HE WALKS: Postal Service Driver Dodges Jail Time Despite Killing Cyclist
A former postal service driver will not go to jail, despite being found guilty last month for the crash that killed an Upper West Side cyclist two years ago, a Manhattan criminal court judge ruled on Tuesday.
Justice Marisol Martinez Alonso spared 63-year-old Sergei Alekseev the 15-day sentence sought by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and instead ordered the USPS worker to pay $1,000 and to take part in a driver accountability program. The sentencing follows Martinez Alonso’s Feb. 23 guilty verdict on the misdemeanor charge of failing to yield and a lesser violation of failing to exercise due care stemming from the June 29, 2021 crash that killed Jeffrey Williamson.
Alekseev’s driver’s license will also be suspended for six months.
Williamson’s family was distraught at the jurist’s decision.
“It’s just awful, it’s just terrible,” said his widow, Christopher Brimer, in tears outside the courtroom. “My husband’s life is worth a driving course, a six-month suspension of his license, and a $1,000 fine. A man’s life, [a man] who did nothing wrong.”
The victim’s son Bennett Williamson told the court in a victim impact statement that he remembered feeling his father’s chest where the wheel of Mr Alekseev’s truck had crushed it.
“Every day I know there are consequences” to negligence behind the wheel, Williamson, a paramedic, told the court.
In his own statement, Alekseev apologized and asked for forgiveness, but maintained that he hadn’t seen Williamson approach on his passenger side before making a fatal right turn. He also claimed he had been distracted by yielding to another cyclist riding on the sidewalk in the oncoming direction.
“I didn’t see Mr. Williamson,” he said through a Russian interpreter. “I saw was the female biker and I was distracted by her.”
Alekseev threw himself on the mercy of the court with a variety of assertions that his life has been in a downward spiral since he killed Williamson.
The Brooklynite described at length the physical and mental health issues he suffered after the crash, including six months of sleepless nights and a knee condition that worsened following the incident.
The Postal Service had suspended him immediately after the crash, but an arbitrator reinstated him on modified duty (he no longer drives a truck for the mail carrier, according to his attorney). He would have been fired if he had received jail time, Alekseev added.
Alekseev also told the judge about his 85-year-old mother back in Russia, who was hospitalized with a bad case Covid-19, and he wasn’t sure if she’d survive finding out her son was incarcerated.
“[The] chain of stresses in my life, one after the other,” he said.
His lawyer, Cyrus Joubin, said jailing Alekseev would forever leave him “branded a criminal.”
Alekseev came to the United States from Russia in 1994, and led a “life of quiet, peaceful dignity,” which incarceration would destroy, the lawyer said.
“To put this man in jail will do nothing,” Joubin said.
The defendant also had a history of reckless driving dating back to before and during his time working for USPS, the prosecution revealed at the outset of the trial.
Martinez Alonso said she was moved by the Williamson family statements, but sided with the defense.
“This is a very sad case all the way around. There are no winners here,” the judge said before handing down the light sentence.
Outside the courtroom, Alekseev told Streetsblog he felt “very bad,” but that he was “of course” glad he wouldn’t face time behind bars.
Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who is representing Brimer in an upcoming civil case, said that the sentence was a missed opportunity to put some teeth in the state’s Right of Way law, which criminalized negligence behind the wheel.
“From the perspective of Ms. Brimer, it’s hard to understand why there was no incarceration in jail up to 30 days as provided in the law,” he said.
The DA’s office and USPS did not immediately respond for comment.