By Joy Bergmann
Six seconds. That’s how long the light had been red when Jessenia Fajardo, 40, drove an SUV into the crosswalk at West End Avenue and 98th Street, causing the July 19, 2019, crash that killed doorman Alfred Pocari, 62, and severely injured Upper West Sider Kira C.
“How long is six seconds?” asked Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos at Fajardo’s sentencing hearing Friday afternoon. “A lifetime.”
Judge April Newbauer sentenced Fajardo to a minimum of two years in state prison — and a maximum of six — following Fajardo’s pleading guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree and Assault in the Second and Third Degrees. The sentence also reflects her culpability in a May 2019 hit-and-run in Tribeca; she reportedly ran a stop sign and injured a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Said Newbauer, “Ms. Fajardo seriously and tragically affected many people.”
Prior to the judge’s announcement, two of them spoke.
“I would like to ask you why that text was so important that even as you plowed into me and Mr. Pocari, you didn’t even lift your head to see the road, but continued with your foot on the gas,” said Kira C., addressing Fajardo who, according to court documents, generated 50 activities on her phone, including texts, shortly before the crash.
“Like it or not, you are now a part of my life, haunting my daily routine. You are in the pain that wakes me,” said Kira. “I am a prisoner of my body, and Mr. Pocari of his grave. There is no escape. I hope that you will use your time incarcerated reflecting on compassion, empathy and your responsibility as a citizen of the world to teach your child not to flee, but to face the consequences of actions.”
One of Alfred Pocari’s two children, 31-year-old daughter Milda, then took the podium, sharing a litany of milestones she will never enjoy with her father.
“I will never see the proud look on his face when I receive my master’s degree diploma. Or have a father-daughter dance on my wedding day. My future children will never meet or understand the incredible man that he was,” Milda said, her voice breaking.
Fajardo sobbed as she listened. Her heaving shoulders caused a tumble of long braids to shake across her green sweatshirt.
Milda continued through her own tears. “Instead of planning a future for our lives with dad being part of it, we planned his funeral. Instead of being able to call my father and ask him for advice, I’m only able to hear him on old voice mails. Instead of going to see him at my parents’ apartment, I’m only able to see him in old photo albums.”
With red-rimmed, swollen eyes, Fajardo then attempted to apologize to her victims. “I’m so sorry. To the families, I am very, very, very sorry. “ She choked and gulped while recalling the crash scene, her words too muffled by tears to decipher beyond, “I will never forget. I’m so sorry.”
She was led away in handcuffs.
During the hearing, ADA Bogdanos expressed disappointment that the judge had not handed down the maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years that the District Attorney’s office had sought. “This was not a negotiated plea,” he said, citing Fajardo’s prior history of nine moving violations including five for using a phone while driving, two for ignoring red lights or stop signs and two for failure to yield to pedestrians. “And that’s just how many times she got caught.”
“This is yet another preventable tragedy causing the death and serious injury of two innocent people. The pain and destruction from crashes like this is unimaginable, destroying lives and affecting entire communities,” said Dana Lerner from Families for Safe Streets via email to WSR. “I know because my son Cooper Stock was killed only one block away, 7 years ago, and I carry this nightmare with me each and every day.”
Lerner added, “We can and must prevent these crashes from happening to begin with. That is why FSS and other safety organizations are pushing for a New York Crash Victim Rights & Safety Act that will address the lethal speeding that is rampant on our streets, incentivize the purchase of safer vehicles, hold the most reckless drivers accountable, combat impaired driving, protect our most vulnerable street users, and support those personally impacted.”
Kira C. and Milda Pocari say they are finding solace through such advocacy.
If WSR readers would like to immediately support their efforts, they’re seeking petition signatures for memorial street signage to honor Alfred Pocari. “Here’s to making a change!” said Kira.
I’m sorry, and I know she did a plea deal, but 2-6 for manslaughter seems like a very light sentence. I wish she had gotten, at least, 20.
According to the ADA, it was “not a negotiated plea.”
For as many violations, etc., this person should have gotten a much harder sentence and I also hope that her license was permanently taking away for life! She clearly has an addiction and does not display responsibility. She is not for driving a vehicle EVER!!! If he license wasn’t taken away I will start a petition.
Knowing the victims personally, and living in the neighborhood with children, we should not stand for this kind of human irresponsibility and negligence to ourselves, our fellow humans and our children. How would she feel if her child was in Cooper’s position. I’m sure she’d sue or more.
TWO YEARS maximum? and Fajardo’s free to go out and do this again and again? How can the “sentence” be revised?
Six years is the max; two years minimum.
she took a life and seriously injured 2 others and she get s 2-6? She deserved at least 25.
She destroyed many lives and this wasn’t even the first time. It is totally unfair to these families that she wasn’t given the maximum sentence. Disgusting!!! Wishing the victims and families peace.
Killing someone with a car never ceases to amaze me. Kill someone with a knife or gun and go away for a few decades to life. Kill someone with a car and get a slap on the wrist. Just not right. Judge wouldn’t even give the suggested sentence. They killed someone and severely injured another, but yet that deserves a light sentence? Time to change these stupid laws.
I think the law distinguishes intent in degrees of murder or manslaughter. That said, I agree with you 100% that the sentencing is way too light in this case.
What is the name of the judge?
April Newbauer. Remember to vote against her if you ever see her on a ballot.
I am interested to know what Fajardo’s explanation is for why she engaged in such careless behavior.
From the previous WSR article on March 24th, “Fajardo gave this statement to NYPD at the crash scene, “I didn’t see them [Kira and Alfred]. I’m going through a lot, my apartment burned down last week in the Bronx. I’m living with my mom. My child’s father is in prison for vehicular manslaughter, he’s serving five years. I was on West End Avenue because of all the traffic on the highway.”
One ridiculous excuse after the other. How do any of these things justify what she did? She shouldn’t have been let off on the previous offenses. Even having a partner in prison for the same offense didn’t stop her! Her behavior is completely inexcusable.
In 30+ years of driving I’ve never had one moving violation, and she has NINE? How’s that even possible? Ten years in jail and take away her license for life.
After the sentencing Milda, Mrs. Pocari and my husband and I went on a petition run starting at the building where Mr. Pocari worked. It was so heartwarming to see Mrs. Pocari’s face soften from the layers of anguish as tenant after tenant shared Alfred stories and signed the petition. Please sign the online petition if you are so moved as we are attempting to get on the April 5th agenda of the Community Board. Thanks, Kira
In my opinion, the driver is beside the point. Anyone with nine violations should not have had a license. The law should be changed. After five should anyone ever be allowed to drive again? Definitely not. This many violations speaks to the fact that this is someone who is not capable of driving. It is a flaw in the law itself that allowed this to happen.
Two years in jail?
Should have been 20 years.
She took a life.
How about a life sentence?
That is not a sentence, it’s just an insult to the doorman’s family.
May he Rest In Peace.
I appreciate that this ADA said he was seeking a max sentencing. But please keep this in mind when voting for DA’s in the upcoming election. All of the position statements I have read are focused on minimizing the jail population and reducing sentences.
I think sentences should be increased for repeat offenders. I don’t care if the crime is something truly egregious like this, or someone who stole candy bars 10 times. We all make mistakes, but when someone makes repeated “mistake” they should be put away for a long time. Which candidate agrees with me?
The ADA and his team are incredible. Mathew Bogdanos’ fierce commitment to victims rights and clear moral outrage was inspiring. We were lucky to have him on our side.
Her sentence is an insult to the victims. This kind of attitude towards drivers who kill and maim people has been tolerated for far too long. Why does it continue?
TWO YEARS?! Are you kidding me? I bet anything she doesn’t even serve that long. What a gross miscarriage of justice. I can’t fathom with her extensive criminal history why she received a sentence like this. I am saddened for the families who have suffered as a result of her negligent behavior and I am gravely concerned about the direction this city & country is headed regarding “justice” and keeping law and order.
She had a prior history of nine moving violations, she should have been in jail before she had the chance to kill Mr.Pocari. Her license should have been revoked a long time ago. Two years is not enough for the carnage she caused. It scares me to think that she can get behind the wheel again in 2 years, the judge should have banned her from ever driving again.
For everyone calling for more time in prison – what good does that do for the victims, the families, her family, the world?? YES, her license should have been revoked several violations ago, AND/or she should have been on supervised probation to make sure she wasn’t driving, etc. She doesn’t deserve all her freedoms, for sure, and if there were any way to make restitution she should. But long prison terms for a remorseful, if unreliable, irresponsible person of few resources (apparently) serves no one except the prison industry. I hope her incarceration can include something that makes her less potentially dangerous when she is released. What an awful case.
By the way, In New Jersey if you kill someone with your car while texting you get 10 years.
Female Privilege, plain and simple.