The Washington Post

Trial starts for driver who ran down tourists

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The man behind the wheel of the car that barreled through crowds of pedestrian­s in New York’s Times Square in 2017, killing a woman and injuring 22 other people, went on trial Monday after various delays over five years, including pandemic-induced court shutdowns.

In an opening statement, prosecutor Alfred Peterson told a Manhattan jury that Richard Rojas was well aware of the carnage he was causing by plowing through helpless tourists visiting the popular destinatio­n known as “the crossroads of the world.”

Defense attorney Enrico Demarco said in his opening statement that Rojas, now 31, has a history of mental illness that made him unable to understand the consequenc­es of his actions that day.

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

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old from Portage, Mich., was killed while on an annual family trip. Her 13-year-old sister, Ava, was among the injured. Ava Elsman, now 18, was the first witness Monday.

Prosecutor­s say Rojas drove his car from the Bronx, where he lived with his mother, through Times Square on May 18, 2017, then made a U-turn, steered his car onto a sidewalk and roared up the sidewalk for three blocks before he crashed into protective barriers.

Rojas then climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street waving his arms. After his arrest, authoritie­s said, the U.S. Navy veteran told police that he had been smoking marijuana laced with the hallucinog­enic drug PCP before the incident.

Rojas pleaded not guilty to murder, assault and other charges in 2017 and has since been jailed at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.

 ?? Ryan Fischer/huntington Herald-dispatch/associated press ?? Days after severe flash flooding hit West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice (R), seated, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, right, spoke at a news conference about the impact. On Friday morning, about 4.5 inches of rain fell in Huntington and nearby areas, inundating many homes and businesses and leaving at least one person dead.
Ryan Fischer/huntington Herald-dispatch/associated press Days after severe flash flooding hit West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice (R), seated, and Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, right, spoke at a news conference about the impact. On Friday morning, about 4.5 inches of rain fell in Huntington and nearby areas, inundating many homes and businesses and leaving at least one person dead.

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