The timeline in the case of the cop arrested for mowing down a Brooklyn woman early Sunday while allegedly drunk gets more curious as the days pass.
Officer Andrew Kelly was arrested on manslaughter and drunken driving charges after his car struck and killed pedestrian Vionique Valnord, 32, in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn. He had allegedly been drinking earlier in the evening.
Kelly refused a breathalyzer test at the scene. And his blood was not tested until more than 7 hours after the accident. Not surprisingly, the blood test showed no trace of alcohol in his system.
“It sounds like people are falling down on the job all along the way,” says Dino Lombardi, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor. “That’s way too long…”
“Even if they have to get a warrant, it usually takes much less time,” says lawyer Julia Kuan, who has represented drunken driving defendants.
Alcohol metabolizes quickly in the blood, so the long delay probably cost prosecutors powerful evidence in their case against Kelly.
Let’s look at the timeline and the questions that it raises:
The accident took place at 12:41 a.m. Kelly refuses the breath test, and reportedly tells investigators that he would have to be tied down before he would take a blood test.
To force a blood test, you need a warrant from a judge. You have to go through the district attorney’s office to get one.
But police didn’t call the Kings County DA’s office to seek the warrant until 2 a.m., well over an hour after they knew that Kelly was not going to cooperate with the testing.
It took the DA’s office until 5:30 a.m.–three-and-a-half hours–to call a judge to get the warrant.
What were prosecutors doing during that time? Well, a source says they had to verify details of the incident, interview a supervising police officer and two witnesses.
Judge Joseph Gubbay authorized the test verbally at 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., 30 minutes later, the DA’s office faxed the warrant to the precinct. Yes, Kelly was still at the precinct.
Observers have questioned why Kelly was not taken to the hospital earlier in preparation for the test.
Inexplicably, another hour elapsed at the precinct before he was put in a squad car and taken to Kings County Hospital. Why that delay? That’s still unclear.
Kelly arrived at the hospital at 7:08 a.m. But he wasn’t tested until 8:02 a.m., yet another hour. The reason? Even though law enforcement had the warrant, doctors mistakenly believed they needed Kelly’s consent to test him. He wasn’t cooperating, so it took another round of calls by cops and prosecutors to convince the hospital to perform the test.
The timeline, says Dino Lombardi, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor, raises a series of questions. Why did it take an hour for police to seek the warrant when they already had a dead victim and a cop under arrest who was refusing to be tested? Why did it take more than three hours for the District Attorney’s office to get the warrant?
“If the officers making the arrest promptly communicated to the DA’s office, I can’t understand how the DA’s office would not be able to obtain awarrant within an hour,” Lombardi says. “If he’s refusing breath test, then the police have reason to know they have a dicey situation here, so i’ve got to think that they are connecting with the DA’s office on this very early in the process.”
“The DA’s office doesn’t need a police officer to give them the green light,” Lombardi adds. “It doesn’t pass the laugh to test that you need a supervising cop to verify details. You have a homicide. What confirmation do you need with these facts? It makes no sense.”
Why didn’t cops move Kelly to the hospital much sooner, so he was already in position when the warrant came through? Why did cops wait an hour before moving him to the hospital?
“It sounds to me like they should have had him at the hospital, so when they got the court order, they could hit the ground running,” Lombardi says. “The cops can bring him anywhere that is legally appropriate, in anticipation. Why aren’t they taking him to KCH?”
NYPD Internal Affairs detectives are probing whether cops tried to delay the investigation.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 2, 2009