Julio Acevedo, the man charged with vehicular manslaughter in the hit-and-run deaths of a young Orthodox couple and their baby, pleaded not guilty on Thursday, according to the NY Daily News.
Acevedo was initially charged with leaving the scene of a crime and criminal negligent homicide, but a few days ago the Brooklyn District Attorney announced vehicular manslaughter charges as well.
The addition of the three manslaughter counts increased his potential jail time to 15 years; in light of his prior criminal record, however, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Defense attorney Kathleen Julian implied that the added charges were a result of pressure from the Orthodox community.
"We're disappointed with the upgraded charges," Julian said. "Like similar cases in recent events, I hope it's not motivated by public pressure."
The Daily News said Julian was speaking of the exoneration of David Ranta, found guilty in 1990 of killing Chasidic rabbi Chaskel Werzberger. Ranta is being released from prison today. At the time of his arrest, there was a good deal of pressure from Orthodox groups, according to the News.
"It's the same community," Julian noted. "There was public pressure and now that case is falling apart."
In Acevedo's case, the DA's office said they have eyewitnesses who saw Acevedo driving recklessly, more than double the speed limit, and then surveying the damage post-impact before fleeing.
Acevedo is due back in court May 31. A DWI case against him from two weeks prior to the crash has been included in the new case.
When he was arraigned for the DWI, the judge released him without bail and did not take away his license, even though a suspension was mandated by law, the News said.
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