Date is set for oft-delayed Spellman trial


Delayed for nearly two-and-a-half years, the vehicular homicide trial of former Detective Kevin Spellman, accused of drunk driving in the October 2009 death of 66-year-old Drane Nikac, could start on Tuesday, April 17.

“If not that date, it will be shortly thereafter,” said Judge Steven Barret, who has repeatedly expressed frustration with the pace at which the case has moved forward.

Ms. Nikac was struck by then-42-year-old Det. Spellman’s gray government-issued Chevy sedan early in the morning on Oct. 30, 2009, on Kingsbridge Avenue between West 232nd and West 233rd streets.

The night of the incident, the detective got off work at about midnight, police said, and was on his way home after a night of drinking when Ms. Nikac was struck.

Mr. Spellman is facing 11 charges, including vehicular homicide. If convicted, he could spend up to 25 years in prison. 

Later this month, Ms. Nikac’s family will mark her birthday for the third time since her unresolved death. They have attended every hearing in the case — 21 so far — several shedding tears every time their matriarch’s alleged killer stands before the judge.

Mr. Spellman’s trial has been delayed repeatedly since August, while lawyers argued over information compiled during discovery and Judge Barrett criticized defense attorneys who seemed to be prioritizing other cases.

The most recent set of delays came in December when Mr. Spellman fired his original attorney, Robert Brunetti, and brought in Peter Brill, a Long Island-based attorney with expertise in drunk driving. Mr. Brill immediately requested time to catch up on the case.

Rosemarie Arnold, an attorney representing Ms. Nikac’s family in a civil suit against New York City, said she expects Mr. Brill will seek to delay again.

“In my opinion, ‘shortly thereafter’ is more likely,” Ms. Arnold said. “[Defense attorney Peter Brill] is taking his time to catch up.”

Graham Kates, Kevin Spellman, Drane Nikac, trial, crime, Steven Barret,