Hit-and-run killer’s 1-year sentence strengthens efforts to toughen laws

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GRAND CONCOURSE, The Bronx (PIX11) – He admits to running over a graduate student from the Bronx and killing him, then driving away and subsequently torching his car to get rid of the evidence.

But despite all of that, hit-and-run driver Mitchum Williams, 30, could be out of prison in as little as 15 months.

It’s a situation that has the family of his victim angry, and has a legislator working to change the state’s hit and run laws, particularly in light of the city’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries.

“I don’t have hate toward him,” Belkys Rivera, mother of victim Josbel Rivera, said of Williams after his sentencing Thursday afternoon.  “I have anger towards how he acted.”

Her son was 23 when he was run over on the day after Christmas 2011.  Williams was behind the wheel.

Rivera’s family immediately put up posters in the area where the crime occurred, on Mosholu Parkway and Paul Avenue, in front of the grounds of Dewitt Clinton High School.

Two days later, Williams torched his car, and the entire act of arson was caught on surveillance video that was obtained by the NYPD, which carried out a search.  That, in part, led Williams to turn himself in eight months after the hit-and-run death.

“I’m not satisfied,” said Rivera’s mother, Belkys, in Spanish, “but we have to be grateful because justice was done, and that’s what we wanted.”

Nearly two years after that, as the case moved toward trial, Williams made a plea deal.  In Bronx Criminal Court on Thursday, he was sentenced according to the state’s penal code.  The result left the dozen members of Rivera’s family who were in attendance in tears.

The judge handed down a second of 1 1/3 years to 4 years, and the parole board for the state’s department of corrections will determine exactly how long, within that timeframe, the sentence will be.  In other words, it’s possible that Williams will be back out on the street by the summer of next year, even though he killed Josbel Rivera, fled the crime scene and committed arson.

“I’m not satisfied,” Rivera’s mother, Belkys, said in Spanish, “but we have to be grateful because justice was done, and that’s what we wanted.”

City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, (D- Upper Manhattan), has supported the Rivera family throughout the two-and-a-half years they’ve had to deal with the crime and its aftermath.  Rodriguez said that prosecutors’ hands were tied.

“They are limited by the state, and that’s why I’m putting [forth] legislation so that they can give the DAs more tools so they can go for higher sentences,” he said.

Rodriguez is currently working with state legislative colleagues to change the law so that a crime similar to that committed by Williams would result in a sentence of up to 15 years.

Rodriguez is also working with the de Blasio Administration to get state law changed regarding pedestrian deaths.  De Blasio has been pushing his Vision Zero initiative, a program intended to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths, and Rodriguez’s efforts are being done in conjunction with that plan.

Meanwhile, Rivera’s family has to accept the sentence received by Williams.

“I am embarrased for him for the kind of human being that he is,” Rivera’s mother said.

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