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GUILTY! Former USPS Driver Facing Jail Time for Killing UWS Cyclist

6:24 PM EST on February 23, 2023

The victim, Jeffrey Williamson, was run over and killed by a postal truck driver. Photo: Ken Coughlin

A former Postal Service driver was found guilty for the crash that killed a cyclist on the Upper West Side two years ago, a judge ruled Thursday.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Marisol Martinez Alonso found 63-year-old Brooklynite Sergei Alekseev guilty of both counts relating to the 2021 fatal collision — a criminal misdemeanor of failure to yield, and the lesser violation of failing to exercise due care.

The top count carries a maximum sentence of just a month in jail and a $250 fine, while the violation carries a fine of up to $750 and a possibility of 15 days in jail along with a requirement to participate in a driver program — but maximum charges for either count are exceptionally rare.

Alekseev ran over and killed Upper West Side cyclist Jeffrey Williamson, 71, with his truck while making a right turn from Central Park West onto W. 86th Street on June 29, 2021.

The driver had a long history of bad behavior behind the wheel dating back to before and during his employment at the national mail carrier, but the postal service has declined to comment. He was fired after the crash in 2021 after 15 years on the job.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg hailed the verdict. "Today’s conviction demonstrates our commitment to holding negligent drivers accountable," he said in a statement. "Nothing can undo the tragedy that occurred, but I hope this outcome in court can provide a small measure of comfort."

After the verdict, Williamson's widow Christopher Brimer remained angry that the defendant's attorney had blamed her late husband for his death.

"The experience has left me deeply shaken to listen to the defense accuse my husband of causing his own death was unbearably painful and I just feel a little sick right now, you know," she told Streetsblog after the ruling. "I’m grateful that he was found guilty. I think that his loss has been a far greater tragedy than the charges would indicate but that’s the state of the law and there’s nothing that can be done about that."

Christopher Brimer said she was
Christopher Brimer said she was "shaken" by the trial. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Alekseev's defense attorney Cyrus Joubin again tried to put blame on the cyclist during closing arguments Thursday, for not stopping as the trucker was turning and instead swerving out in front of the vehicle, even though Williamson had the right of way.

"The cyclist could have stopped, could have braked," Joubin said, adding that had he stopped, the tragedy "would have never happened."

"That decision cost him his life," the lawyer added.

During the trial that started Wednesday, the defendant claimed he didn't see Williamson, who was riding alongside him in a bike lane the city deems protected, saying the cyclist was in his "blind spot."

But the prosecutor for the DA's office detailed in her closing argument how the motorist had ample opportunities to see Williamson, and failed to do so.

Assistant District Attorney Candace White showed an evidence photo of the truck's three sideview mirrors on the passenger side where the cyclist rode next to the truck in the lead up to the turn, giving the driver three different vantage points to see him.

She also replayed surveillance footage from the scene frame by frame showing Williamson riding parallel to the truck, concluding that the only way Alekseev didn't see him was if he didn't look.

"If he had just looked right at one of those points, he would have seen Mr. Williamson," said White.

White also rejected the argument that Williamson should have stopped to save his life, since he had a green light to go straight while the trucker had a blinking yellow turning signal that requires him to wait for pedestrians and cyclists to cross.

"The bicyclist had no duty to yield to the driver," she said.

Earlier in the trial, Alekseev's lawyer hoped to have the entire case dismissed on the grounds that failure to yield should be a civil charge, not a criminal one. But Judge Martinez Alonso disputed that legal argument, citing a 2021 ruling by the state's highest court that found it is a crime to drive with negligence and hit someone with a car, even if the motorist is sober and has a valid license.

The criminal conviction sends a signal that injuring or killing with a vehicle will have more serious consequences than a ticket, said Steve Vaccaro, who is representing Brimer in a separate civil case about the crash.

"This is a very important development in moving the ball forward so that all drivers now will learn that they could face penalties just like Alekseev, including criminal liability and a criminal record, if they don’t pay attention when they’re driving around vulnerable road users," Vaccaro told Streetsblog.

Alekseev declined to comment on his way out of the Lower Manhattan courthouse, saying only, "I'm very sorry, I'm very sorry," as he waved this reporter off. His attorney also declined to comment.

The sentencing will take place on March 7, 10 a.m. at Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Centre Street Jury 2.

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