The Other Victim in Fatal Astoria Crash Sues ‘Reckless’ Driver Whom DA Katz Exonerated
12:01 AM EST on November 28, 2021
The woman who killed a delivery worker in April was completely responsible for the fatal crash due to her "negligence, carelessness, recklessness and wanton disregard" in the seconds before she crashed into a Queens restaurant, according to court papers — a claim that District Attorney Melinda Katz felt was not persuasive enough to bring criminal charges against the driver.
Surviving victim Nahar Anin-Aminof filed a civil suit shortly after the April 29 crash, but the suit only came to light last week after Katz declined to charge the driver, Maro Andrianou, because she had been identified by the media and police and law enforcement sources with the surname Yerolemou in the days after she ran over and killed delivery worker Xing Long Lin and injured Anin-Aminoff.
The suit alleges that Andrianou was driving at roughly twice the speed limit when she struck and killed 37-year-old Lin — a husband, father, and delivery worker — on 35th Street near Ditmars Boulevard before plowing into an outdoor dining structure that came crashing down on the 32-year-old Anin-Aminof, who suffered "serious and severe personal injuries which are permanent in nature," according to the court papers filed in July by Anin-Aminof's lawyer Jeffrey Weiskopf.
In the suit, Weiskopf is particularly eloquent in accusing Andrianou of a laundry list of recklessness that caused the crash, including:
- Operating the Benz in a "careless and imprudent manner."
- Operating the car "at an excessive and dangerous rate of speed."
- "Failing to apply the brakes in time."
- "Failing to look."
- "Failing to see."
- "Failing to stop."
- "Failing to yield."
- "Failing to observe the roadway."
- "Failing to observe the sidewalk."
- "Failing to observe pedestrians n the sidewalk."
- "Failing to maintain ... due and proper control."
- "Failing to obey the traffic signals."
- "Failing to sound horn or give any signal, notice or warning."
- "Failing to avoid striking a pedestrian even though defendant had a full opportunity to do so."
Andrianou’s attorney denied most of the allegations in his own court papers, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Andrianou will be deposed on Dec. 8, Weiskopf said.
Anin-Aminof's charges against Andrianou come to light after Katz's office revealed last week that the DA would not prosecute Andrianou for the death of Lin — a statement quietly uploaded to Katz's website and not shared with the press. Katz's office chalked up the death and destruction of April 29 to either a defect in the 2013 Benz itself, or driver error, though exonerated Andrianou with the claim that she had been hit from behind by another car on the narrow residential road.
“After striking Mr. Lin, the Mercedes continued to accelerate down the street, mounted the sidewalk and crashed into an outdoor dining facility erected as an extension of the corner restaurant,” Executive Assistant District Attorney Daniel Saunders wrote in the memo absolving Andrianou. The memo also added, counter-factually, "Fortunately, no one else was injured."
Weiskopf said he had no idea why Katz's office made that assertion, given that Anin-Aminof was, indeed, injured and is seeking compensation through the civil court.
“Her (injuries) are still serious; she’s living her life with residual pain,” he said.
A spokesperson for the DA’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the second victim’s injuries.
Part of Katz’s reasoning for declining to prosecute Andrianou included an assertion that the “vehicle was impounded and inspected,” but that the examination was “hampered” because of damage to the car. Indeed, Streetsblog spotted the badly damaged black luxury car in front of the 114th Precinct station house days after the crash; the extensive damage to its front and back, including a detached rear bumper, suggested a high-speed crash.
It remains unclear how much of an inspection the DA’s office could have done, given the damage. And the car's black box system, which records speed, acceleration, and other auto functions, was never analyzed, according to Andrianou’s lawyer Robert Arena. Mercedes-Benz declined to comment on an “open matter.”
What caused Andrianou to recklessly speed down the street, killing Lin and injuring Anin-Aminof, is undetermined at this point, but what remains clear is that the car was going way too fast and has in the past, Streetsblog previously reported. The car car in question has been nabbed four times for speeding in a school zone, all of which took place in August and September, 2019, according to city records.
And from the very start, law enforcement attempted to absolve Andrianou, claiming that she may have had a “medical episode" when she veered into the bike lane, killing Lin, who worked for a nearby sushi restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard.
But Andrianou’s ex-husband previously told Streetsblog that his ex-wife’s health was perfectly fine, though he corroborated the DA’s decision, saying Andrianou was on her way to church when another car rammed her from behind, sending her into panic mode, unable to stop the car from careening down the street into Lin and the restaurant dining shed. Arena parroted that theory, and claims there is video evidence to prove it. Streetsblog has asked for the video, but it has not yet been provided.
Advocates were outraged by the news that Katz had declined to prosecute Andrianou, even for the minor violation of failing to exercise due care, saying Katz failed not only Lin, but every delivery worker who risks his or her life on the dangerous streets of New York City, as well as every person who rides a bike for transportation in a city dominated by cars.
Advocates for victims have long argued — and the state’s highest court has affirmed — that a driver need not have criminal intent in order to be found guilty of such vehicular crimes as failure to yield.
“Xing Long Lin and his family deserve justice,” Laura Shepard, the Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives wrote on Twitter. “Extremely disturbed to hear that Melinda Katz is letting his killer get away with this. Our streets are not safe when drivers who harm vulnerable road users are not held accountable and do not face consequences for their behavior.”
It is unclear whether Andrianou's connections to law enforcement helped her avoid charges. Sleuthing by cycling activist C.J. Wojtkowski revealed that Andrianou owns a detective agency, and it is common for such firms to be staffed by former police officers.
Wojtkowski also discovered that three weeks after the crash, Andrianou transferred her house to a "qualified personal residence trust," which allows the owner to "remove the property from the estate," according to Fidelity Investments. A QPRT may have implications on any assessment of Andrianou's wealth that might be undertaken as part of Anin-Aminof's suit.
Anin-Aminof stands to be reimburse at least partly for her injuries, pain and suffering; all Xing Long Lin has is a GoFundMe page.
— with Gersh Kuntzman
Julianne Cuba joined Streetsblog in February, 2019, after three years covering local news and politics at The Brooklyn Paper. There, she also covered the notoriously reckless private carting industry and hit-and-runs. A 2015 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism Master’s Program, she lives in Brooklyn. Julianne is on Twitter at @julcuba. Email Julianne at firstname.lastname@example.org
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