In June, a 17-year-old driver who was fleeing police careened up onto an Upper West Side sidewalk, pinning a 4-year-old girl and her grandmother against the side of a building. The girl, Ariel Russo, subsequently died, while her grandmother survived with serious injuries. The teen, Franklin Reyes, is about to to go on trial for manslaughter, but during a court appearance yesterday, his lawyer suggested that it's really a pothole that should be on trial.
Reyes's defense attorney Martin Schmukler told the judge that he needed more time to prepare for the trial because he was still waiting on records regarding pothole repairs at the intersection—repairs that he believes were made after the fatal crash. Outside the courtroom, Schmukler told reporters, "If the vehicle went over a pothole it would explain how it got out of control."
Reyes faces a maximum prison sentence of 5-to-15 years on charges of manslaughter, assault, driving without a license, leaving the scene of the accident and fleeing police. Sofia Russo, the girl's mother, told reporters, “I feel really frustrated that he's trying to blame a pothole. He seems like the type of person to put the blame everywhere else except” on himself.
The Russos are suing the city for $40 million, alleging that problems with 911 delayed the EMS response time—over four minutes passed between the time of the first 911 call and when the ambulance was dispatched. The FDNY claimed it was human error, because a dispatcher went off shift and missed the message, but the EMS union head Israel Miranda blamed the city's 911 system, which has a history of glitches.