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Powerful Manhattan Pol Says He Did Not Break State Law When He Doored Cyclist* And Fled^

7:39 PM EDT on October 12, 2021

Keith Wright and his lawyer, Anthony Ricco (left) leaving Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

He’s trying to run away — again.

The chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party is fighting charges that he fled after dooring a cyclist in August — maintaining his innocence despite state law which makes drivers responsible for hitting cyclists with their car doors, his attorney said in Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday.

In his first appearance since his arraignment on the hit-and-run charge last month, the lawyer for former Assembly Member Keith Wright, who represented Harlem in Albany for 23 years, revealed that he would file a motion demanding prosecutors hand over evidence — including the statements of still-unidentified witnesses — that he says would exonerate his client.

The powerful pol's defense attorney Anthony Ricco told Judge Marisol Martinez-Alonso that he would be making what's called a "Brady demand" in writing soon.

"My expectation is that we will resolve that between the parties between now and December," Ricco said, citing the need for the testimony of "several witnesses who were present" at the scene of the Aug. 26 crash on Fifth Avenue near E. 138th Street, when Wright allegedly drove off after opening his door into an oncoming cyclist — then claimed he didn’t violate the state law he swore to uphold when he was a lawmaker.

Keith Wright's lawyer Anthony Ricco leaving court on Tuesday. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Keith Wright's lawyer Anthony Ricco leaving court on Tuesday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

An attorney who represents victims of traffic violence derided Wright's defense move as “bullshit” and says that the door-and-run case will be open-and-shut for the prosecution. 

“There’s no defense for leaving the scene,” said lawyer Dan Flanzig, who is not involved in this case. “Any manner in which the crash occurred, he still has an obligation to report it, despite whose fault it might be. I doubt there’s a lot there.”

The embattled chairman — whose work as a lobbyist has raised eyebrows — was slapped with two counts of leaving the scene of an incident — and faces a year in jail if convicted, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office. It's unclear if police also charged Wright with illegal dooring (VTL 1214), a dangerous practice that has caused the death of several cyclists in recent years, including Aaron Padwee and Em Samolewicz.

The main detail of the case does not seem to be in dispute at this time: According to prosecutors, on Aug. 26 at about 9:15 p.m., Wright opened the door of his black BMW into the path of an unidentified cyclist, who was thrown to the ground, suffering “bruising to his ankle and substantial pain.”

The former Albany pol drove off without providing his information as he’s legally required to do, according to the complaint, which was first reported by the Post. The cyclist snapped a photo of Wright's license plate, which has accrued 18 parking tickets since 2017 for such violations as parking in a bus lane or near a fire hydrant, according to How's My Driving. Wright's car has not been nabbed with any tickets for speeding or going through red lights.

When questioned by a detective a few weeks after the crash on Sept. 8, Wright first blamed the victim and said he did nothing wrong, according to court documents.

“It is his fault for running into my door,” Wright told the detective, according to the court documents. "I told him to go to the hospital. I did not exchange my information with him. I asked for his information, but he did not give it to me." 

Wright and his attorney declined to speak with Streetsblog after his appearance. He is next due back in court on Dec. 6.

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