If you've seen the horrifying video of an SUV driver recklessly turning into a 3-year-old girl as she crossed a Flushing street with her grandmother, you may wonder why the man who killed her is still driving around, sans consequences. Even the two traffic tickets he was issued—failure to yield and careless driving—were dismissed by the DMV. Here, let Queens Assistant DA Charles A. Testagrossa explain in this letter to City Councilmember Peter Koo:
As you know, the accident occurred as Allison crossed Main Street in a crosswalk with her grandmother. The motorist who struck her had a valid driver’s license and a green light to make a left turn. The driver remained on the scene and waited for police to arrive. The driver was administered two breathalyzer tests (PBTs) on the scene and the results of the test did not rise to the level of impairment. In fact, the PBT readings were such that, pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Sect. 1195(2)(b), they were “prima facie evidence that the ability of such person to operate a motor vehicle was not impaired by the consumption of alcohol and that such person was not in an intoxicated condition.” Additionally, there was no evidence of excessive speed or phone usage at the time of the collision.
This Office takes very seriously it’s [sic] responsibility to investigate and prosecute drivers whose criminal conduct results in death or serious injury on the roadways of Queens County. There are occasions as in this matter, however, when accidents occur which are not the result of criminality.
Streetsblog obtained a full copy of the letter. Liao's father's attorney Steve Vaccaro tells the website that Brown could have charged the driver, Abu-Zayedeh, with misdemeanor reckless driving, which state law classifies as a driver operating a vehicle "in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway."
The victim, Allison Liao, and her grandmother (who was also injured), had the right of way and were in the crosswalk when struck, as this graphic video shows:
At a press conference last week, Liao told us, "There's a whole feeling that [prosecutors] are on the driver's side. If it's a hit-and-run or a DWI, they will prosecute. Beyond that, if someone drives recklessly, they don't want to do anything. The driver killed my daughter, but the District Attorney was searching for reasons to defend him, saying, 'Maybe the driver had a blind spot?' There's a feeling of being victimized multiple times. First my child died, then they tell us it's not the driver's fault, then, by the way, the little tickets that were given out? They're going to be dismissed. It's multiple layers of pain every time."
“Richard Brown has betrayed the trust of the families who elected him by acquiescing in an interpretation of VTL 1212 [the reckless driving statute], adopted by some judges, that nullifies the plain meaning of the language,” Vaccaro told Streetsblog. “We expect leadership from our elected officials, including prosecutors, and have gotten none from District Attorney Richard Brown on the Liao case.”