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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spellman guilty of manslaughter

By Kate Pastor
Posted
MARISOL DÍAZ/THE RIVERDALE PRESS
Dufta Juncaj, daughter of Drane Nikac, leaves Bronx Criminal Court after a jury found former Det. Kevin Spellman guilty of manslaughter on Thursday.

After eight days of deliberation, a jury found former Det. Kevin Spellman guilty of manslaughter at Bronx Criminal Court on Thursday afternoon. He faces up to 15 years in prison for killing 66-year-old Kingsbridge resident Drane Nikac.

Mr. Spellman, a Riverdale resident and 22-year veteran of the NYPD, was convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, the third highest charge he faced.

The verdict brings the three-year-old case to a close.

At 6:37 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2009, Ms. Nikac, an Albanian from Montenegro who immigrated to the U.S. more than 15 years ago, crossed Kingsbridge Avenue at West 232nd Street, pushing a cart full of cans she regularly collected from the neighborhood.

In the middle of the crosswalk, Mr. Spellman’s car struck her, throwing her approximately 40 feet through the air. She died shortly afterward. 

Mr. Spellman refused a Breathalyzer test on the scene, but after five hours his blood-alcohol content was recorded at 0.21.

Members of Ms. Nikac’s family cried as the verdict was read.

“It’s emotional,” two of the family members said in unison outside the courtroom.

Judge Steven Barrett thanked members of the jury for their diligence. 

“I’ve never seen a jury work as hard as you have,” he said.

One juror also wept as the judge addressed them.

“The last question was to read back their oath as jurors and half an hour later they came back with their verdict," said Rosemarie Arnold, the lawyer for the Nikac family in a civil suit against Mr. Spellman, noting that the jurors took their jobs very seriously.

"The family is grateful to the jurors for listening so intently and they know that the verdict was the right verdict,” she said.

Mr. Spellman was acquitted of the two highest charges, aggravated vehicular manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter in the first degree.

Peter Brill, Mr. Spellman’s defense attorney, said that jail time is not mandatory, but that his client will likely spend time in prison.

The government asked for Mr. Spellman to be remanded, but Judge Barrett allowed Mr. Spellman to remain free on $100,000 bond.

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 15.

After the trial ended, a juror said they did not find Mr. Spellman guilty on the higher counts because they could not determine if intoxication caused the accident and could not come to a consensus on the validity of the blood-alcohol content test, which the defense had called into question.

Mr. Spellman did not speak to press, but his significant other rocked and sobbed inside the courtroom.

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