The Coach USA bus driver who killed Chelsea cyclist Dan Hanegby last June admitted to driving aggressively in the moments before the crash, according to Gothamist, which has seen the criminal complaint.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has offered to let the driver plead to a low-level misdemeanor, but Transportation Alternatives is calling on the DA to pursue more serious charges.
Dave Lewis sideswiped Hanegby on W. 26th Street, where buses are normally prohibited by city traffic rules. NYPD originally said Hanegby “swerved” into Lewis's path, but the police account was contradicted by video evidence that showed Hanegby was riding predictably when Lewis approached him from behind and struck him with the bus.
In September NYPD and Vance charged Lewis with violating the victim's right of way, an unclassified misdemeanor, and failure to exercise due care, which is a traffic infraction.
Vance offered to dispose the case with driving classes, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month license suspension -- after which Lewis could regain his driving privileges just by filling out DMV paperwork -- Gothamist reported yesterday.
Gothamist said that, according to the criminal complaint, Lewis allegedly told a bystander he "saw Hanegby riding in the center of the road, then honked his horn but 'wasn't sure if the bicyclist heard him because the cyclist was wearing headphones.'"
If Lewis attempted to pass the victim under those circumstances, additional charges should be in play, says Transportation Alternatives Legislative and Legal Director Marco Conner.
"Recklessness requires that the driver be 'aware of and consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk,'" Conner told Streetsblog via email. "For the driver to see Dan, to honk, likely recognizing the risk of passing him, and then to continue regardless, that seems to rise to criminal recklessness."
The charges against Lewis should also satisfy the so-called "rule of two," described by Conner as "the outdated criteria that courts nonetheless tend to apply to support more severe charges."
Vance’s office told Streetsblog Lewis was permitted to drive on W. 26th Street, since his “route included several stops” there. The DA’s office declined comment as to why the evidence did not support charges of negligence or recklessness.
"I think it's another example of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance not using his position to set a higher standard here," TransAlt Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro told Gothamist. "We've seen the ways in which it still falls on the shoulders of the families of victims to insist that DAs bring more appropriate charges to better reflect the outcome of death. The fallback is not to do that."
Lewis is scheduled to be in court again in January.