There are a number of reasons to be upset about the fact that Marlon Sewell, the driver who killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus on December 6 in Fort Greene while she was walking with her boyfriend in the very center of the sidewalk, is free without bail. But if you need another reason to be upset, how about this? Sewell hasn’t even had his license suspended because, per the words of Criminal Court Judge Marguerite Dougherty on Monday, since his car has already been impounded, no further action needs to be taken.
Now you might be wondering to yourself, Am I misremembering or didn’t I read that Sewell’s license had been suspended? Yes! You did. According to both public records and DNAinfo, not only was Sewell’s license suspended at the time of the crash, but also he was arrested in March 2015 for driving without a license; he has been caught speeding multiple times through school zones (three times in November alone, the month be fore he killed Nicodemus); and he had tallied six sticker violations in the three month period before the crash.
And yet, his license was reinstated between the time when he killed Nicodemus and when he stood before judge Marguerite Dougherty, who said that because Sewell’s license was suspended at the time of the crash not because of reckless driving, but because he’d failed to pay child support, it should remain reinstated.
Plus, Dougherty claims prosecutors had not made a strong enough case that Sewell was, in fact, driving recklessly—even though he struck Nicodemus while she was in the middle of a quiet sidewalk—when he killed Nicodemus, even though surveillance video of the incident seems to indicate that he was. (Sewell’s defense was that he was high from a carbon monoxide leak.) And the final kicker: Prosecutors have already impounded the car, “so it negates the necessity” of suspending Sewell’s license, says the judge.
Under this logic, any person proven to be historically dangerous to public well-being—and on a regular basis at that—should not be penalized if they don’t currently have access to the thing that, historically, allows them to hurt people. And even though there is a law under Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which makes failing to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way (as Nicodemus certainly did in the middle of the sidewalk) a misdemeanor, this has also not led to further charges against Sewell.
So here’s what we’re looking at: A case in which both the law and the court are giving a tacit wink and nod to a man who has repeatedly transgressed the system that they are charged with upholding. That’s weird and frightening. And, this is all too standard, according to an investigation by DNAinfo, which found that, of 205 cases that resulted in bicyclists or pedestrian death by drivers across the city, only 31 were charged under Vision Zero law in the past two years; only 14 of those drivers were arrested.
As Transportation Alternative‘s Caroline Samponaro told DNAinfo of Vision Zero law, “It’s not being applied as often as it should be and not having the desired affect.” Sounds to me like it’s time for some new laws.