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NYPD Driver Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ in Killing of 7-Year-Old

Stephanie Sharp's lawyer said the young boy's death was an "accident" for which she should not face charges.

12:00 AM EST on November 16, 2023

David Meyer|

Neighbors set up this vigil at the corner where an NYPD tow truck driver killed 7-year-old Kamari Hughes last month.

The NYPD tow truck driver who cops say struck and killed 7-year-old Kamari Hughes in Fort Greene last month pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges related to the vehicular death, authorities said.

Kamari HughesFacebook

Stephanie Sharp, 54, faces one count of failure to exercise due care and two counts of failure to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way, according to a criminal complaint by the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. The maximum sentence on the top counts is 30 days behind bars.

Gonzalez's complaint draws its conclusions from eyewitness Antwoan Hayes, who told Streetsblog on the day of the crash that he observed Sharp strike and kill Kamari Hughes in the crosswalk when the young Brooklynite had the pedestrian signal to cross.

Sharp allegedly "continued to drive away from the scene before unknown passerbys [sic] got [her] attention to stop," the complaint said.

Several witnesses also told Streetsblog that Sharp had been on her phone at the time of impact — something prosecutors did not mention in the charges. (It is unclear if NYPD investigators checked Sharp's phone or if they checked it and determined she was not using it; NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.)

Here's the tow truck whose driver ran over and killed Kamari.Photo: David Meyer

Sharp's attorney Victor Knapp called the tragedy "an accident," and raised the possibility that Hughes's death may have been the result of a lack of "daylighting" at the intersection. New York City has long used its power to exempt itself from state law requiring 20 feet of car-free clearance by crosswalks.

Knapp said the presence of parked cars at the corner was "probably a very important factor in what led up to” to the crash.

"We feel terrible about what happened here, but this was an accident. It’s obvious it wasn’t intentional," he said.

"We don’t see any criminality, no criminal liability. This was an accident. It obviously wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t reckless. There was no criminal involvement at all."

State courts previously ruled that prosecutors do not need to prove reckless intention or motivation for a driver to be convicted of a criminal failure-to-yield violation.

Arguing that the crash was just an "accident" may backfire if a future judge or jurors learn that Sharp has been the victim in several crashes herself, and has sued other drivers for injuries they allegedly caused her — evidence that she knows what circumstances lead to crashes, as Streetsblog reported exclusively.

Sharp will appear next in court on Dec. 21.

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