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***Press Release***

March 21th, 2014


Contact: Russell Murphy - (917) 584-9574 -




Family of Josbel Rivera hopes to see substantive punishment for perpetrator who burned car after killing to destroy evidence


Advocates and Elected Officials cry out for justice for hit and run drivers who kill on New York streets


New York, NY--On Friday, March 21st, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez and elected officials joined family members of Josbel Rivera and safe streets advocates in a call for justice in the case of his death following a hit and run crash in 2011.


On the morning of December 26th, 2011, 23-year old Josbel Rivera was walking home after a Christmas night out with friends, when he was fatally struck by a car on Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx. The driver was later seen parking his car and walking away as it burst into flames. Police concluded the car was the very same that killed Josbel Rivera. Months later, Mr. Mitchum Williams turned himself into the police and was charged with 4 felonies and 2 misdemeanors. Yet the harshest of these charges did not even address the killing of Josbel Rivera.


Today, city and state elected officials, Transportation Alternatives and other advocates stood to call for justice for his killer, with the sentiment that too often, drivers who commit these crimes do not face punishment worthy of their actions. As top NYPD officials and NYC District Attorneys testified at City Hall before the Committee on Public Safety, advocates and elected officials called for a renewed push for more thorough investigations and stricter punishment in hit and run crimes.


Additionally, elected officials and advocates called for the passage of S2503(Golden)/A1533(Cymbrowitz) by the NY state legislature, to strengthen penalties for drivers who flee a crash. Council Member Rodriguez announced his support for the ongoing efforts to introduce a resolution in support of this bill, as well as declaring:


"New York cannot continue to stand by allowing drivers who kill, maim and flee, to walk away, while families are left devastated. Belkis Rivera-Josbel's mother, and so many others like her face life-shattering moments of pain, yet are left wanting when seeking justice. We must dedicate all necessary means to solving these crimes and holding those responsible accountable. Albany must see the need here too; they must see the grief of so many families, only strengthened by the bitter pill of injustice following their heart-wrenching loss, said Council Member Rodriguez, Chair of the Transportation Committee"


"The laws need to change and they need to change now," said Belkis Rivera, Mother of Josbel Rivera. "They are antiquated and must be made stricter so that individuals do not get away with crimes such as this; and so more families that do not have to endure the pain mine has felt."


"Low-income neighborhoods are disproportionally hurt reckless driving and pedestrian fatalities," said State Senator Adriano Espaillat. "The driver who took Josbel Rivera's life can't escape appropriate charges simply because the weapon involved was a car. We owe it to Josbel to develop stronger enforcement and smarter policies for keeping our streets safe."


"As a mother, I can only imagine the pain Josbel's family felt as they laid there son to rest as his life was just beginning," said Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa. "We must continue to seek justice for Josbel and support the measures that would make our streets safer and prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future."


"The tragic death of Josbel Rivera more than two years ago marks the painful loss of another young person who can never be replaced," said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx, 16th CD), the chair of the Council's Public Safety Committee. "Sadly the Rivera family is not alone in having lost a loved one to a traffic fatality and it remains critical for all New Yorkers to join in the urgent campaign to make our local streets and roadways safer for pedestrians of all ages."


"We cannot allow drivers who are blatantly guilty of causing hit-and-run fatalities to literally walk away from the scene of a crime," said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, member of the Transportation Committee. "Our City, and State, must do more to bring these criminals to justice. By increasing penalties for criminals who are guilty of these heinous crimes at the State level we can once and for all put an end to this tragic epidemic we are facing here in New York City."


With the increase in vehicular collisions with pedestrians in the past year, I'm glad my colleagues and advocates have stepped in to prevent more of these fatalities. It is especially unsettling when the perpetrator flees the scene of the crime, leaving the family of the loved one without being able to seek justice," said Council Member Mark Levine. "We cannot allow another parent to have to mourn the death of a child because a driver was breaking the law. Hit and run criminals need to held accountable."


"The death of Josbel Rivera at the hands of a callous driver whose main focus was on covering up his crime is unconscionable," said Council Member David Greenfield. "It is yet another tragic indication that the city, led by the NYPD and district attorney, must hold cowardly and reckless individuals like Mitchum Williams fully accountable and send a clear message that this will not be accepted on city streets. My thanks to Council Member Rodriguez, the family of Josbel Rivera and all of the safe streets advocates who are leading this fight until justice is reached for Mr. Rivera and for every New Yorker killed on our streets."


"The time is long overdue for New York City to crack down on hit-and-run drivers. Leaving the scene of an accident is one of the most despicable crimes you can commit, and the punishment should fit. Not only must we get justice for Josbel and all the other victims of hit-and-run drivers by increasing the penalties, but we need increased enforcement by the NYPD to slow down motorists and reduce the number of accidents altogether," said Council Member James Vacca.


"The untimely and unnecessary death of Josbel Rivera is a tragic emblem of the hundreds of fatal and preventable traffic accidents that occur in New York City every year" said Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres. "Increasing penalties for dangerous drivers, like the man that took the life of Mr. Rivera, is a central tenet of Vision Zero and I will work with my fellow council members to hold reckless drivers who flee the scene of a crash accountable." 


"Mayor de Blasio put forward Vision Zero so that we would no longer have to face tragedies like the one that befell Josbel Rivera," said Council Member Donovan Richards. "We need to protect our fellow New Yorkers and send a clear message that dangerous driving will not go unpunished in our city! I proudly stand with my colleagues as we demand justice and accountability for a family in mourning."


"Reckless driving must be treated with the utmost seriousness," said Council Member Mark Weprin. "I am pleased to be collaborating with my colleague, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez to pursue legislative remedies."


Josbel Rivera's tragic death demonstrates our city's need for transportation policy that focuses on prevention, enforcement, and prosecution of unsafe drivers," said Council Member Anabel Palma. "Mayor's De Blasio's "Vision Zero" initiative is a strong step in the right direction and will bring justice to the unconscionably high number of hit and run victims.




Background: The City Council Committee on Transportation, chaired by Council Member Rodriguez, overrode a veto from the previous mayoral administration in January requiring reporting on all hit and run accidents in NYC. Mr. Williams is due in court again on Monday, March 24th in the Bronx.



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