DA Ken Thompson Still Hasn’t Charged Driver for December Sidewalk Killing
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged the driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Fort Greene sidewalk with unlicensed driving, but did not file charges for taking the victim’s life. Six months after the crash, Nicodemus’s family says the DA is dragging his feet on the case.
Marlon Sewell hit Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person with a Chevrolet SUV on the afternoon of December 6, 2015, as the victims walked in front of 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue. Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. An NYPD statement said Sewell swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting a second vehicle, which witnesses said was a bus.
“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”
Victoria Nicodemus was 30 years old.
The current charges against Sewell are aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, a traffic infraction. For crashing on a sidewalk reportedly at a high rate of speed, killing one person and injuring two others, allegedly while driving without a valid license, Sewell faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. That’s the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling.
“It seems to my family that they’re really beginning to be OK with just standing pat on the misdemeanor charges, and for us that’s unacceptable,” says Hank Miller, Nicodemus’s brother.
Miller told Streetsblog he is appreciative of the work Assistant District Attorney David Pan has done on the case. However, Miller says Thompson is reluctant to take the case to a grand jury.
Whether or not prosecutors win a conviction, Nicodemus’s family wants Thompson to pursue more serious charges against Sewell. “We want him to push this,” says Miller, “to go out on a limb a little bit.”
Among New York City district attorneys, Thompson is considered a leader when it comes to street safety. But he has a history of declining to file charges against drivers who kill people, even when the victims are struck on the sidewalk. Curb-jumping motorists have killed at least eight people in Brooklyn since Thompson took office in 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Of the six cases where the driver remained at the scene and was not fleeing police, Thompson filed no charges for taking a life.
Nicodemus’s family has posted an online petition calling on Thompson to, “at a minimum,” bring the case before a grand jury for a full investigation of the crash. The petition had some 1,500 signatures at this writing.
“We want Ken Thompson and his office to be courageous, to take a stand and protect people in Brooklyn, whether they’re crossing the street or on the damn sidewalk,” Miller says. “I expect prosecutors and DAs across the city to take this issue more seriously.”