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Collision Investigation Squad

Warrant Out for Trucker Who Killed 3-Year-Old in Harlem Last Year

5:07 PM EST on November 2, 2020

The Harlem corner where 3-year-old Bertin DeJesus died after the driver of a pickup truck struck him as walked with his mom. Source: Citizen

The unlicensed truck driver who hit and killed a 3-year-old boy in Harlem last year, and then blamed the child’s death on the boy’s mother, didn’t even bother to show up to court on Monday — prompting the judge to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Trucker Jaime Sabogal, 59, who fatally struck little Bertin DeJesus on Dec. 9, 2019, when he made a left turn onto First Avenue from East 116th Street, striking the toddler as he crossed the street a stride ahead of his mother, was due in court on Monday morning. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had announced that it was upgrading his initial low-level charges of failure to yield and aggravated unlicensed operation — minor infractions that come with a fine and, at most, 30 days behind bars.

But neither Sabogal nor his defense attorneys from the Legal Aid Society showed up for the arraignment — even after months of attempts to reach them, the judge said in court.

“What I did is e-mail the parties several times and the defense counsel and gave a number of dates to appear… I never received a response — I’m a little mystified as to why they have not appeared today,” said Justice Melissa Jackson of Manhattan Supreme Court.

Prosecutors expected to formally arraign Sabogal with “upgraded charges,” but the indictment remains sealed because he did not appear, according to the DA’s office. Now authorities have put out an arrest warrant.

In these still frames from the video, (left) Bertin DeJesus and his mom (circled) are crossing First Avenue. (Photo right) Jaime Sabogal cuts the corner in his black Ford F-250 an instant before striking the boy.
In these still frames from the video, (left) Bertin DeJesus and his mom (circled) are crossing First Avenue. (Photo right) Jaime Sabogal cuts the corner in his black Ford F-250 an instant before striking the boy.

Sabogal, who had blamed the little boy's death on his mom, telling Streetsblog in February that Bertin would still be alive today had he been holding his mom’s hand, had wracked up so many moving violations before the fatal crash that he shouldn't have been on the road that day. He had 20 moving violations, at least five crashes and at least two prior license suspensions, Streetsblog reported last December.

“It’s being made out like I did something wrong; I did not,” Sabogal told Streetsblog at the time. “The mother should have had the child in her hand.”

Yet, despite all that, Sabogal was still able to get behind the wheel of a multi-ton truck that day, mowing down the little boy as he crossed the street in the crosswalk with his mom. Advocates said that the lack of enforcement against Sabogal showed that elected officials have failed to keep reckless, killer drivers off the road.

“It shows our collective insanity,” Marco Conner of Transportation Alternatives said at the time. “This is infuriating. With such a driving record of repeatedly and knowingly endangering others, this driver obviously should not have been allowed to operate a lethal multi-ton vehicle on city streets.”

Attempts to reach Sabogal and his attorneys were unsuccessful.

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