Teen Driver in Deadly UWS Crash Freed on Bail, Angering Victim's Family

The 17-year-old driver who allegedly struck and killed 4-year-old Ariel Russo was released on bail Thursday, angering the girl's family

Friday, Jun 28, 2013  |  Updated 9:12 AM EDT
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A teen driver charged with mowing down and killing a 4-year-old girl has been released from jail, angering Ariel Russo's family. Brynn Gingras reports.

NBC 4 New York

A teen driver charged with mowing down and killing a 4-year-old girl has been released from jail, angering Ariel Russo's family. Brynn Gingras reports.

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Friends and family gathered on the Upper West Side to remember 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was struck and killed by an SUV that jumped a curb Tuesday morning.

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The unlicensed teenage driver who allegedly struck and killed a 4-year-old girl on a Manhattan sidewalk earlier this month was released on bail Thursday, and the girl's family is upset. 

Seventeen-year-old Franklin Reyes, who's charged with manslaughter in Ariel Russo's death, was released from Rikers Island on $25,000 cash bail, nearly a month after he was jailed. The judge had originally set bail at $50,000 but a new judge lowered it Thursday. 

Reyes has pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Russo and her grandmother were allegedly hit by Reyes on the Upper West Side on June 4. The high school student was allegedly trying to evade police after he was pulled over for reckless driving.

Russo's family, who was in court during the bail hearing, expressed anger after the proceeding. 

"My daughter's dead and this guy's going to be free," said Alan Russo, Ariel's father. "He's going to have the summer, he's going to be home, he is going to play video games, he is going to eat his mom's home-cooked food." 

"I'm never going to have my daughter back," he said. 

"There is no reasoning," Alan Russo said of the judge's decision to lower bail. "It's a joke. It's a joke." 

Martin Schmuckler, the defense attorney for Reyes, said he told the judge: "He's not dangerous, he needs to go back to school. He's a kid. A terrible thing happened. It's just very, very unfortunate. Let him go."

Reyes, who only had a learners permit at the time of the crash, was ordered not to drive while he is out on bail. He is next expected in court in August.

Compounding the Russo family's grief, fire officials say "human error" within New York City's 911 system caused a more than four-minute delay in dispatching an ambulance to help Russo. The family has said it plans to file a lawsuit over the error.

Russo's grandmother was released from the hospital Wednesday.

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