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Richard Brown: Killing a Baby on a Sidewalk While Unlicensed Isn’t a Crime

The motorist who killed 8-month-old Navraj Raju was ticketed for driving without a license. Queens DA Richard Brown thinks that’s punishment enough. Image: CBS

District Attorney Richard Brown filed no criminal charges against an alleged unlicensed driver who killed an infant on a Queens sidewalk.

At around 10 a.m. on October 28, 2016, Armando Morales-Rodriguez backed a van into 8-month-old Navraj Raju as his mother pushed him in a stroller in front of 92-20 Astoria Boulevard.

Navraj Raju
Navraj Raju
Navraj Raju

“Navraj was knocked out of the stroller and the van kept backing up, running the boy over with the back tire,” DNAinfo reported.

When a motorist kills someone while driving without a valid license, the default top charge issued by New York City district attorneys tends to be third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. In this case, Brown apparently decided that was too harsh.

Court records say Morales-Rodriguez was summonsed for operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed -- a traffic infraction. Shortly after the crash, unnamed "authorities" told the Daily News they “could upgrade the charges once they complete their investigation,” but that didn't happen.

Morales-Rodriguez is scheduled to be in court on Wednesday. For killing an infant while allegedly driving without a valid license, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and a $300 fine, though it's likely the actual penalty will be less severe.

Brown is known for soft-pedaling when it comes to deadly traffic violence. The DA’s office excused a motorist who failed to yield and fatally struck 3-year-old Allison Liao in a Flushing crosswalk in 2013, saying the driver “had a valid driver’s license and a green light.” The motorist in that case later agreed to give up driving for five years as part of a civil settlement negotiated by Allison’s family, taking a reckless driver off the streets after Brown failed to act.

State Senator Michael Gianaris has for years lobbied fellow lawmakers to strengthen penalties for unlicensed drivers who harm people. One Gianaris bill would make it a felony to cause serious injury or death while driving without a valid license, as long as the license was suspended or revoked for traffic offenses. Another would require drivers with suspended or revoked licenses to surrender vehicle registrations and license plates.

“I would hope before there's another tragedy that it's fully passed,” Gianaris said after Navraj was killed. “The person who killed a child should not have been sitting behind the wheel to begin with.”

Albany legislators have failed to pass either bill.

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