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Evidence Suggests Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez Is Not Prosecuting Deadly Right of Way Violations

3:55 PM EST on February 1, 2018

The scene of the crash that killed Kevin Flores. Video still: WNBC

Two times in the past year, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has declined to charge drivers who killed cyclists for violating the victims' right of way, though available information suggests charges were warranted under city law. The DA's office has ducked questions about who had the right of way in each case.

Last Friday Philip Monfoletto hit 13-year-old Kevin Flores with a Mack oil tanker truck while making a right turn from Lewis Avenue onto Jefferson Avenue in Bed-Stuy.

Both streets are one-way with one through-lane flanked by two lanes for parked cars. Neither street has a bike lane. The Post reported that Flores was riding ”alongside” the truck when Monfoletto struck him, which likely means Flores was the victim of a right hook.

NYPD and Gonzalez did not charge Monfoletto under Section 19-190 -- also known as the Right of Way Law -- a misdemeanor charge that applies when motorists in NYC harm people who are walking or biking with the right of way.

Section 19-190 is a vital piece of the city’s Vision Zero program. The Right of Way Law is intended to give NYPD and prosecutors a tool to hold motorists accountable for crashes police don’t witness -- the type of crash that injures and kills thousands annually, yet for years rarely resulted in as much as a traffic ticket.

Monfoletto, 28, was driving without a valid license when he killed Flores, according to police. He has seven suspensions on his record and was caught driving with a suspended license as recently as December, the Daily News reported.

Gonzalez filed a top charge of third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Aggravated unlicensed operation is the same charge unlicensed drivers receive for minor traffic infractions.

“I don’t want this to ever happen again,” Flores’s mother, Margarita Flores, told the Post at her son’s wake. “I don’t want another child, another kid to die like this. And I’m going to fight for that.”

Gonzalez spokesperson Oren Yaniv did not respond when I asked who had the right of way in the crash.

Kevin Flores, Neftaly Ramirez, and Eric Gonzalez
Kevin Flores, Neftaly Ramirez, and Eric Gonzalez
Kevin Flores, Neftaly Ramirez, and Eric Gonzalez

Last summer an Action Carting worker killed Neftaly Ramirez, 27, as he biked on Franklin Street at Noble Street in Greenpoint, then left the scene.

As in Flores's case, details provided by police and the press strongly suggest Ramirez was cycling lawfully when he was hit by an inattentive driver in a gigantic truck turning right at a signalized intersection.

The Action Carting worker, identified by the Brooklyn Paper as 63-year-old Jose Nunez, was summonsed for driving a garbage truck without the proper license, but was not charged with a crime. Yaniv did not answer when I asked who had the right of way in Ramirez's case.

Gonzalez, who last month began his first full term as DA, became acting district attorney after the death of his boss Ken Thompson in the fall of 2016. During Gonzalez's first full calendar year leading the office, motorists injured and killed 3,865 people walking and biking on Brooklyn streets.

Brooklyn was the only borough where traffic deaths did not decline in 2017, according to City Hall. If Gonzalez is not vigorously applying the Right of Way Law, its impact as a deterrent is diminished and victims and their loved ones don't see justice done.

I asked Yaniv how many misdemeanor 19-190 cases the DA pursued last year. We’ll update this post if we get an answer.

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