DID USPS KNOW? Driver Who Killed Cyclist Had Long Record of Recklessness Before and After Hiring
The trial of a USPS driver charged in the fatal killing of a cyclist on Central Park West two years ago began on Wednesday with two bombshells: the driver had a long history of reckless driving that his supervisors should have known about — and that his defense hinges on an admission that he never saw the cyclist.
The former postal service worker, 63-year-old Brooklynite Sergei Alekseev is facing a low-level misdemeanor charge and a summons for failing to yield and to exercise due care for fatally striking Jeffrey Williamson at the intersection of W. 86th Street on June 29, 2021.
During the day-long trial — a rare criminal case involving a traffic fatality — Alekseev’s defense attorney blamed Williamson, even though the cyclist had the right of way and was riding in a bike lane that the city considers protected.
Williamson’s widow was shocked and stunned at the arguments made in the Manhattan Criminal Court room.
“At various times the defense attorney said that my husband’s behavior was dangerous and risky,” Christopher Brimer told Streetsblog. “The twisting of reality, the manipulation is quite shocking to me — I suppose it shouldn’t be, but it is.”
The deadly incident wasn’t the first time Alekseev got in trouble for his driving — prosecutors said in open court.
The DA’s office dug up three cases of bad driving from Alekseev’s records dating back two decades, including breaking a red light and making an improper U-turn in 2003, speeding at 80 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone in 2008, and a crash that caused injury and property damage in 2016 — all in Brooklyn.
The first case of reckless driving occurred before Alekseev was hired by the Postal Service in 2006, and the two others occurred while he was working for the national mail system, which finally fired him in 2021 after he hit Williamson. He previously drove large vehicles like school buses and ambulances dating back to 1996, he told the court, but it isn’t clear if the past run-ins with the law happened on the job or not.
He said he had annual safety trainings at the federal agency, which included eight-hour sessions with videos and instructions for safe driving.
Alekseev’s attorney Cyrus Joubin asked Judge Marisol Martinez Alonso to rule the prosecution evidence as inadmissable — and the jurist agreed, saying the records would prejudice the case (though it is a non-jury trial).
Joubin declined to further comment on his client’s driving record to Streetsblog. And USPS spokesperson Xavier Hernandez also declined to comment, citing the litigation against Alekseev, who is now a former USPS employee.
The defendant took the stand Wednesday afternoon in his own defense and claimed he hadn’t seen Williamson, who was riding uptown on his bicycle heading in the green-painted bike lane. Two 30-second videos showed Alekseev was stopped in the furthest right lane of Central Park West before the crash. When the light changed, the trucker was facing a blinking yellow — an indication to yield — and the cyclist had a green.
Nonetheless, the footage showed the trucker turning right, striking Williamson, who had veered in front of the vehicle. The crash caused serious injuries to Williamson’s torso. He died within an hour.
Alekseev told the court he looked in both directions before making the turn, noting that he also waited until another oncoming cyclist — going the wrong way south on the sidewalk — rode through before turning.
“I took every precaution,” said Alekseev in Russian through an interpreter. “Had I seen the cyclist, of course I would have stopped. He was too close, he was in the blind spot.” (Failing to see a person is one of the definitions of failure to exercise due care, legal experts say, but Joubin said the fact that his client waited for the oncoming earlier cyclist and followed other traffic laws showed he wasn’t failing to exercise due care.)
Under cross examination by Assistant District Attorney Candace White, Alekseev repeatedly refused to accept that he hit Williamson, acknowledging only that his truck “made contact” with the cyclist.
He also said he didn’t initially know that he had run him over.
“I thought that probably he had bumped into my truck,” the Brooklynite said.
White noted that truck came equipped with three mirrors with as many different vantage points of the side where Williamson was riding at the time of the crash.
Joubin argued that Williamson was going at a “high rate of speed” and had “a choice” to stop or pivot away from the truck, but a witness debunked part of the narrative. Manhattanite Jordan Carélus testified that Williamson was riding “kinda slow” before the fatal collision.
The court will hear closing arguments Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Centre Street, Jury 2.