Judge Declines to Dismiss Criminal Charge Against MTA Driver
A Queens judge has refused to dismiss a criminal charge against a bus driver accused of striking and killing a pedestrian, adding that he disagreed with a fellow Queens judge's recent ruling that the law creating the penalty is unconstitutional.
According to court papers, in November 2014, Curtis Green was driving a bus for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and, while turning right on Northern Boulevard in Queens, allegedly struck Edward Cohen as he crossed the street. Cohen later died of his injuries.
Green was charged with violating Administrative Code §19-190, or the Right of Way Law, enacted as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian deaths.
The law made the failure to exercise due care by motorists who strike pedestrians or cyclists and cause injury— previously a traffic violation—into the equivalent of a class B misdemeanor.
In a July 27 ruling in People v. Green, 2015QN000650, Queens Criminal Court Judge Ernest Hartrejected Green's arguments that the law violates his due process rights and that the term "due care" is unconstitutionally vague, finding that failure of due care is a culpable mental state that would violate Vehicle and Traffic Law §1146.
Hart's ruling clashes with Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris' June 24 finding in People v. Sanson, 2015QN008701, that the law's application of a civil tort negligence standard—rather than a culpable mens rea, which is typically required in criminal cases—is unconstitutional on its face.
Hart also rejected Green's arguments that the Right of Way Law is preempted by the state's Public Authorities Law, which governs MTA conduct.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Markel appeared for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown's Office.
Harriet Wong, an associate with Armienti, DeBellis, Guglielmo & Rhoden, represented Green.