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Teen Charged In Hit-And-Run Death Of Ariel Russo Could Accept Plea Deal

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The teen driver charged in the hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old girl on the Upper West Side last year appeared in court Wednesday.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, a judge will soon decide whether Franklin Reyes, 18, should get off with a lighter sentence.

Reyes is accused of fatally running down little Ariel Russo while fleeing from police in June 2013. Authorities said Reyes was driving a sport utility vehicle, had only a learner’s permit and was being chased by police just prior to the crash.

Ariel died after the SUV jumped a curb on Amsterdam Avenue at 97th Street while the she was walking to school with her grandmother.

Prosecutor Asks For No Leniency For Franklin Reyes

ariel Teen Charged In Hit And Run Death Of Ariel Russo Could Accept Plea Deal
Peter Haskell reports

Reyes was offered a reduced sentence by a judge last week, CBS 2 reported.

“This is a tough time,” said the toddler’s father, Alan Russo. “We’re miserable. It’s very hard coming to court, and we have to come back next week. I can’t explain it.”

For Alan and Sophia Russo, it has been a year of agonizing pain since Ariel was killed.

“I want him to pay,” Alan Russo said. “I want him to pay for what he did.”

As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, a judge was ready to hear whether Reyes was ready to accept court-offered “youthful offender status.” It would give him a plea deal of 16 months to four years.

But prosecutors and the family objected to the deal, since Reyes has since been charged in a theft case.

“He shouldn’t get it. He really shouldn’t get it,” Alan Russo said.

Last month, Reyes and his father were charged with looting an apartment where the father worked as the superintendent.

Police alleged the father-son duo swiped $2,000 worth of jewelry, cash and electronics from a tenant who had died of brain cancer.

In court Wednesday, Reyes’ attorney said the theft charge was bogus.

The judge said he will now wait for the grand jury in the latest case before he decides if Reyes can maintain his “youthful offender status” and avoid a long prison term.

Ariel’s family said Reyes deserves the maximum penalty of five to 15 years in prison.

“There has to be a message to other youth in this city that if they commit a crime with a horrific act such as this, that there’s going to be the proper sentence to pay,” said Russo family attorney Scott Rynecki.

Reyes’ defense attorney, Martin Schmukler, declined to comment on the proposed “youthful offender” sentence of 16 months to four years.

“You know, I’m not the judge,” Schmukler said.

But Schmukler said either way, his client will pay.

“Youthful offender status or not, it’s no fun to go to jail and that seems to be what he’s facing,” he said.

The judge will rule on Reyes’ status and bail on Aug. 6.

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