A Bronx Family Court judge last week took the unusual step of imposing a five-year order of protection against a man who chased the mother of his children in a car at high speed, following an appeals panel’s finding that the car was “dangerous instrument.”
Civil Court Judge John Kelley’s June 18 decision came after a remand from the Appellate Division, First Department, which had found that another judge, who imposed a two-year order of protection, had wrongly concluded that there were no aggravating circumstances.
The order of protection against Johnny F.R. said he cannot have any contact with the woman, Nakia C., except to arrange visits with their children.
According to Kelley’s account of the facts, Johnny and Nakia were a couple for more than 10 years. When Nakia ended their relationship and became involved with another man, Johnny started calling her repeatedly and following her in his car.
On one occasion, Johnny chased Nakia, who was in a car with one of her children, at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, according to the decision. At a red light, Johnny pulled up next to Nakia and yelled at her to get out of the car. When she tried to drive to a police precinct, Johnny trapped her between other cars, got out of his car and started banging on her window. She was able to escape by driving in reverse down a one-way street.
Nakia petitioned Family Court for a five-year order of protection against Johnny. The first judge who heard the case, Family Court Judge David Cohen, granted a two-year order, finding that a five-year order was unwarranted because there were no aggravating factors.
On appeal, however, the First Department found that Johnny had used his car as a dangerous instrument, making it an aggravating factor. It vacated Cohen’s order and remanded the case for imposition of a protective order in light of that factor.
Kelley, a Manhattan Civil Court judge sitting in Bronx Family Court, imposed the five-year order and expanded the appellate court’s finding that the car was a dangerous instrument.
“A vehicle that is used to cut off or overtake another vehicle while traveling at speeds exceeding 40 to 50 miles per hour on a city street is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury,” Kelley wrote. “Here, not only was the petitioner and the respondent endangered, so too was the respondent’s own child and other potential drivers and pedestrians.”
The judge also wrote that it was irrelevant whether Johnny intended to hurt Nakia or the child with his car.
“His actions speak for themselves,” Kelley wrote. “He threatened the petitioner, she fled in her car, and he recklessly chased her at unreasonably high speeds and trapped her. These findings are sufficient to constitute aggravating circumstances and impose a five-year order of protection upon the respondent.”
Kelley also pointed to evidence from the Family Court record that Johnny had persistent “difficulty controlling his anger and is prone to impulsive behavior.”
Kelley noted that Johnny said he planned to move to Florida and start a new life, and was worried that the order of protection could hinder his prospects.
However, the judge said that, in light of Johnny’s wish to continue seeing his children, the order was necessary, and would “allow the visitation to proceed with the least amount of disruption possible.”
Nakia is represented by Yusuf El Ashmawy of Nelson, Robinson & El Ashmawy.
“We think it was a great decision,” El Ashmawy said. “It was absolutely the right thing to do.”
He said that it was unusual for a Family Court to impose a five-year order of protection in a case without a criminal component or repeated violations of an existing order of protection.
Johnny is represented by Enrique Benitez of The Benitez Firm. Benitez could not immediately be reached for comment.