The driver who killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus after jumping a curb in Fort Greene in December 2015 is set to go on trial this week, according to the victim's family.
Marlon Sewell was initially poised to walk with a $500 fine for two misdemeanors: third degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and driving without a license. But the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office opened a grand jury investigation in 2016 after Nicodemus's family launched a petition. The 40-year-old driver is now facing charges of felony manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide—penalties seldom leveraged against drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians.
"It's been 20 months [since the crash] and patience is not something in the vocab of my family, or any family that's been through this," Hank Miller, 50, Nicodemus's older brother, told Gothamist. "We're glad it's finally here, and there's a lot of trepidation involved and uncertainty with what's going to happen."
"It's about justice for Victoria, but [also] an example needs to be set and prosecutors across the city need to start prosecuting these kinds of cases," Miller added.
A 2015 Transportation Alternatives report found that drivers who failed to yield caused 5,966 crashes resulting in death or injury—excluding DWIs—in 2015. Fewer than 40 of them were prosecuted for it.
"For us, Victoria's family really highlights the onus that's placed on individual families to get some kind of justice after crashes," said Transportation Alternatives organizer Caroline Samponaro Tuesday. "They have been so tireless, and it shouldn't have to be that way."
Sewell was driving east on Fulton Street with his wife around 5:30 p.m. on December 6, 2015 when he swerved right to avoid hitting another vehicle and jumped the curb near South Portland Place, according to the NYPD. He struck Nicodemus and her 37-year-old boyfriend, as well as a 75-year-old woman. Nicodemus and her boyfriend had been out Christmas shopping in Fort Greene.
Sewell was arrested on the scene, then released without bail. He had previously been arrested in March 2014 for unlicensed driving, and was summonsed for speeding in a school zone three times weeks before killing Nicodemus.
Sewell's license was restored in January 2016, and a Brooklyn judge ruled in that it would not be revoked because of the deadly crash.
The Brooklyn DA's office has since conducted two oxygen tests that determined Sewell's car was leaking noxious fumes when the crash occurred, according to DNAInfo. Prosecutors allege that Sewell knew his car was leaking ahead of the crash and continued to drive while lightheaded.
Sewell hired a lawyer after the manslaughter charge was leveraged. Damien Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told CBS2 that Sewell is "heartbroken, but this was an accident."
Last August, Brown told DNAInfo that he believed the manslaughter charge was "reaching."
"It seems like they're reaching because somebody died, which is a human reaction but even more a political reaction to do something for the family," Brown said. "I certainly understand this, but right now I don't see where the meat is on this. I think they're stretching."
Miller challenged Brown's "accident" claim on Tuesday.
"When you have the lack of responsibility [to] drive repeatedly on a suspended license and speed through school zones, and driving knowing he had an exhaust leak going into the passenger cab, those were conscious decisions that were made," Miller said. "And it's really wrong to call it an accident. This is a crime."
Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday morning with the trial starting Wednesday afternoon, according to Miller.