A New York driver who ran over and killed a 3-year-old girl will receive no punishment, a city judge decided after a 47-second hearing. That has caused some to sound alarm bells that changes need to be made to the way the Department of Motor Vehicles handles such cases.
The accident happened last year as little Allison Liao was crossing a busy intersection with her grandmother, Chin Hua. The girl was holding her grandmother’s hand, they were in a crosswalk and crossing with a green light, when a black Nissan SUV made a left turn and plowed into them.
The impact knocked Hua to the ground and sucked young Allison under the vehicle, killing her.
As WNYC reports, the whole thing was caught on video, by a dashboard camera on a passing vehicle.
The driver of the Nissan, 44-year-old Ahmed Abu-Zayedeh, was written two tickets: one for failure to yield to a pedestrian and another for failure to use due care. Because a breathalyzer test showed that he had not been drinking, the Queens District Attorney declined to file any criminal charges, according to The Huffington Post.
In July the two traffic tickets were thrown out of court after a hearing that lasted less than a minute. The reason given was that there was no officer present to witness the accident. In an audio recording of the hearing, the judge asks if there is a video tape but quickly declares the driver not guilty before the responding officer has a chance to answer.
Unnamed state officials say that is all perfectly legal, because it was up to the police to state their case if they wanted to make one. But police sources reportedly told WNYC that they have been complaining to the DMV for a long time that it is wrong to require “personal observation” in cases where someone was killed.
Although the DMV will hold a special hearing to determine if Abu-Zayedeh’s license should be revoked, it said it had no authority to press for criminal charges.
Allison’s father, Hsi-Pei Liao, has retained a lawyer for a civil suit against Abu-Zayedeh. He said he would have been at the traffic court hearing but was never notified of the date. When he and his lawyer met with the driver for a scheduled deposition earlier this month, Liao said it was the first time he learned the man had been cleared of even the traffic violations.
“I just ended up putting my head down, shaking, asking how could this happen,” he said. “There’s so much evidence that’s there. What irritates even more — the driver still believes that it was not his fault whatsoever.”
Supporters of Liao have reportedly begun calling for embattled DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala to be replaced.
Liao did get to meet with representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration recently. They agreed to at least review the way the DMV handles summonses for traffic hearings when a fatality is involved. The officials declined to comment on any other aspect of the matter because Abu-Zayedeh’s license revocation is still pending.