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Photo by Mari Estrella
Photo by Mari Estrella
Police investigate oil truck that killed a 13-year-old boy on the corner of Lewis ave and Jefferson Street in Brooklyn on Jan. 26.

Three weeks after a Ridgewood boy was killed when an unlicensed truck driver struck him, legislation is moving through the state Senate to stiffen penalties for the man behind the wheel.

State Senator Michael Gianaris announced on Feb. 13 that his bill — which would create a felony charge for drivers who hurt or kill people while driving with suspended or otherwise invalid licenses — unanimously passed through the Senate Codes Committee. In his statement, Gianaris said that the current maximum punishment of a misdemeanor for these incidents is unacceptable.

“These dangerous drivers continue to kill because the current punishment for taking a life while driving without a valid license does not match the crime,” Gianaris said. “We need to get serious about improving our laws before another life is lost at the hands of drivers we know should not be behind the wheel.”

The bill was first introduced in 2013 when another young boy was killed in a similar incident in Woodside, but the death of Ridgewood native Kevin Flores on Jan. 26 prompted Gianaris to urge his colleagues to pass it. Flores, 13, was struck and killed by an oil truck while riding his bicycle in Brooklyn, less than a mile from his school.

The driver of the oil truck, Philip Monfoletto, did not have the correct license to operate that type of vehicle, and court records show he was previously arrested for that offense twice in 2017. The press release from Gianaris also states that Monfoletto, 28, had his license suspended nine times and even mocked the leniency of the state’s laws in a Facebook post.

Monfoletto is currently being held on $2,500 bond or cash bail for the Jan. 26 incident. He has several court appearances upcoming for different incidents dating back to 2017 and has been charged with multiple counts of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

His next appearance is Feb. 20 in Queens Criminal Court, where he has a hearing for a July 2017 incident in which he was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, criminal possession of a weapon with intent to use, assault with intent to cause physical injury and second-degree harassment.

Co-sponsored by Senator Joseph P. Addaboo Jr., the new bill would increase the penalty to a class E felony for seriously injuring a person and a class D felony if the accident resulted in a death, with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. In a statement emailed to QNS on Feb. 16, Addabbo said that he hopes these stiffer penalties will dissuade unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel in the future.

“By increasing the penalties on drivers with a suspended license, or no license at all, who cause serious physical injury — or worse — we hope to prevent them from ever getting behind the wheel in the first place,”Addabbo said. “While we can never undo tragic accidents and fatalities that were caused by drivers with an invalid license, I am hopeful this legislation will be a deterrent for such unacceptable behavior. This bill takes a positive step forward in making our streets safer for everyone, by punishing repeat reckless drivers.”
The bill now needs to pass separate votes from the state Senate and Assembly before being delivered to the governor.

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