No charges against NYC cab driver in 9-year-old's traffic death

Lisa Belkin
Cooper Stock
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Cooper Stock with mother Dana Lerner, sister Giana, father Richard Stock and their family dog, Clark. (Courtesy of the family)

No charges will be filed against the cab driver who hit and killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, whose death has become a rallying point for traffic reform in New York City.

The boy's parents, Dr. Richard Stock and Dana Lerner, say they were told this news during a meeting at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office Wednesday morning, Dana Lerner said.

The circumstances of Cooper’s death – and those of other pedestrians who might have lived had traffic laws and street plans been different – was the subject of a report this morning by Yahoo News: Did Cooper Stock really have to die?

“They told me there is nothing in the law right now that specifies that he can be charged with any crime,” Lerner said, describing the meeting. Under New York law, criminal charges can only be brought if a driver who injures or kills a pedestrian commits two misdemeanors at a time. Because the driver, Koffi Komlani, was charged with “failure to yield” but nothing else, he will face a penalty of up to $300 and three points on his license.
New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission told Yahoo News that Komlani has not driven a taxi since the January 10 incident at 97th Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

“But what people need to understand is that he is permitted to drive and to drive passengers around," Lerner said.  "The laws in New York state which say you can kill someone and not face any real consequences are appalling, and they need to be changed.”
Lerner is a member of Families for Safe Streets, an organization founded after a spate of pedestrian fatalities in New York City. It advocates what's called the "Vision Zero" plan, supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio and many pedestrian advocacy groups and based on a Swedish transportation model that stresses safety over speed and efficiency.

Komlani could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the DA’s office said that the agency does not comment on investigations or charges that are not brought, but did cite Chief Assistant District Attorney Karen Friedman Agnifilo’s testimony before the New York City Council in February: "It can be difficult for people to understand why a crash that seriously injures or kills someone is not always a crime. The reality is that often these cases do not meet the complicated legal requirements for criminal charges."

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has proposed several legislative changes that would simplify that legal threshold. Among them is holding "vehicular homicides ... to the same standard as all homicides."