Earlir articles -
Boy, 9, struck by car, remains in coma
DWI suspect: 'My heart goes out' to family of injured boy
Powers Child Now Out of Coma, Charges Reduced on Driver
by Judy Silberstein
(June 18, 2008)
William Powers, the 9-year-old Larchmont Manor boy who has been in a coma since being hit by a car on June 6, has regained consciousness and is breathing on his own, reported Karen Schwartzman, spokesperson for the Powers family. Meanwhile, charges against the 18-year-old driver were reduced from "driving under the influence of alcohol (DWI) to "driving while impaired" (DWAI) after blood tests showed no alcohol or other substances. Mike Mezansky pled not guilty at an arraignment hearing on Tuesday night, July 17 in a Larchmont courtroom filled with family, friends and other supporters.
William has been moved out of the intensive care unit and is now on the pediatric floor of the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, said Ms. Schwartzman. She said he remains in “acute condition” with “traumatic brain injury” or "a diffused axonal injury to the brain.” He is being fed by tube and is still asleep most of the time.
William was struck after walking his older sister to catch a Bee-Line bus at Magnolia and Grove, a few blocks from his Prospect Avenue home. The Chatsworth third grader was crossing the street in front of the parked bus when he was hit by a car driven by Mike Mezansky, who lives nearby on Magnolia. Police report the driver was attempting to pass but his vision was obscured by the bus.
Charges Reduced at Arraignment
According to Joseph P. Abinanti, attorney for the driver, Mr. Mezansky was on his way to work when the accident occurred and has issued only two statements: his concern for the Powers boy and that "if he had been drinking, he would not have been driving."
Mr. Abinanti said the blood test, which was taken more than four hours after the incident, came back with "zero blood alcohol and negative for everything" (no marijuana, drugs or other illegal substances). Because of the time that elapsed between the incident and the test, it is still possible for the driver to have had detectable levels of alcohol on his breath when police administered a field sobriety test at the scene.
Mr. Mezansky refused to take a more accurate breath test at the Larchmont police station. The blood test conducted under court order occurred at around noon, more than 4 hours after the accident. Refusing to take a breath test is an infraction that can lead to a drivers license revocation of at least one year and a civil penalty of $500.
It is possible to extrapolate blood alcohol content (BAC) from results of tests taken many hours after an incident, but, "how high could it have been?" asked Mr. Abinanti. He said medical experts often disagree. "It could have been at .04 - or it could have been nothing."
Mr. Abinanti said that because the blood test showed no alcohol, his client is not subject to the "zero tolerance" provisions of New York State's driving laws, which call for additional penalties (license suspension and fines) for drivers under age 21 found to be driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) from .02 to .04. Adult penalties kick in with a BAC of .05 or higher.
At most, the attorney said, his client could receive a 90-day suspension of his license if he is convicted of the DWAI charge. The next court hearing is scheduled for July 8.
Rumors/Facts on Case & Law
Anyone walking the streets of Larchmont will undoubtedly have heard many rumors about the case – with numerous details, many of them inaccurate. Until the arraignment hearing, few substantiated facts of the case had been revealed.
One friend who was speaking on an unauthorized basis was Mamaroneck High School baseball coach Mike Chiapparelli, who knows both the Powers and Mezansky families.
“This is a fine young man who was out the night before, went to bed, got up to go to work and the tragic accident happened about 100 yards from the house,” said the coach. “It’s a tragedy for both families now.”
Mike Mezanky, who graduated from Mamaroneck High School last year, played on the baseball team for two years and was rated one of the top baseball players in the state.
“He is a great kid,” said Coach Chiapparelli. “He just wants Will to get better.”
Some of the misinformation floating around the community pertains to the “zero tolerance” laws that apply to underage drinking in New York State. (See: SafeNY.com.) A driver younger than 21 is subject to fines and a license suspension or revocation with a blood alcohol content (BAC) as low as .02. (Any lower would subject youth to penalties for consuming legal substances, such as a medical dose of cough syrup.)
As is the case with adults, there are additional penalties for driving with BAC levels between .05 and .07 (driving with ability impaired); BAC of .08 and higher (driving while intoxicated); and BAC of .18 and higher (aggravated driving while intoxicated).
Police originally charged Mike Mezansky with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, which for first offenders carries a fine upon conviction of $500-$1000 and a potential jail sentence of up to 1 year. If convicted on the now reduced charge of DWAI, Mr. Mezansky could be fined from $300-$500, lose his license for at least 6 months, and be subject to a maximum of 15 days in jail. As in any traffic accident, additional civil or criminal penalties might apply
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