A former New York City Police Department officer has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for driving drunk in Williamsburg, jumping a curb and striking pedestrians on a sidewalk, killing one and injuring three others.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “This tragic case is another reminder of how dangerous drunk driving is and the terrible toll it can exact. This defendant accepted responsibility for his reckless and criminal actions that early morning, which took a promising young man’s life and irreparably harmed three additional victims. I hope this sentence will bring a small measure of solace to the victims and their families.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Nicholas Batka, 30, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser to an indeterminate sentence of five to 15 years in prison following his guilty plea in November 2018 to the top count of aggravated vehicular manslaughter and three counts of aggravated vehicular assault. After completing his sentence, the defendant will serve 350 hours of community service with the “Choices and Consequences” program, which educates high school students on the risks and consequences of driving while intoxicated.
The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, in the early morning hours of July 16, 2016, the defendant was drinking with friends at The Whiskey, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At about 3 a.m., while driving his Dodge Durango, the defendant jumped the curb in the vicinity of Bedford Avenue and North 8th Street in Williamsburg. The vehicle struck four pedestrians on the sidewalk and crashed through a wrought iron fence into the front of a building at 161 Bedford Avenue.
Andrew Esquivel, 21, suffered blunt force trauma and died hours after the crash. Sophia Tabchhouri, 20-year-old at the time, suffered injuries to her legs and arms, including multiple fractures. Divya Menezes, 20-year-old at the time, suffered trauma to both legs and to the right arm plus pelvic fractures. James Balchunas, 24-year-old at the time, suffered serious leg injuries.
Blood taken from the defendant about two hours after the crash showed that his blood-alcohol level at that time was measured at .23, according to the evidence. The legal limit is a blood-alcohol level of .08.
The defendant, who was a probationary officer assigned to the Manhattan Transit Task Force, was fired by the Police Department a few days after the incident.
The case was investigated by Detective Kenneth Long, Detective Michael Sharpe and Detective Edward Behringer of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, and by Sergeant Terrence Smithson and Captain Louis Vierling of the NYPD’s Internal Affair Bureau.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Krystyn Tendy, of the District Attorney’s Grey Zone Trial Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Homicide Bureau Chief and formerly Bureau Chief of the Grey Zone, with the assistance of Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Nocella, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Vehicular Crimes Unit.