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Justice for Seth Collier - The Seth Collier Law - Leaving the scene of a fatal accident

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Instead of calling for help after hitting a teenager with a car, an investigator left the badly injured, unconscious pedestrian on a Syracuse street, according to records.

Peter J. Rauch, a former investigator for the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office, has been accused of striking Seth Collier with a county-owned car early Tuesday on the city's North Side.

Family members said Collier, 18, was on life support but sadly they have reported Seth has died from his injuries.

Collier finished his shift at Burger King and started walking to a friend's house early Tuesday morning, the teen's sister told Syracuse.com. The teenager was walking on the road in the 1400 block of North Salina Street when he was struck, the Syracuse Police Department said in a felony complaint filed in city court Wednesday.

Rauch, 37, was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Impala south on North Salina Street around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday when he hit Collier, police in the court papers. The force of the crash left Collier with a life-threatening head injury and a puncture wound on his right leg, according to the complaint.


Rauch did not stop to help the teenager, police said in the complaint. Instead of calling 911, he drove away from the scene -- leaving Collier unconscious and critically injured in the city street, police said.

Rauch was not alone when he struck the teenager, police said in the felony complaint. An unnamed witness was riding in the front passenger seat of the car when the crash happened, police said.

A witness, Tay Morgan, was outside nearby Lookers gentleman's club when she heard the crash, she told Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard. She said she ran to Bear Street near North Salina Street and found the injured teenager on the ground.

Police say Rauch left the scene of the crash and parked the car he was driving in the parking lot of the Pastime Athletic Club on Pastime Drive. The Court documents say Rauch then fled on foot.


A witness who was riding in the front seat of the car identified Rauch as the suspect, according to the court document. The document says the car Rauch was driving is registered to the District Attorney's Office "and said vehicle is assigned solely to the defendant." Rauch's identification card and cell phone were allegedly found in the abandoned vehicle

A Syracuse firefighter has also been suspended without pay during the investigation. The City of Syracuse issued a brief statement Wednesday announcing firefighter Edward Ackerman had been suspended. The city said the suspension is "effective March 21, 2017 pending an investigation into a hit-and-run accident on North Salina Street."

The suspension implicates Ackerman as one of the people believed by police to have known about the crash but failed to report it, a source tells CNYCentral.com

Ackerman has been on the job as a Syracuse firefighter for 13 years and has been assigned to the city's busiest unit, Rescue One. He's also a trained EMT. Ackerman is also the President of the Pastime Athletic Club; court documents say the car that allegedly hit 18-year-old Seth Collier was found in the club's parking lot early Tuesday morning.

Syracuse, NY -- Fired Onondaga County District Attorney's Office Investigator Peter Rauch is accused of hitting a pedestrian with his county-owned sedan, then leaving the 18-year-old dying in the street.

So why isn't that a homicide?

Rauch, 37, of Syracuse, is facing a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal crash without reporting. It's punishable by up to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison, special prosecutor Gregory Oakes said this morning.

Rauch is accused of running away after the 2010 Chevrolet Impala struck 18-year-old Seth Collier, who was on his way home from work early Tuesday.

Rauch's charge doesn't include the words "homicide" or "manslaughter," but he faces a similar sentence if convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Consider that a driver accused of killing someone while driving drunk is typically charged with vehicular manslaughter.

The basic vehicular manslaughter charge carries the same maximum punishment -- 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison -- as the leaving a fatal scene charge does.

That's because it's not the name -- but the class of felony -- that matters. And second-degree vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal crash without reporting are both Class D felonies.

Under law, the minimum punishment for those crimes is no jail or prison. And the maximum is 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

What would it take for a first-degree vehicular manslaughter charge? Such a charge would raise the possible punishment up to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison.

For that, the driver would need to be proven drunk and have a bad driving record, have a very high blood-alcohol content, kill more than one person, drive without a valid license or have some other aggravating factor.

And the harshest fatal crash charge, aggravated vehicular homicide, is reserved for those with aggravating factors on top of DWI and reckless driving. That carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors have said that this case is not a DWI case, pending further investigation. So that rules out vehicular manslaughter and aggravated vehicular homicide all together.

But couldn't he be charged with driving drunk if witnesses say he was drinking?

First of all, we don't know what witnesses have told police. But yes, technically one could be charged based on others' testimony. But it would be very hard to prove without a blood test that shows some level of intoxication (could be below the 0.08 blood-alcohol content threshold for drunken driving).

Anyway, even if all of that happened, it would probably lead to a second-degree vehicular manslaughter charge, which doesn't carry any more punishment than the leaving the scene charge does already.

But say that Rauch had been accused of driving drunk (he wasn't) and leaving the scene. His maximum punishment likely still wouldn't be any worse because the entire incident -- from crashing while drunk to leaving the scene -- could be considered a single crime.

So charging the two together in same crash wouldn't necessarily add to the maximum possible punishment. (Of course, such a scenario might lead to a harsher punishment as part of any plea deal or judge's sentence, but the maximum punishment itself likely remains the same.)

What about criminally negligent homicide?

That's when someone acts with such negligence that it deviates from the "standard of care" that a reasonable person would observe.

There are no known factors to consider here other than the fact the vehicle struck the victim. We don't know if the driver was acting negligently beforehand.

But criminally negligent homicide is a Class E felony, which carries only a possible 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. That would be less possible punishment than Rauch is already facing.

As for the other homicide charges -- murder and regular manslaughter -- the vast majority don't apply because Rauch is not accused of intending to harm or kill the victim.

The only one that might apply would be second-degree manslaughter -- acting recklessly and causing a death. But second-degree manslaughter -- a Class C felony -- is not typically considered a vehicular crime.

Recent cases that included a second-degree manslaughter charge include:

The death of Gabriella Collins after her father, Glenn, a ventilation expert, improperly hooked up a power generator at their house and went to Turning Stone with a date.
A child who started a fire in his family's house, killing two of his siblings. (He later pleaded guilty in Family Court to a lesser charge.)
In at least one case, a Cicero driver was charged with second-degree manslaughter after a hit-and-run crash. But in that case, driver Vincent Carello admitted to drug and alcohol use and blood tests showed that he was drunk and high. He is serving 7 to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty.

The next step for Rauch's case will be a grand jury. Whatever charges the grand jury decides will then form the basis for Rauch's case in felony court.

No date has been set for Rauch's next appearance as he awaits the grand jury's decision.

Want to read the homicide laws yourself? Try this site. copy and paste:

http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article22.htm#t600

Rauch's current charge is listed under the vehicle and traffic law.

Article provided by (Syracuse.com writer : Douglas Dowty)

Let's make sure Peter J. Rauch is prosecuted to fullest extent of the law and let's change the laws currently on the books for this offense. Let's fight for this young man and his family. Let us speak for the young man whom can not speak for himself. 

#justiceforseth

 

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