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Driver Found Guilty in Fatal Hit-and-Run of Williamsburg Cyclist

By Gwynne Hogan | September 25, 2017 5:58pm
 Matthew Von Ohlen, 35, was killed on July 2, 2016 on Grand Street by a driver who fled the scene. 
Matthew Von Ohlen, 35, was killed on July 2, 2016 on Grand Street by a driver who fled the scene. 
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A Williamsburg man was found guilty of manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal crash, and reckless driving in the 2016 killing of cyclist Matthew von Ohlen.

Friends and family members of von Ohlen who filled the courtroom throughout the 11-day trial burst into sobs as the jury delivered the verdict on Monday afternoon against Juan Maldonado after roughly three hours of deliberations.

"He will be off the streets so he can't do this again," Matthew's mother Joan von Ohlen, 69, said. "He was my only child. I was a mother...Now I have to [recreate] my life without his love."

Joan von Ohlen, Matthew's mother on the right, stood out side Brooklyn Supreme Court following the Monday guilty verdict of Juan Maldonado

Maldonado faces up to 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.

 Joan von Ohlen, Matthew's mother on the right, stood out side Brooklyn Supreme Court following the Monday guilty verdict of Juan Maldonado, the man who ran over her son cyclist Matthew von Ohlen.
Joan von Ohlen, Matthew's mother on the right, stood out side Brooklyn Supreme Court following the Monday guilty verdict of Juan Maldonado, the man who ran over her son cyclist Matthew von Ohlen.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

► READ MORE: HOW POLICE TOOK 4 DAYS TO TRACK DOWN CYCLIST'S ACCUSED HIT-AND-RUN DRIVER

The mom said that often in New York City, “a cyclist dies and nothing happens. That creates a climate where it’s kind of okay.” She hoped Monday's verdict would show that “it is not okay to kill a cyclist. There is a consequence."

The crash happened last summer, on July 2, 2016, about 2:30 a.m., as von Ohlen, 35, was heading home after finishing his bartending shift.

He was riding east on Grand Street in East Williamsburg, past the intersection of Manhattan Avenue, when Maldonado's 2015 Chevy Camaro swerved around two cars stopped at a red light into the bike lane and blew through the intersection, officials said.

Maldonado stayed in the bike lane once he'd crossed Manhattan Avenue and rammed into von Ohlen, throwing him from his bike and dragging him under the vehicle for 28 feet, prosecutors said.

In his closing arguments Monday morning, Maldonado's attorney Howard Kirsch insinuated von Ohlen was partially to blame for his own death.

"We also know Mr. von Ohlen was legally intoxicated more than double the [legal limit]," Kirsch said. "Maybe somebody who's that intoxicated is not full in control of that vehicle, in this case the bicycle he was riding."

Assistant District Attorney Douglas Marquez fired back that it wasn't illegal for von Ohlen to be riding a bike while intoxicated, and pointed to several videos leading up to the crash that showed him peddling straight and steady in the Grand Street bike lane.

"Everyone has a different tolerance," Marquez said. "He wasn't swerving, he wasn't falling down, he was riding in the bike lane."

Maldonado, 57, couldn't be Breathalyzed because he fled the scene, though prosecutors had earlier pointed out that he had two prior drunk driving arrests in Florida where he used to live.

Kirsch didn't dispute that it was Maldonado behind the wheel at the time of von Ohlen's death or that it was his car involved in the crash, but rather that the crash hadn't been intentional.

 Juan Maldonado, captured at an earlier court appearance, is charged with the hit-and-run death of cyclist Matthew von Ohlen.
Juan Maldonado, captured at an earlier court appearance, is charged with the hit-and-run death of cyclist Matthew von Ohlen.
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"This was an accident. He may have been negligent, but he was not so reckless as to commit the crime of manslaughter," Kirsch said.

Maldonado sat stoic, hands clasped throughout the proceedings, dressed in a white, button-down shirt and tie, as prosecutors and his defense attorney summed up their cases before Judge Suzanne Mondo, the jury and the crowded courtroom.

"[Maldonado] didn't stop. He didn't report it. He went home. Then he left the state. That's when [the] NYPD found him," said Marquez.

During the trial, Marquez presented dozens of videos of von Ohlen and the driver of the 2015 Chevy Camaro leading up to and after the fatal crash, as well as DNA evidence taken from under Maldonado's car after police tracked it down in Waterbury, Connecticut. Expert witnesses who matched the paint found on von Ohlen's clothes and backpack to Maldonado's car.

Maldonado is due back in court on Oct. 18 for sentencing. He was remanded without bail following the guilty verdict. His attorney declined to comment further following the guilty verdict.