Justice for Ava?

 Justice for Ava?

– Driver Hit with Misdemeanor – Family Says It’s Not Enough

By Katie McFadden

“I want justice for my daughter,” Matthew Conklin said. Just short of six months from the day 19-year-old Ava Conklin was killed when hit by a car that jumped the sidewalk as she waited at the bus stop on Beach 108th and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the driver, Daniel Sails has been charged. But with the top charge of reckless driving being a misdemeanor, the family of Conklin says it isn’t enough to justify her young life being taken from her.

Last week, Sails, a 30-year-old Black man from Far Rockaway, was arrested in connection to the incident in which Ava Conklin lost her life. On June 24, 2023, after finishing a shift at The Rockaway Hotel, Conklin was waiting for her younger sister at the bus stop across the street, so they could go on an outing in Manhattan. That fun plan never happened. At about 2:17 p.m., Conklin was hit by a white Hyundai SUV that was driven onto the sidewalk and struck the bench where she was waiting, sending her flying. Conklin was transported to Brookdale Hospital with severe trauma to her torso but could not be saved and later died from her injuries.

The driver, Sails, remained at the scene. He had allegedly been driving a company car for an auto parts delivery service and claimed that he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Sails was arrested and later released with no charges. “It felt like someone was protecting him,” Ava’s father, Matthew Conklin said.

Charges didn’t come until last Tuesday, January 16, when Sails allegedly turned himself in on a warrant at the 100th Precinct and was hit with an unclassified misdemeanor charge of reckless driving, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $300 fine in New York, as well as two lower “failure to exercise due care” violations.

The Conklin family says it isn’t enough. “You kill someone, that’s second-degree manslaughter,” Conklin said. In New York, a grand jury decides whether or not a person should be formally charged with a crime or other offense. The grand jury makes that decision based on evidence presented to it by the prosecutor, who also instructs the grand jury on the law. Matthew Conklin claims prior to the court hearing on January 16, a grand jury was given details of the case and allegedly voted to not apply any felony charges in the case, but instead the lower reckless driving charge. “I called the court, and they told me that there’s no way to appeal that. They said all felonies get voted on by a grand jury and once it goes through the grand jury, that’s it,” he said.

While grateful to see some charges applied six months after losing his daughter, Conklin says it isn’t enough. “The whole thing is mind boggling,” he said. “Ava died for no reason and this guy is getting away with murder, it’s just crazy, and we have to live the rest of our lives knowing she’s not here.”

In New York, manslaughter in the second degree applies when someone “Recklessly caused the death of another person under the conditions that showed that you had a depraved indifference for human life.” A person can be charged with a felony charge of vehicular manslaughter if they kill someone while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While some states have laws that apply to incidents where a driver kills someone while falling asleep at the wheel, New York does not. “This state is a cesspool,” Conklin said. “There’s no accountability in this state at all.”

The Conklin family feels that not enough was done to disprove that Sails wasn’t under the influence of something at the time of the crash. “They never did a toxicology report. We asked what was going on and we were told that they gave him a breathalyzer and he passed, and they gave him a swab test, which only tests for a couple things, but this guy refused to go in the ambulance to the hospital and they never gave him a blood or urine test. They said they couldn’t make him give blood,” Matthew Conklin said.

Conklin says they don’t buy Sails’ story of falling asleep behind the wheel. “Anyone that starts work at 10 a.m. and you need a nap within four hours, shouldn’t be driving. To me, that’s someone that was impaired. I go to work at 7 p.m. for sanitation, and get home at 7 a.m., driving the whole time, and I don’t take a nap. I also haven’t killed anybody. How can you work and have a drivers’ license and you need to take a nap four hours into the shift?”

At a hearing at Queens Supreme Criminal Court on the morning of January 16, Sails pled not guilty to the reckless driving charge and was released. As Sails has allegedly continued to drive after the incident, the Conklin family asked that the judge suspend Sails’ license. “He’s been living life like nothing happened. We asked that his license be taken away. His lawyer tried to argue that this is his first offense. Yeah—for murder.” The judge granted the request to suspend Sails’ license as the case is ongoing.

Conklin says he’s surprised the reckless driving charge even stuck, but there is evidence. According to Conklin, the event data recorder in Sails’ vehicle recorded him going 38 miles per hour in the 25 mile per hour zone, and there was no record of the brake being pressed as Sails crashed. “When you’re in a car, that car doesn’t drive itself. You need to be accountable for how you drive and when you’re doing 38 miles per hour, you choose to do that,” Conklin said.

The next hearing for Sails’ case will be held at Queens Supreme Criminal Court on Tuesday, February 20 at 9 a.m., according to the New York Unified Court System. While it may be one of many court dates in this case, the Conklin, Collins and Donohue families are requesting that people show up to show support at the hearings. “When we went last Tuesday, it was me, Ava’s mom, her stepmom, her sister, Emma, and another cousin, and we went there and this guy had about 30 people with him,” Conklin said.

In the meantime, while trying to navigate options, Ava’s family is doing what they can to share her story and make sure she’s not forgotten. Recently, Ava’s aunt, Kathleen Donohue created a TikTok account, “JusticeforAva03” to share Ava’s story. “I initiated JusticeForAva03 on TikTok to shed light on my niece Ava Conklin’s case, raising public awareness about the unjust grand jury decision and celebrating Ava’s amazing, beautiful, and funny nature,” Donohue said. “The aim is to preserve her memory, ensuring she’s not forgotten.”

But ultimately, their wish is to see more accountability. “I’d like to see this guy behind bars for the rest of his life. I want justice for my daughter, and I feel like the state of New York is not going to give it to her,” Conklin said. “I’m sick of people telling me ‘I’m sorry.’ I don’t want ‘I’m sorry.’ I want results. Nobody should have to go through this.”

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *