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Mother Of Unlicensed Teen Driver Who Killed 4-Year-Old Lashes Out In Court

The unlicensed teenage driver who fatally struck 4-year-old Ariel Russo on the Upper West Side in 2013 will be tried in court as an adult, with a Manhattan judge offering him a lesser sentence if he pleads guilty to manslaughter.

Franklin Reyes Jr. was 17 years old when he jumped a curb at West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in June 2013, striking the toddler and her grandmother as they stood on the sidewalk. Initially, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro offered to afford him the status of youthful offender, which would have cut his sentence down from five to 15 years in prison to 16 to 18 months in prison. Reyes has been arrested twice since killing Ariel, however, and that deal has since been rescinded.

Prosecutors initially wanted a sentence of 11 to 15 years, if Reyes agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and two assault charges. Carro offered Reyes three to 9 years if he takes a deal. "If the defendant takes responsibility as an adult, I will sentence him to what would amount to a total of three to nine years,” he said in court yesterday.

Reyes's mother, Lilia, reportedly erupted when the potential deal was announced, yelling, "It’s not fair! There is not justice in this country!" and prompting officers to remove her from the courtroom. Ariel's parents, Sofia and Alan Russo, were disturbed by her behavior. "That really upset me that she would say there’s no justice, that it’s not fair," Sofia Russo told the Post. "Who knows better than us that it’s not fair? Our child is dead and hers is alive."

Reyes has 45 days to take the deal; if he refuses, the case will go to trial.

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