking a life. It's possible that the evidence -- crash video and phone records -- coupled with Shanley's criminal history led Vance's office to pursue a homicide conviction despite dismissing the original manslaughter charge.

On Monday Shanley pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, criminally negligent homicide, and leaving the scene without reporting, according to Vance’s office and court records.

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC
Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC
Scene of a crash that killed a woman in Midtown in 2016. Image: WNBC

Prosecutors recommended the maximum sentence, Vance’s office said, with two of the counts to be served consecutively, for a total of four and one-third to 11 years in prison, in addition to fines totaling $6,000.

However, Judge Bonnie Wittner offered Shanley a sentence of two to six years in prison, with all counts concurrent, and a $2,500 fine. Shanley accepted the deal.

Shanley was remanded to jail until his sentencing hearing, scheduled for April.

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