The trial will finally begin for Richard Rojas, who knocked down tourists in Times Square

The man driving the car that drove through crowds of pedestrians in New York’s Times Square, killing a woman and injuring 22 others, is finally on trial after multiple delays of more than five years, including induced court closures by a pandemic.

Opening statements are expected on Monday in the trial of Richard Rojas, a 31-year-old US Navy veteran who told police after his arrest that he smoked marijuana mixed with the hallucinogenic drug PCP before stoneing tourists helpless in 2017 at the Manhattan landmark. known as “the crossroads of the world”.

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old from Portage, Michigan, on an annual family trip was killed. His 13-year-old sister, Ava, was among those injured. Jessica Williams, of Dunellen, New Jersey, was so badly injured that her mother had to accept the diploma when she graduated from high school while she remained in the hospital.

Rojas’ trial, in state court in Manhattan, is expected to last several months.

Prosecutors say Rojas drove his car from the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, through Times Square on May 18, 2017, then turned around, steered his car onto a sidewalk and back up the sidewalk for three blocks. of houses before he crashed his car against protective barriers.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas after he got out of the wrecked car and ran down the street waving his arms. PCP, or phencyclidine, can make users delusional, violent, or suicidal, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.

According to prosecutors, Rojas said he wanted “to kill them all.”

Rojas pleaded not guilty to an arraignment in 2017 and has since been imprisoned in New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison 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 case will determine how civilized we are in a society,” defense attorney Enrico DeMarco said.

Rojas has several previous criminal cases that paint a picture of a troubled man. Days before the Times Square incident, he pleaded guilty to a harassment charge in the Bronx for pulling a knife on a solicitor in his home and accusing the person of trying to steal his identity.

He had also had two cases of drunk driving.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and served for part of 2012 aboard the destroyer USS Carney. Rojas spent his final months in the Navy at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida.

In 2012, he was arrested and charged with beating a taxi driver who he alleged disrespected him by trying to overcharge, according to the arrest report. The arresting officer said Rojas shouted, “My life is over!” while he was detained. After his arrest, Rojas told the officer he was going to kill any police and military police he could see after he got out of jail, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office report.

Alan Ceballos, an attorney who represented Rojas in the case, said the state charges were dropped after the military stepped in to take jurisdiction over the criminal case. Navy records show that in 2013 Rojas spent two months in a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was released in 2014 following a special court martial, a Navy official said.

With pole wires

New York Post

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