A driver who hit and killed two children crossing a Park Slope Street faces up to 15 years in prison, after a grand jury indicted the woman on reckless manslaughter charges for ignoring doctors’ orders to stay off the road due to her history of seizures.
Dorothy Bruns knew full well not to get behind the wheel on March 5, according to a prosecutor for the district attorney, who said that if she listened to her physician, 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and 1-year-old Joshua Lew would be alive today.
“This tragic incident was foreseeable, judge, and it was avoidable,” said Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein. “She is the last person that should have been in a car, but … she continued to drive, and unfortunately two families lost children because of the defendant’s selfishness.”
Prosecutors allege Bruns suffered her first seizure months before the horrific crash, when she felt her left side go numb while driving in her home borough of Staten Island on Jan. 8 and started convulsing at a hospital there later that day, Esswein said.
Two days after that, a neurologist told Bruns she could not drive in her condition, according to the prosecutor, who claimed doctors warned her to stay off the road on multiple occasions leading up to the childrens’ death.
But Bruns ignored those orders and routinely returned to the driver’s seat, behavior that prosecutors allege led to her Jan. 20 fender bender in Staten Island, according to Esswein, who said she fled the scene of that minor collision to avoid facing police.
And less than two months later, Bruns climbed behind the wheel of a white Volvo sedan and plowed into the children on Ninth Street after running a red light at Fifth Avenue, killing the youngsters and injuring three others, including their mothers — one of whom is pregnant, Tony Award–winning actress Ruthie Ann Miles, whose unborn baby survived the deadly crash.
Investigators with the district attorney’s office interviewed multiple witnesses to the collision, several of whom claimed Bruns exhibited symptoms of some sort of illness during and immediately following the incident.
A woman who told investigators that Bruns almost hit her as she crossed Ninth Street at the same time as the victims said the driver “appeared to be stiff” and her “head was looking up and her back was arched” as the car barreled through the intersection, according to Esswein.
And a nearby off-duty cop — who rushed to the scene after he heard loud noises coming from the crosswalk — described Bruns as “foaming at the mouth” when he found her inside her vehicle, the prosecutor claimed.
Paramedics told investigators that Bruns suffered a seizure after the crash while inside an ambulance taking her for treatment at Lutheran Medical Center, where a second seizure struck her upon arrival, according to Esswein.
Bruns’s attorney David Jacobs, however, argued doctors cleared his client to drive before she slammed into the kids in Park Slope — and told Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun he has a letter to prove it.
The missive from Bruns’s physician states she was fit to resume her work for a company that provides specialty phones for the deaf, Clear Captions — a job Jacobs claimed the doctor knew would require his client to use a vehicle in order to transport the “heavy” phones, according to the lawyer.
“Without driving, she would be no use to Clear Captions. The neurologist knew that and wrote her a letter that clearly, in plain English, said she could resume all prior functions,” Jacobs said. “Understanding that, she drove on the date of what can only be described as a horrific accident.”
Essewein pushed Chun to set Bruns’s bail at $100,000, claiming her January hit-and-run made her a flight risk. But Jacobs countered that his client should be spared from a Rikers Island cell because of her health, and asked she be placed on house arrest for the duration of the trial instead.
Chun ultimately split the difference, setting bail at $75,000 bond and $25,000 cash.
Bruns, a mother herself, has never been convicted of a felony, according to Jacobs, and could potentially avoid any prison time if convicted through a conditional discharge, according to a spokesman for the district attorney — who in February charged a motorist suffering from multiple sclerosis with reckless manslaughter after his condition allegedly caused him to fatally collide with a man on an East Flatbush street last year.
But the Staten Island mom deserved to be slapped with the count of reckless manslaughter — and whatever jail time it may bring — according to Mayor DeBlasio, who called the charge “the right thing to do” when asked about the arraignment at an unrelated press conference.
“I said back at the time I could not understand why she wasn’t arrested,” the mayor said. “There’s no reason she should have been driving.”