NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The family of a 72-year-old pedestrian seriously injured in a hit-and-run wants to know why the 25-year-old driver of the car involved was allowed to go home with a ticket while the victim was being treated at a trauma center.
On October 19, 5:19 p.m., Geraldine Sinceno was hit by a car on North Avenue and 5th Avenue while walking in a crosswalk. She suffered multiple injuries and was admitted to the trauma unit at Jacobi Hospital.
Sinceno has since undergone surgery for her injuries. She remains in a nursing facility recovering, but has suffered several setbacks in recent weeks that have delayed scheduled rehab, according to family members.
The car involved in the accident did not stop, according to court filings. A woman and two other drivers who witnessed the incident chased the car and blocked it in until police arrived, Sinceno's attorney, Lauren Raysor, told Patch.
The driver, identified as Gillian Getlan, was apprehended but not arrested, according to Raysor. Instead, she was let go and only issued a desk appearance ticket. Raysor contends that the driver should have been arrested, fingerprinted and possibly tested for drug or alcohol intoxication, but was instead released with only a summons.
The family is now calling on Westchester DA Miriam Rocah to not only investigate the circumstances that led to Sinceno being hit by the car, but also the way police handled the situation afterwards. In this case, family members say the driver accused of fleeing and leaving the elderly woman seriously hurt in the street was treated with kid gloves, while in the meantime, their loved one's life will never be the same.
"Over 40 days have passed by, and we are hoping that this case can now be thoroughly investigated," Raysor said. "Likened to the Ahmaud Arbery case, we are seeking to determine if there has been political favoritism and obstruction of justice which delayed the swift prosecution of this matter. If there are any conflicts of interest that emerge, then a Special Prosecutor must be appointed by New York Governor Kathy Hochul."
The family asked members of the community to "pack the courtroom" as a show of support during Getlan's arraignment on Thursday morning. The family is also supporting a Change.org petition, calling for an independent investigation.
Raysor, pointing out that Sinceno has been a "pillar of the community" and served as a registered nurse for more than 20 years, publicly asked the DA to personally be in the courtroom.
“She worked very hard caring for those who were seriously ill or dying, even when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred,” Raysor said. “It is only right that she and her family get the justice that they deserve. The family asks that you appear in court on December 9, 2021 to support Geraldine Sinceno.”
While Rocah was not on hand during court proceedings, prosecutors elevated the charges to felony leaving the scene of an accident, resulting in serious physical injury. Asked if she believed public pressure influenced the decision to charge Getlan with a felony, Raysor would only say that the family was "pleased that the justice system appears to be working."
For their part, prosecutors explained the new charges were based on the seriousness of Sinceno's injuries and the fact that she required surgery.
"Getlan was initially charged with Leaving the Scene of an Incident Without Reporting, and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket as is required under the New York State Criminal Procedure Law," District Attorney Rocah's office said in part, in a statement issued on Thursday. "After receiving medical records, the charge was elevated because of the extent of the injuries the victim sustained. Getlan is scheduled to appear again in New Rochelle City Court on December 23, 2021. As this matter is ongoing, we will have no further comment at this time."
Raysor categorized the move as a "prosecutorial decision."
Raysor said that there remain questions that need to be answered and those questions will hang over the case until a transparent investigation is conducted. She said rather than attempting to pressure officials, the organizing of public support was the family's way of showing that the community is united in its desire for justice and fairness.
"Look, there are racial issues that are hard to escape," Raysor said. "The victim is Black. The driver was white. They were undeniably treated differently, but New Rochelle is coming together to ask for justice — for fairness. The woman who jumped — jumped — out her car to help Geraldine and stay with her after the accident was white. The strangers who chased down the driver and wouldn't let her escape her responsibility were all different races."
"Everyone involved wants this family treated fairly."
This article was updated to include an official statement issued by Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah.