NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The mother of the teen driver charged in the hit-and-run death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo was escorted out of court Wednesday after making an outburst in which she begged for mercy for her son.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the emotional scene came after the judge increased bail for Franklin Reyes, 18, and set a trial date, postponing, at the very least, a plea deal that would have reduced his maximum prison sentence to four years and eventually expunged the conviction from his record.
“He’s innocent. He’s a kid,” said the mother, Lilia Reyes.
“Have mercy. He was only 17. Have mercy on him please.”
Reyes is accused of fatally running down Ariel while fleeing from police on the Upper West Side in June 2013.
Ariel died after the sport-utility vehicle jumped a curb on Amsterdam Avenue at 97th Street while she was walking to school with her grandmother.
As 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported, the judge is mulling over the defense attorney’s application for youthful offender status, which would reduce Reyes’ sentence to 16 months to four years. He could face up to 15 years in prison if he’s tried as an adult.
But prosecutors and Ariel’s family objected to the deal. In June, Reyes and his father were charged with looting an apartment where the father worked as the superintendent, putting a possible plea deal in jeopardy.
“It’s the people’s application that the court not grant the youthful offender status and the defendant be remanded,” prosecutor Vera Varshavsky told the judge Wednesday in Manhattan Criminal Court.
Outside court, Ariel’s mother, Sophia Russo, was struggling to make sense of the latest drama in a tragedy that has torn two families.
“I’m still in shock over his mother’s outburst today,” Sophia Russo said. “I can’t believe that she would say, ‘My son is innocent. He’s just a kid. Have mercy on him.’ I can’t believe that she would say that to me because her child is still alive, and I had to see my child just laying dead on a hospital stretcher.”
Sanford Rubenstein, the Russos’ attorney, said the judge should not go easy on Reyes, WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reported.
“A defendant who’s out on bail who now commits another crime should not get youthful offender treatment,” he said.
A trial date for Reyes has been set for Sept. 24.
Reyes’ attorney said his client’s family will have to struggle to pay his $50,000 bail.
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