Last month, two members of Gov. Cuomo’s state security team with the NYS Police were involved in car accidents with pedestrians on consecutive days in Mount Kisco. First, on January 18, 2012, Dolce Perez, 22, was stuck as she was crossing Main Street by a vehicle operated by Sgt. Joseph Crispino as he was attempting to turn left from Maple Avenue onto Main Street. Ms. Perez was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, reportedly with a skull fracture. She was quoted as follows: I remember walking across the street, the light at the intersection was red and I had a walk sign, and then the car must have hit me because the next thing I remember is I woke up in the hospital.” According to a State Police spokesperson, they are still investigating the fault of this first accident.
Then, the following day, on January 19, 2012, 50 year old Jeronimo Ardon-Perez was crossing North Bedford Road (Route 117) when he was struck by a vehicle operated by State Police Investigator Gregory Panzarella. In both pedestrian accidents, the troopers were off duty and alone in their unmarked vehicles. In this second auto accident, the state police spokesperson claims that Mr. Ardon-Perez “crossed into the front” of Panzarella’s unmarked 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix, and that the vehicle “clearly was operating within the right of way.” Mr. Perez (no relation to the fist victim) was also taken to Westchester Medical Center with serious head injuries and injuries to his legs.
The State Police reconstruction unit is investigating both accidents, which certainly begs the question as to whether there is a conflict of interest in the investigation. In my own experience, I have had cases in which local police officers were involved in accidents, and the investigation was referred to the State Police to avoid the conflict of having the same police agency “Investigate its own.” The State Police spokesperson noted that: “It is customary for us to handle our own accidents, regardless of where they happen…we are a close to 5,000 person agency, with different groups that handle different matters, and we are able to separate investigations from the groups that are involved.”
Both of the troopers are on duty and no sobriety tests were given to either. The State Police deny that there is any significance to the fact that these two accidents happened in such close proximity in time and location.
There are regulations under the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law which control the right of way at an intersection and the rights of both pedestrians and drivers of motor vehicles. Specifically, under section 1111 of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, if a pedestrian is within a crosswalk with the green light, the pedestrian has the right of way and all vehicles must yield to that pedestrian. Conversely, if the pedestrian is attempting to cross in an intersection without a traffic signal, under 1151 of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, the pedestrian is only permitted to cross if the vehicle is not “so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.”
Thus, in determining fault in these two cases, the issues will be: Were Dolce Perez and Jeronimo Ardon-Perez within a crosswalk? Was there a traffic control signal? Was the traffic signal green for them? If there was no traffic control signal, was there sufficient time for the troopers to have stopped their vehicles?
We will monitor the investigation of these two cases and report further on any developments.