The family of the 71-year-old Queens woman killed 10 years ago in a staged car accident said bureaucratic delays have held up justice — and a proposed law to stiffen penalties in such cases.
“It should have passed,” said Daniel Ross, 56, of Bayside. “I don’t want another family to go through what we went through.”
His mother, Alice Ross, died in 2003 when her car was struck in Bellerose by another vehicle.
According to the district attorney, Waurd Demolaire of Brooklyn intentionally rammed his car into hers to collect insurance money under the state’s No-Fault Law. He was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy in 2006 and released on probation last October.
“The perpetrator got off with a very reduced sentence, considering the fact that he murdered my sister,” said Alice’s brother, Don Peters. “Now he’s free to walk the streets of New York again.”
Legislation dubbed Alice’s Law has been proposed in the State Senate and Assembly. Both bills would impose tougher criminal penalties on people who engage in staged accidents. But legislators said failure to compromise on two different versions of the law has stalled the ratification process.
The Assembly wants to classify staging accidents to defraud insurance as a class E felony, the lowest felony offense. It carries a prison sentence of one to five years.
A bill passed in the State Senate would make the crime a class D felony and upgrade it to class B if the accident causes serious injury or death to another person. That could mean a prison sentence of five to more than 25 years.
“It’s continually frustrating that there seems to be a philosophical difference between the State Senate and Assembly,” said State Senator Tony Avella, a cosponsor of the Senate bill. “Increasing penalties for any sort of crime, [the Assembly] just won’t do it.”
Assemblymember David Weprin, a sponsor of the bill in the lower house, said he is optimistic that both houses will reach a compromise and get the legislation passed this year.
The legislature has less than one month to resolve differences and get one bill approved in both houses before the session ends June 20.
Last year, the State Senate passed its bill in March and sent it to the Assembly. But according to records, the Assembly’s amended bill reached the Senate on June 19 — too late for action by the upper house.
Alice’s Law was first proposed in 2007 and has been reintroduced every year since 2010.
“It’s been too long in coming,” said Peters, 78, of Saratoga Springs. “The process has been much too slow. I wish it would become law. I think it would be a very appropriate recognition of that anniversary.”
Daniel Ross showed The Courier a copy of a letter from authorities saying the man responsible for his mother’s untimely death was now free.
“That was murder,” he said. “It could have been anybody’s mother.”
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