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Homicide Charges In Detached Boat Death

In September 2014, we commented on a tragic accident where two bicyclists were violently struck by a boat that had just unexpectedly detached from a pickup truck in Staten Island. One of the victims, Alexa Cioffi, was killed and the other, Briana Emanuele, was seriously injured. Now, the driver of the pickup truck, Michael Khmil, is facing jail time after a grand jury indicted him on Manslaughter charges. How did this tragic accident happen and what should you know moving forward?

Khmil was driving the pickup truck on Hylan Boulevard in the Bay Terrace section of Staten Island. He was carrying a 22 foot Trophy boat on the trailer.

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The boat came loose and smashed into the unsuspecting victims. Cioffi, 21 years old, and Emanuele, 22 years old, never had a chance as the boat careened into them. How did this accident, while tragic, result in a criminal homicide charge? Prosecutors allege that Khmil, 42, recklessly put the 4000 pound Trophy boat on a trailer that was only meant for a 3000 pound load. Khmil's reckless disregard of an obvious risk, they charge, supports the allegations.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cioffi family as they continue to cope with this senseless loss. We also hope that Ms. Emanuele is experiencing a meaningful recovery. This case has triggered a fair amount of public outcry. It also has prompted some thoughtful legal questions.

The inquiries include:

  • What is the difference between criminal manslaughter and civil negligence?
  • Are the burdens of proof different in a criminal and civil case?

The trial lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy are uniquely qualified to respond to these questions. Why? Many of the experienced attorneys at the firm have prosecuted serious crimes and also handled major civil cases. Partner Stephen J. Murphy was a homicide prosecutor in Brooklyn prior to joining the firm. Joseph Donahue and Scott Occhiogrosso both also have backgrounds prosecuting violent crime in Brooklyn. Their backgrounds better enable them to navigate these complex legal issues while also providing compassion and comfort to their clients.

Manslaughter in the 2nd Degree, the charge that Khmil is currently facing, requires proof that someone recklessly causes the death of another person. A person acts recklessly when he or she is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur. The risk has to be significant enough that disregarding it is completely unreasonable under the circumstances.

Civil negligence, on the contrary, requires a threshold of proof that a person failed to act reasonably under the circumstances. The burden of proof requirements differ in a civil and criminal case. A civil case requires convincing a jury by a preponderance of the evidence- that your position is more likely than not established by the evidence. Simply put, the threshold requirement is that you are able to establish that your position is 51% more likely than your adversary.

The proof required to convict someone of a crime is much more substantial. In order to convict someone of a crime the prosecutor must introduce evidence that convinces a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of that person's guilt. Trial lawyers are keenly aware of the differences between civil and criminal matters. Some cases, like this one, have civil and criminal implications. If you are involved in a case with both civil and criminal issues, you should contact the experienced attorney as soon as possible.

The trial attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy have a long and storied history of representing injured victims, including nearly $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for their clients. Results Matter: See What Block O'Toole & Murphy has done for their clients here.

If you'd like a free consultation or to learn more about the firm please contact them now at 212.736.5300.

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