Conflicting Statements Open Cop’s Trial
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE
Thursday, March 11, 2004
By: SAM DOLNICK
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
On the first day of the trial of a Staten Island police officer accused of driving drunk and fatally injuring a 21-year old motorcycle rider in Brooklyn, a friend who was riding with the victim testified the off-duty cop ran a red light, causing the crash.
Thomas Blanchett, 22, testifying yesterday in Brooklyn Supreme Court, said Victor Wilson of Livingston sped through a red light at the corner of 88th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway in Bay Ridge, hitting Stefanos Kiladitis and launching him into the air.
Wilson, a Davis Court resident assigned for several years to the North Shore’s 120th Precinct, is charged with vehicular manslaughter and negligent homicide in the June 19, 2002 crash. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Blanchett testified that he and Kiladitis of Bay Ridge were riding motorcycles on Fort Hamilton Parkway, as they had done many times before, when the accident occurred.
After the crash, Blanchett said he rushed over to Wilson, who was driving a 1995 Chrysler Cirrus, yelling, “You ran a red light! You ran a red light! What’s wrong with you?”
Blanchett said he was confident Kiladitis had a green light because he noticed the pedestrian walk signal. He said Kiladitis accelerated as he approached the intersection and saw the light change to green.
DISAGREES WITH CLAIM
However, Blanchett, who had to be asked repeatedly to speak more slowly and louder during his testimony, did not support the prosecution claim that Wilson was drunk. Wilson did not appear intoxicated and did not smell of alcohol, he said.
Wilson, a 12-year veteran of the Police Department, registered a .11 percent blood alcohol level in a field sobriety test about 90 minutes after the crash, prosecutors said. The legal limit at the time was .10 percent.
But Wilson’s lawyer, Todd Greenberg, said the accident was actually caused by Kiladitis, whom he said was speeding and driving recklessly.
“How would Mr. Wilson know that three young men are using a public residential street in Brooklyn as a raceway for Ninja motorcycles at that particular moment?” Greenberg asked the jury in his opening statement.
The prosecution has admitted that Kiladitis was speeding Ð going more than 50 mph Ð when Wilson allegedly hit him, but maintains the officer caused the accident.
Wilson was on his way home from bowling at Mark Lanes, where he bowled every week, when the accident occurred, Greenberg said. The lawyer promised to call to the stand people who’d bowled with Wilson that night, and who would testify the officer was not drunk when he got in his car to leave.
During Greenberg’s argument that Kiladitis caused his own death, the victim’s mother, Kalliopi Kiladitis, dressed in black and seated with her family in the second row of the courtroom, sobbed and covered her face with her hands.
Before the trial, Kiladitis’ father, also dressed in black, discussed the family’s ordeal. “It’s been very hard for us. It’s been 21 months and he was 21 years old, but as long as justice is served, we will be fine,” said Eletherios Kiladitis.
“Steven is dead because on the night of June 19, 2002, he had the misfortune to run into a driver who was under the influence of alcohol,” said Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Joseph Petrosino in the prosecution’s opening remarks. “That driver is sitting right there,” he added, referring to Wilson, dressed in a brown suit and seated at the defense table.
The prosecution also called to the stand Cara Correa, 34, who witnessed the accident. Ms. Correa had moved into an apartment near 88th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway three days before the crash occurred, she said.
She was double-parked on Fort Hamilton Parkway at around 10:30 p.m. unpacking her car, when she heard motorcycles approaching. The light was green as Kiladitis passed her, but she could not be sure if it had changed by the time he reached the intersection, Ms. Correa said.
The prosecution planned to call to the stand today several police officers who responded to the accident scene.
Sam Dolnick is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at [email protected].