The person behind the wheel of the automobile that barreled by means of crowds of pedestrians in New York Metropolis’s Times Square, killing a girl and injuring 22 different folks, went on trial Monday after numerous delays over 5 years, together with pandemic-induced court docket shutdowns.
In a gap assertion, prosecutor Alfred Peterson informed a Manhattan jury that Richard Rojas was properly conscious of the carnage he was inflicting by plowing by means of helpless vacationers in 2017 visiting the favored vacation spot often known as “the crossroads of the world.”
It was “impossible for him not to know exactly what was happening,” Peterson mentioned. “But he didn’t stop.”
After Rojas lastly crashed his automobile, his first phrases to a site visitors agent have been, “I wanted to kill them all,” the prosecutor added.
Protection legal professional Enrico DeMarco mentioned in his opening that Rojas has a historical past of psychological sickness that made him unable to know the results of his actions that day.
“This a case about a 26-year-old who lost his mind,” DeMarco mentioned.
Rojas’ trial, in state court docket in Manhattan, is anticipated to take a number of months and embody testimony from victims who suffered extreme accidents from what prosecutors labeled “a horrific, depraved act.”
Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old from Portage, Michigan, on an annual household journey was killed. Her 13-year-old sister, Ava, was among the many injured. Jessica Williams, of Dunellen, New Jersey, was so badly damage that her mom needed to settle for the diploma at her highschool commencement whereas she remained in the hospital.
Prosecutors say Rojas drove his automobile from the Bronx, the place he lived along with his mom, by means of Times Square on Might 18, 2017, then made a U-turn, steered his automobile onto a sidewalk, and roared again up the sidewalk for 3 blocks earlier than he crashed his automobile into protecting limitations.
Photographers snapped footage of a wild-eyed Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked automobile and ran by means of the road waving his arms. PCP, or phencyclidine, may cause customers to grow to be delusional, violent or suicidal, in keeping with the Nationwide Drug Intelligence Heart.
Rojas pleaded not responsible at an arraignment in 2017 and has since been jailed at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex. His lawyer mentioned on the time that it was a “terrible thing that happened” in Times Square.
Rojas, now 31, has a number of prior prison circumstances that paint an image of a troubled man. Days earlier than the Times Square incident he pleaded responsible to a harassment cost in the Bronx for pulling a knife on a notary in his house and accusing the individual of attempting to steal his identification.
He additionally had two earlier drunken driving circumstances.
Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served for a part of 2012 aboard the USS Carney, a destroyer. Rojas spent his remaining months in the Navy on the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2012, he was arrested and accused of beating a cab driver whom he mentioned had disrespected him by attempting to cost an excessive amount of, in keeping with the arrest report. The arresting officer mentioned Rojas screamed, “My life is over!” as he was being detained. After his arrest, Rojas informed the officer he was going to kill all police and army police he would possibly see after his launch from jail, the Jacksonville sheriff’s workplace report acknowledged.
Alan Ceballos, an legal professional who represented Rojas in that case, mentioned the state fees have been dropped after the army stepped in to take jurisdiction over the prison case. Navy information present that in 2013 Rojas spent two months at a naval jail in Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged in 2014 as the results of a particular court docket martial, a Navy official mentioned.