Mount Airy man found not guilty in fatal car accident near Mall

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2011

It was an unseasonably warm November Sunday afternoon on the Mall, and Richard Greenstein and his wife, Rhoda Ratner, had just completed a walk to raise money for lung cancer research. The recently married senior citizens strolled down Madison and 12th streets NW to return to their car.

Kevin Bucy, 35, had spent a couple of hours that morning with his wife and four young children touring the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. Bucy left his family at the museum and walked nearly 30 minutes to his Kia Sedona minivan with the intention of driving back to the museum to pick them up.

But before Greenstein, 76, and Ratner could get to their car, Bucy's minivan hit them as he backed into a parking space on Madison Street just as the couple had stepped into the crosswalk. Ratner, 73, suffered minor injuries. Greenstein, her husband of 15 months, died from severe head injuries.

Bucy's attorneys said it was an accident. But prosecutors disagreed and charged Bucy with one count of negligent homicide, for which a conviction carries five years in prison.

After two days of testimony and about four hours of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury found Bucy not guilty Thursday.

It was a difficult case for Assistant U.S. Attorney John Soroka. Bucy, of Mount Airy, wasn't drunk or on drugs. And he stayed at the scene and called 911.

After delivering their verdict, three jurors said the government failed to prove that Bucy was negligent when he struck the Bowie couple.

Bucy's attorneys attacked the credibility of the government's sole witness, who said Bucy was speeding. Eastern Shore physician Roger Merrill told the jury that he saw Bucy's minivan "whip" past him at a "significant amount of speed."

Under cross-examination by Jennifer Connor, one of Bucy's attorneys, Merrill acknowledged that he previously told a grand jury that he was upset with Bucy for taking a space that he thought he should have had.

Bucy was the last witness to testify. At times in tears, the AT&T computer technician said he was just trying to park so his family could get into the minivan. Bucy said he checked both side mirrors and didn't see anyone in the crosswalk.

He then looked over his right shoulder and put his hand on the back of the passenger seat and took his foot off the brake so he could drift into the space. Bucy said he never hit the accelerator and backed up about 10 feet before feeling the impact of hitting Greenstein and Ratner. Bucy said he thought he hit another vehicle. He got out of his van and saw the couple lying under it.

When police arrived at the scene, an officer cited Bucy for braking without caution and gave him a $25 ticket. But when Greenstein died, authorities nullified the ticket and charged Bucy with negligent homicide.

Prosecutors presented crime scene photos showing three dents on the back of the van that prosecutors said could only have occurred if the van was going at a high speed. The pictures also showed a pool of blood in the crosswalk, about two feet from the back of the vehicle. There were no skid marks or signs of braking, authorities said.

Ratner told the jury that the couple looked for oncoming cars before stepping into the street. There weren't any. "My husband was very careful," said Ratner, a retired Smithsonian worker.

Ratner then recalled feeling what she described as a "thump" to the side of her head, then felt herself being "propelled." When she opened her eyes, she was on the ground. She looked up and saw the back end of the minivan over her face. Her legs were under it.

Ratner said she then heard someone yell, "Don't move him." She then realized her husband had also been injured. She saw him a few feet away, lying on the ground. She crawled to him. She suffered minor injuries and was treated and released at George Washington University Hospital. Greenstein suffered a skull fracture and severe brain injury.

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