Tag Archives: penalties

Maspeth street co-named George Gibbons Jr. Way


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

For the past few years teary eyes and frowns were a familiar sight when talking about the hit-and-run murder of Maspeth resident George Gibbons.

Gibbons, who owned Gibbons Home bar on 69th Street, was killed in a 2011 traffic accident and it took a month-long manhunt to catch his murderer, Peter Rodriguez.

But at a ceremony on Saturday to co-name the street where Gibbons grew up in his honor, there was a different emotion. Smiles and laughter spread throughout the crowd of family members and friends as Gibbon’s father, George Sr., tugged numerous times at the white sheet of paper covering the new street sign, but failed to pull it off. And then, with a big final heave, he jerked the sheet off the brand new George Gibbons Jr. Way sign to a roar of cheers from the audience.

“It’s a very special day for us, we’re very excited,” said Gibbons’ sister Siobhan McEntee. “We hope that this sign will be a reminder to people of a good community leader as well as the importance of traffic laws.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who drafted legislation to get the street co-named, the Gibbons family and more than a 100 friends attended the ceremony to pay tribute to the memory of the late Gibbons, who many said had one of the kindest hearts the world had ever known.

“He was like a brother. He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Tony Kalpin, Gibbons’ friend. “If you’re emotional and you’ve got something on your mind, he was the person you could go and talk to.”

Gibbons was killed on October 15, 2011 when the livery cab he was traveling in was struck by a car that Rodriguez was driving the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway service road. Gibbons was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. But Rodriguez left the scene of the accident and was on the run before he was caught in Connecticut.

Rodriguez was sentenced to three and a half to up to seven years in prison in May 2012 after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime and negligent homicide.

Gibbons’ death brought the Maspeth community together and exposed dangerous loopholes in New York’s traffic laws. Since then the family and Crowley have been fighting to get tougher laws for leaving the scene of a crime.

“We’re just trying to make sure we are strengthening laws,” Crowley said. “[Rodriguez] was a coward and ran away, and had to be caught.”

Gibbon’s bar was closed down temporarily after his death, but reopened under family management. His memory runs through it and now his street sign as well.

“He’s definitely here,” McEntee said. “He’s definitely always around us, we know that.”


 

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Cuomo signs tougher texting-while-driving law


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation into law strengthening texting-while-driving penalties for young and new drivers.

“Statistic after statistic shows that texting-while-driving is a chronic problem in our society, particularly among teenagers, and it will only get worse if we do not take action to prevent this deadly behavior,” said Cuomo. “That is what this law will do: it will make drivers of all ages think twice before taking their eyes off the road to answer a message on their phone.”

The new law will apply to probationary license holders, those who passed their test within the last six months and junior license holders, drivers under 18 who have some license restrictions.

For the first conviction, probationary and junior licenses will be suspended for 60 days. If there is another violation within six months of the license being restored, probationary licenses will be revoked for six months and junior licenses for 60 days.

Those are the same penalties probationary and junior licenses holders receive for speeding and reckless driving.

When Cuomo proposed the legislation, he also directed the state DMV to increase penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers starting the weekend of June 1. He asked the New York State Police to increase enforcement of the texting-while-driving ban during the summer.

Under the order, the DMV increased the number of points earned on a person’s driving record from three to five if they are convicted of texting-while-driving and other cell-phone related violations.

 

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Governor Cuomo announces stricter penalties for driving while texting


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Twitter/@NYGovCuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced new actions to strengthen penalties for texting-while-driving in order to keep all New Yorkers safe on the road.

Effective June 1, Cuomo directed the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish tougher penalties for texting-while-driving for all drivers and new penalties for young and new drivers.

“As the father of three teenagers, I know firsthand the importance of instilling safe practices in our young drivers who are developing lifelong habits as they learn to navigate the road,” said Cuomo. “Inattention and inexperience is a deadly combination – one this legislation seeks to deter. We are urging young and inexperienced drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, while putting stronger penalties in place for drivers of all ages who violate the law and put others in danger. No parent should have to experience losing a child at the hands of a text message.”

Starting this weekend, Cuomo has also asked the New York State Police to increase enforcement of the texting-while-driving ban during the summer.

Under this new order, the DMV will increase the number of points, from three to five points earned on a person’s driving record if they are convicted for texting-while-driving and any other cell-phone related violations.

Cuomo is also proposing legislation that would impose the same penalties on drivers for texting-while-driving that they currently receive for speeding and reckless driving.

Probationary and junior licenses would be suspended for 60 days for the first conviction. If there is another violation within six months of the license being restored, probationary licenses would be revoked for six months and junior licenses for 60 days.

“With the increased use of mobile devices, we have all become more concerned about safety on our highway,” said DMV Commissioner Barbara J. Fiala. “I congratulate Governor Cuomo on his continued efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and for putting increased penalties in place for those who engage in the dangerous behavior of texting while driving.”

10 years after deadly staged accident, family wants Alice’s Law passed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

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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Weprin fined for comptroller campaign violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A state legislator was penalized thousands of dollars after the city determined his run for comptroller was fraught with violations.

According to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Assemblymember David Weprin owes $28,184 in total penalties and $325,561 in public funds repayments for a dozen violations his failed election campaign for comptroller committed in 2009.

The offenses include accepting over-the-limit contributions and donations from corporations and unregistered political committees, the CFB said. The campaign also failed to file daily pre-election disclosure statements, did not provide bank statements and did not report or document transactions and credit card expenditures.

Weprin’s 2009 camp was fined close to $4,000 alone for making improper post-election expenditures and $100 for failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign.

Jen Berkley, a spokesperson for the lawmaker, said the campaign entity and its funds no longer exist after more than three years have passed since the unsuccessful bid.

“This kind of came down to a very small amount of money, not that it shouldn’t be repaid if there is a proper entity to repay it. The issue here is that there is not,” she said. “It’s the downside to an investigation that takes close to four years. We’ll do whatever we can to accommodate and cooperate with the Campaign Finance Board.”

Weprin and his 2009 campaign treasurer are still jointly liable for settling the $28,184 debt for penalties, said CFB spokesperson Eric Friedman, even in the absence of a campaign committee.

The assemblymember will not have to repay the $325,561 in public funds out of pocket, Friedman said, but as long as he has a financial obligation to the CFB, he cannot receive public funds for another citywide election.

“We audit every campaign carefully,” Friedman said. “These are things we take very seriously, and that’s reflected in the results.”

Peter Rodriguez sentenced in death of George Gibbons


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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The trial of the man that killed George Gibbons may have concluded, but friends and family are ensuring that Gibbons’ legacy will live on.

More than 100 supporters, all donning green in solidarity, gathered on the steps of Queens Criminal Court on Monday, May 7 following the sentencing of Peter Rodriguez, who last month pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime and negligent homicide in Gibbons’ death.

“There is not substantial amount of time Peter Rodriguez can serve that will make it any easier for our family to deal with the loss of our dear George,” said his sister Bernadette of Rodriguez’s sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law. The family, along with Councilmember Elizabeth

Crowley, hope Gibbons’ death will be the impetus to lengthen penalties in similar crimes.
“The law needs to be strengthened to penalize those who break it, but right now our system fails to adequately hold criminally negligent-drivers accountable for their actions,” Crowley said. “I will continue to work with the Gibbons family and the Maspeth community to call on the State Assembly to pass and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to sign this important bill.”

The bill, which has passed the Senate, would elevate leaving the scene of a crime in which a death occurred from a class D felony to a class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“We hope that in carrying on George’s tradition of helping others and being an active community member –along with Councilmember Crowley and her office — that in the future if an accident like this were to occur again that we would be able to change the law and make George’s legacy continue on in the future,” Bernadette said. “Maybe with a harsher sentence families will have a little bit more of a content feeling after leaving the courtroom in a situation such as this.”

Gibbons, owner of Gibbons’ Home in Maspeth, was killed on the morning of October 15, 2011 when the cab he was traveling home in was struck by Rodriguez’s vehicle — traveling the wrong way on the Long Island Expressway’s service road.

“I’m not happy about it,” George Gibbons Sr. said of the abbreviated sentence, “but that’s the law and until we can get it changed we’ll have to do with it and come back when [Rodriguez] is up for parole.”