Junk justice helps no one — least of all the people left behind to pick up the pieces of a senseless, preventable crime.
Ninety days in prison. That’s all former 68th Precinct cop Andrew Kelly, 30, received for driving drunk and fatally mowing down Vionique Valnord-Kassime, 32, as she tried to hail a cab after leaving a wedding on Sept. 28, 2009, which her father, a preacher, officiated.
The wrist-slap was part of a plea deal — no surprise there — which swapped Kelly’s resignation for a measly three months behind bars. That’s barely enough time for him to begin to contemplate the tragic ramifications of his hoggish actions, let alone put them behind him and move on with life — a precious journey that he selfishly stole from Vionique because alcohol made him an egomaniac who ignored his sworn pledge to uphold the law. On and off duty.
Internal Affairs is conducting a separate investigation into the role of other officers at the crash site, who allegedly helped Kelly cover up his deadly tracks; in part, by dispensing him a sobriety test four hours later.
These days, even toddlers know that it is wrong to drink and drive — a crime which kills every 30 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Countless dollars have been spent on educating people about this plague. Scores of advocacy groups have crusaded against it. Last year, New York State cracked down heavily by passing Leandra’s Law, making it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person under the age of 15 inside the vehicle.
Vionique’s death proves that the massive concerted effort has yielded nothing at all since the days of the 1960’s sitcom, “Bewitched,” when a chuckling cop issued a mild rebuke to an inebriated Larry Tate for zig-zagging his car out of the Stephens’ driveway after one too many martinis.
Much tougher laws are clearly still needed. Andrew Kelly’s decision-making skills were not impaired that night. He knew he was drinking. He knew he would be driving. He knew there was a chance of a terrible outcome. The surefire recipe for disaster didn’t deter him in the least.
Cops are — or should be — held to a higher standard because they are trained to know better and are well-versed than most in the horrors caused by drunk drivers, such as Andrew Kelly, who diminished his own standing and cast aspersion on the New York Police Department which navigates a tough job in a tough city, every day.
The Valnord-Kassime family’s grace under grief is heroic. When Kelly asked for his forgiveness, Vionique’s father, Rev. Varius Valnord, willingly gave it. Still, it can only compound the bereaved man’s heartache if the investigation reveals that the blue wall conspired to help Kelly water down his terrible crime. His generous plea deal underscores as much.
Kelly’s victory, if you can call it that, is nothing to celebrate because it shows a disregard for human life similar to his own. Instead, he should have received the maximum penalty for vehicular manslaughter: 15 years behind bars.
That might have eased — only ever-so slightly — the anguish of the victim’s loved ones, and demonstrated that no one is above the law — especially a cop.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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