Judge Faults Police for Delays in Providing Records of Fatal Accident
By HANNAH MIET
A judge criticized the police on Friday for dragging their feet in releasing records and reports to the family of a cyclist who was fatally struck by a truck in Brooklyn last year, saying the department had "needlessly delayed" handing over documents.
The family of the cyclist, Mathieu Lefevre, sued the police in January, three months after his death, alleging that the police had illegally denied their request for records about the collision, for which the driver who struck Mr. Lefevre received only routine traffic summonses. Mr. Lefevre's case became a rallying cry for traffic-safety advocates who have urged stronger penalties against drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians.
Eventually, though, in April, the police complied with the family's requests for information, so their suit became moot, and the judge, Peter H. Moulton of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, dismissed it in his ruling on Friday -- but not before chiding the police.
While some delays were inevitable consequences of the investigation, Justice Moulton wrote, there was "no adequate explanation" for others, like the department's difficulty in finding officers' log books containing relevant information.
"While these delays in production were longer than necessary, and were no doubt more than agonizing to petitioners, the N.Y.P.D.'s records have now been produced," he wrote.
Mr. Lefevre, 30, an artist who had moved to Brooklyn from Canada, was riding his bicycle at the intersection of Meserole and Morgan streets in East Williamsburg in the early hours of Oct. 19, 2011, when he was hit by a turning truck that had not signaled and did not stop after striking him, the police found. He died instantly.
The driver, Leonardo Degianni, was issued two traffic summonses, one for failure to signal and another for failure to exercise due care. But Mr. Lefevre's family sought to have Mr. Degianni charged with fleeing the scene or with criminal negligence.
Steve Vaccaro, the Lefevre family's lawyer, said he hoped the judge's criticism would affect future investigations. "We are hopeful that N.Y.P.D. will take Judge Moulton's criticism to heart and end its policy of needlessly stonewalling crash victims' families who seek to learn the truth about the death of their loved one," he said.