The man behind the wheel of the car that hurtled through crowds of pedestrians in New York City’s Times Square, killing a woman and injuring 22 other people, went on trial Monday after various delays over five years, including several due to Covid restrictions.
In an opening statement, prosecutor Alfred Peterson told a Manhattan jury that Richard Rojas was well aware of the carnage he was causing by plowing through helpless tourists in 2017 visiting the popular destination known as “the crossroads of the world.”
Alyssa Elsman, who was an 18-year-old from Portage, Michigan, on an annual family trip was killed. Her 13-year-old sister, Ava, was among the injured. Jessica Williams, of Dunellen, New Jersey, was so badly hurt that her mother had to accept the diploma at her high school graduation as she was not fit to leave hospital.
Prosecutors say Rojas drove his car from the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, through Times Square on May 18, 2017, then made a U-turn, steered his car onto a sidewalk, and roared back up the sidewalk for three blocks before he crashed his car into protective barriers.
Photographers snapped pictures of Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street waving his arms. According to prosecutors, Rojas said he wanted to “kill them all.”
Rojas pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in 2017 and has since been jailed at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex. His lawyer said at the time that it was a “terrible thing that happened” in Times Square.
“But how we handle this type of a case will determine how civilized of a society we are,” said defense attorney Enrico DeMarco.
Rojas has several prior criminal cases. Days before the Times Square incident he pleaded guilty to a harassment charge in the Bronx for pulling a knife on a notary in his home and accusing the person of trying to steal his identity. He also had two previous drunken driving cases.
Rojas’ trial, in state court in Manhattan, is expected to take several months.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK POST