NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The man accused of intentionally mowing down pedestrians in Times Square has pleaded not guilty.
Richard Rojas, 26, was arraigned Thursday on murder and attempted murder charges.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, Rojas appeared sheepish. He mostly looked down at the defense table during his court appearance. He spoke only to tell the judge good morning; his lawyer entered the plea.
Police say Rojas steered his SUV onto a sidewalk at 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue and hit the gas. The May 18 rampage killed 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, a tourist from Michigan, and injured 22 other people.
Rojas told police after his arrest that he had been smoking marijuana laced with the hallucinogenic drug PCP, according to a criminal complaint. He said he wanted to “kill them all” and police should have shot him to stop him, prosecutors said.
The mother of one of the victims, high school student Jessica Williams who was badly injured, sat in court and cried during the brief hearing with two others, including a man who gave Rojas the finger as he left court.
Williams was so badly injured that she missed her high school graduation last month. Her mother accepted her diploma for her, and spent Thursday’s hearing alternating between crying and making angry gestures at Rojas.
Rojas’ attorney said outside court it was a “terrible thing that happened.”
“We live in a civilized society so we have to do the best we can and what we do for this man will show us what kind of society we are,” said defense attorney Enrico DeMarco.
Demarco said his client’s state of mind at the time could become a foundation of his defense.
“At this point it’s too early, but yes, of course,” he said.
Rojas has several prior criminal cases. Two weeks before the crash he had pleaded guilty to harassment in the Bronx after he was accused of pulling a knife on a notary in his home.
Rojas is scheduled to be back in court in October.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)