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Teen Driver Who Killed 4-Year-Old Ariel Russo Could Be Charged as Juvenile

By Emily Frost | March 26, 2014 4:49pm
 His lawyer is arguing he shouldn't be burdened by the accident his whole life. 
Franklin Reyes Seeking Youthful Offender Status
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MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The teenager charged with killing 4-year-old Ariel Russo after he drove his SUV onto an Upper West Side sidewalk last year could be tried as a juvenile, a state judge said Wednesday.

"I’m inclined to consider youthful offender," Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Judge Gregory Carro said in response to defense lawyer Martin Schmukler's request.

If the court agrees, Franklin Reyes, 17, who is accused of killing Ariel Russo, 4, on June 4 during a police chase, would have his record sealed at sentencing so that he would not carry a criminal record into adulthood.

Reyes is charged with manslaughter, assault, driving without a license, leaving the scene of the accident and fleeing police. The District Attorney's Office is seeking the maximum sentence of 15 years. 

Assistant District Attorney Vera Varshavsky told Judge Carro Wednesday that she was prepared to present arguments against trying Reyes as a youthful offender. 

The judge pushed the date of Varshavsky's argument, as well as a possible settlement of the case if Reyes were to enter a plea, to April 30.

Schmukler said Reyes shouldn't have his life ruined by what he considers a mistake. 

"He's a youth, he's not an adult. With a youthful offender status, he would not have to be burdened for the rest of his life," he said Wednesday outside of the court room. 

Schmukler added that the circumstances of the accident also matter. 

"He wasn't going to rob a bank, he was going to school," the lawyer said. "Somebody should remember that."

Russo's parents, Sofia and Allan, who have attended every court appearance, said they would not stand for the designation.

"We had to bury our 4-year-old daughter," said Sofia Russo, who is expecting a baby boy in May, calling it "inappropriate."

"If you take a life, you have to face the consequences," she added. 

Earlier this month, the Russos attended a street renaming in honor of their daughter at the southwest corner of West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where their daughter was killed. The corner is now called "Ariel Russo Place."