Driver in Times Square Crash Fights to Exclude Psych Records

Richard Rojas, of the Bronx, N.Y., appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on May 19, 2017. Rojas was arrested after mowing down a crowd of Times Square pedestrians with his car. (R. Umar Abbasi/New York Post via AP, Pool)

MANHATTAN (CN) – An attorney for the U.S. Navy veteran who sped his car down a Times Square sidewalk this spring, killing a woman and injuring 22 others, fought Monday to exclude evidence of his client’s psychiatric records.

The conference on Richard Rojas this afternoon comes two months after Manhattan prosecutor Joan Illuzzi accused the defense of exceeding the time limit to give notice of a psychiatric defense.

Rojas, 26, pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted-murder charges in July, but defense attorney Enrico DeMarco argued in October that he needed more information before finalizing a mental illness theory.

Echoing this position Monday, DeMarco said he could not rush the decision because it “opens the door then to going into certain background about my client.”

Prosecutors revealed that the Bronx native confided in police after his arrest that he had smoked PCP-laced marijuana before the car attack

Images of the scene at Times Square flooded social media on May 18, 2017, after a red Honda drove into pedestrians.

Photographs of the carnage showed a wild-eyed DeMarco running through the street with his arms in the air as his Honda Civic sat impaled at a 45-degree angle on cement security posts.

Before the attack on May 18, Rojas was involved in two drunken-driving cases and also pleaded guilty to harassment in the Bronx after he was accused of pulling a knife on a notary in his home.

Prosecutors say a search of the home Rojas shared with his mother uncovered evidence of military medical records that contain protected mental health information. Illuzzi said her investigators stopped reading the medical records once they discovered it contained the psychiatric health information, and now the city wants permission to enter those medical records into evidence.

Though Rojas was not in court for this afternoon’s conference, defense attorney DeMarco said the evidence “should be suppressed” if it was seized with the aid of insufficient search warrants.

Judge Melissa Jackson set a status conference for Feb. 28, 2018, to decide how to move further with the case after Rojas submits to the government’s chosen psychiatric evaluation.

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