Time running out for Assembly to vote on Alix’s Law

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Alexandria Rice’s mother joined with the Assemblymembers from Western New York Friday, making an emotional appeal that lawmakers vote on the bill named for her daughter.

“It’s what needs to be done; just put it to a vote. I can’t bear the thought of another family not being able to get that little bit of closure,” said Tammy Schueler.

“Alix’s Law” would close a legal loophole, as it relates to drivers charged with leaving the scene of an accident where someone else is hurt or killed.

Under current law, prosecutors have to prove a driver knew they hit someone before leaving the scene. Alix’s Law rewords the current statutes, so that a driver would be presumed to have known he or she hit someone.

Eighteen-year-old Rice died July 8, 2011, after being struck while riding her skateboard home from work along Heim Road in Amherst. Because prosecutors could not prove that Dr. James Corasanti knew he hit the teen, the jury was unable to convict Corasanti of the more serious charges he faced. The Amherst doctor was found guilty of misdemeanor DWI.

“Current law states that in order to be convicted of the felony crime of leaving the scene of an accident, you have to be aware that you hit someone or something first. The excuse used in the case of Alix Rice was that the driver was so drunk that he was unaware of having hit her,” said Assemblywoman Jane Corwin.

“Being so drunk that you are unaware of hitting someone or something should never allow to escape responsibility for your actions,” Corwin said.

For three consecutive years, Alix’s Law has passed in the State Senate. But in the Assembly, it has never made it out of committee, and onto the floor for a general vote.

Many in the local delegation lay the blame for that with Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver.

“I think that [Silver] needs to stand accountable, and I hope that the media here today sits on his doorstep every day ’til the end of session next week, and puts a microphone in his face and asks him why it doesn’t pass,” said Assemblyman David DiPietro. “This has overwhelming support, I’d say near 100 percent. I don’t know anyone in the Assembly who would not vote for this.”

Only four more working days remain, before the current session ends and lawmakers recess from Albany.

“There is still time; we can still get this done. But we need to move it now,” Corwin said.

“Let’s do the right thing, let’s do the compassionate thing, let’s do the common sense thing,” urged Assemblyman Ray Walter, “and get this through and up for a vote.”

“…Not only for my family, but for other families,” Schueler said. “There’s other families that are being affected all the time by the fact that this law has not passed already. How about those people?”

Schueler thinks, specifically, about the family of hit-and-run victim Barry Moss, in Evans. Evans Police have located the car that struck and killed Moss, but no one is being charged in part because prosecutors say they can’t prove who was driving.

“I was rather shocked, especially when I heard District Attorney Frank Sedita state that, had Alix’s Law been on the books, maybe it would be a different song that they were singing over there right now,” Schueler said. “That, to me, is important. I don’t know if it would have made a difference or not. But boy, wouldn’t it have been nice to have it on the books?”

The Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit organization, is working to build a skate park in Alix’s memory. The foundation has raised about a third of its $250,000 goal.

The next fundraiser is July 8th, which will mark three years since Rice’s death, at the Ramada Hotel on North Forest Road in Getzville. More information and tickets are available here.

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