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Trial to begin for driver accused of running down tourists in Times Square in 2017

Trial to begin for driver accused of running down tourists in Times Square in 2017
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Trial to begin for driver accused of running down tourists in Times Square in 2017

Trial to begin for driver accused of running down tourists in Times Square in 2017

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The trial of a man accused of driving tourists down New York City’s Times Square, killing a woman and injuring 22 people will begin Monday in Manhattan after a five-year delay.

Richard Rojas, 31, pleaded not guilty in 2017 to a felony. His trial has been postponed more than once for various reasons, including a delay in the coronavirus epidemic.

A wrecked car sits on Broadway and 45th Street in New York's Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians.

A wrecked car sits on Broadway and 45th Street in New York’s Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians.
(Gadget Clock Alex Vros)

Rojas is accused of hitting and killing 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Portage, Michigan, while she was walking through Times Square on a family trip. Among the 22 injured is his teenage sister. Prosecutors say Rojas drove onto the sidewalk for three blocks before his car crashed into a defensive barrier.

A U.S. Navy veteran told police after his arrest that he was smoking marijuana with the hallucinogenic drug PCP at the time. The National Drug Intelligence Center says PCP can be misleading, violent or suicidal.

After police arrested Rojas, he said he wanted to “kill everyone.”

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Richard Rojas of the Bronx, NY, appeared in the Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, July 13, 2017, in New York.  (Jefferson Siegel / AP, Pool, Daily News via file)

Richard Rojas of the Bronx, NY, appeared in the Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, July 13, 2017, in New York. (Jefferson Siegel / AP, Pool, Daily News via file)

Rojas has a number of previous criminal cases that painted a picture of a troubled person. He was convicted of harassment after bringing a knife to a notary in his home. He has had at least two previous drunken driving cases.

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Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and worked on the USS Carney, a destroyer, for the 2012 portion. Rojas spent his last months in the Navy at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.

In 2012, he was arrested and charged with assaulting a cab driver, who he said disrespected him by trying to charge too much, according to the arrest report. The arresting officer said Rojas shouted, “My life is over!” As he was detained.

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NYPD

NYPD
(New York Police Department)

A report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said that after his arrest, Rojas told the officer that he was going to kill all the police and military police he could see after his release from prison. The military took steps to take control of the case.

Rojas spent two months in 2013 in a naval prison in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the Associated Press. A navy official said he was released in 2014 as a result of a special court martial.

Rojas’ trial is expected to take several months.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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