The arrest of the Deer Park truck driver who police said struck and killed a boy Friday has stirred debate over penalties for driving with a suspended license.
Philip Monfoletto, 28, had his license suspended nine times before his oil truck hit Kevin Flores while he was riding his bicycle in Brooklyn, the NYPD said. Flores, 13, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Monfoletto was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle in the second and third degree along with being an unlicensed operator, all misdemeanors. The police investigation continues.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the charges weak and inadequate.
“He took someone’s life. He was thumbing his nose at the system,” Adams said. “He should have been charged with a felony. The law has been a co-conspirator in letting people get away with the act of driving with a suspended license.”
The law says, Adams said, that a person can face felony charges only if their license has been suspended 10 times on 10 different days. Monfoletto’s license was suspended nine times on five dates.
Adams said he wants legislation introduced to toughen up the law, elevating the crime to a felony far sooner in the legal process.
Such legislation could face opposition, said Steve Vaccaro, an attorney and advocate for safe streets. Some license suspensions result from not paying parking violations or child support, he said.
The critical issue, he said, is whether the driver has a history of reckless driving rather than a string of license suspensions.
Monfoletto had his license suspended again and again because he failed to address traffic violations, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. The specifics on those violations were unavailable Wednesday.
Monfoletto was driving his 2000 Mack truck north on Lewis Avenue and turning right onto Jefferson Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant when he hit the boy at 5:48 p.m. Flores was riding his bicycle next to the truck, police said.
Monfoletto told police he did not see the boy and did not initially know that he struck him. He also acknowledged he knew he was driving without a license, police said.
Ron Rubinstein, Monfoletto’s attorney, said his client faced no charges regarding his handling of the vehicle that Friday.
“Nobody could have been driving better,” Rubinstein said. “Whether or not he had a suspended license had nothing to do with the tragedy here.”
He added, “Whoever would have been behind the wheel, the accident would have occurred.”
He said Monfoletto had hired an attorney to handle the multiple license suspensions before the crash.
The funeral for Kevin Flores is Friday, said Evan Kilgore, a principal at the boy’s middle school. The death of the quiet youngster who loved his bicycle has rocked students at Launch Expeditionary Learning Charter School in Crown Heights, he said.
For many of the kids, this is their first brush with the death of someone their own age. In each classroom, the pupils sat in a circle and talked through their feelings, the principal said.
“They feel vulnerable, and they feel concerned,” Kilgore said.
They recalled the seventh-grader who was already preparing his portfolio to apply to art schools. He wanted to do something with art and design. He was already designing his own T-shirts and buttons.
“He had a clarity of who he was, and who he wanted to be,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore started a GoFundMe campaign that had already raised more than $13,000 to help the boy’s family with funeral and other expenses.