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Driver In Times Square Rampage Found Not Mentally Responsible

A New York City jury returned a verdict on Wednesday finding that the U.S. Navy veteran who sped his Honda Accord through three blocks of Times Square in 2017, killing one tourist and injuring at least 20 others, was not responsible for 24 counts of murder and assault, Courthouse News Service reports. After six hours of deliberation, the jury ruled Richard Rojas, 31 was “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.” Wednesday’s verdict concludes the long-delayed trial five years after Rojas drove south along Seventh Avenue on May 18, 2017, before making a U-turn and driving onto the sidewalk between 42nd and 45th streets, hitting many pedestrians. Two months after the incident, Rojas was charged with felony counts of murder in the second degree, attempted murder in the second degree, and assault in the first and second degrees. Judge Daniel Conviser will issue an order turning him over to a state hospital.


The judge had suggested the possibility of a paradoxical outcome at the start of the trial this month: Jurors could find Rojas guilty while at the same time deciding that he “lacked responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect.” The top charge — second-degree murder, a class A felony —required the prosecution to show that Rojas “evinced a depraved indifference to human life.” Rojas' attorney, Enrico DeMarco, said his client should not be held responsible because of Rojas' underlying illness of schizophrenia that made him lack a substantial capacity to know what he was doing wrong. Rojas was hearing what psychologists call “command or auditory hallucinations” as he careened through Times Square, DeMarco said. The schizophrenic hallucinations supposedly told Rojas he was navigating an interdimensional “portal” filled with spirits who could be freed from a purgatorial “limbo” if he crashed into them. Prosecutor Alfred Peterson conceded that Rojas was having a psychotic episode, but argued that Rojas showed he wasn’t entirely detached from reality by maneuvering his vehicle onto the sidewalk and driving with precision for three blocks until he crashed.

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