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Fugitive for 27 years sentenced in 1989 crash: DA

Twenty-six years after he failed to show up in court for sentencing, a drunk driver who struck a pedestrian in Fresh Meadows in 1989 was arrested upstate and returned to a Queens jail cell.
File photo
By Philip Newman

A 63-year-old fugitive, who pleaded guilty in 1990 to seriously injuring a woman in a Queens car crash, was rearrested last week and sent to jail to begin his sentence, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Brown said Jaipaul Maharaj was driving in an intoxicated state on Dec. 3, 1989, when he struck the passenger side of a 1986 Toyota in which Grace Schachnu was a passenger. She suffered fractured ribs, a fractured cervical, collapsed lungs and hemorrhaging of the brain. She died in 1994.

“It took 26 years, but the victim’s family finally has achieved justice in knowing that the individual responsible for causing serious physical injury to their loved one is now being held accountable for his actions,” said Brown. “If not for a casual inquiry made by a family member of the victim fortuitously making its way to the the Queens district attorney’s office, the defendant might very well have escaped punishment for his crime.”

Maharaj was operating a 1984 Chevrolet van without a driver’s license when he ran a red light at the intersection of 73rd Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard and injured Schachnu, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens DA’s office.

He was arrested and pleaded guilty to the top count of first-degree assault on Oct. 29, 1990. He failed to appear for his sentencing that December and was sentenced in absentia Dec. 12, 1990, to four to 12 years in prison, Brown said.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Robert Kohm reimposed the original sentence for Maharaj on July 6.

Maharajah was living in Monticello, N.Y., and using two names, Abdool Persaud and Ronald Davidson, at the time of this latest arrest.

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