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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spellman sentenced to up to nine years

By Sarina Trangle
Posted
Marisol Diaz/The Riverdale Press
Lora Juncaj, 24, granddaughter of Drane Nikac, cries outside the courtroom after the sentencing of former NYPD Det. Kevin Spellman.

Former Det. Kevin Spellman was sentenced in Bronx Criminal Court Friday morning to serve three to nine years in prison.

Mr. Spellman, a Riverdale resident and 22-year veteran of the NYPD, was convicted on Dec. 6 of manslaughter in the second degree, the third highest charge he faced for killing 66-year-old Kingsbridge resident Drane Nikac.

At 6:37 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2009, Ms. Nikac, an Albanian from Montenegro who immigrated to the U.S. more than 15 years ago, crossed Kingsbridge Avenue at West 232nd Street, pushing a cart full of cans she regularly collected from the neighborhood.

In the middle of the crosswalk, Mr. Spellman’s car struck her, throwing her approximately 40 feet through the air. She died shortly afterward.

Mr. Spellman refused a Breathalyzer test on the scene, but after five hours his blood-alcohol content was recorded at 0.21.

Judge Steven Barrett sentenced Mr. Spellman after two of Ms. Nikac’s granddaughters described how her death shattered their family.

Sara Juncaj said she has been haunted by images from the scene of Ms. Nikac's death.

Lora Juncaj read a letter on behalf of her mother, Dusta “Justine” Juncaj.

“He received special treatment from the NYPD throughout his entire career. Perhaps if he did not get this special treatment as a police officer my mom would be alive today,” she said. “Please, your Honor, let the special treatment end.”

The Bronx District Attorney's case against Mr. Spellman lasted three years and the jury deliberated for eight days.

Mr. Spellman was acquitted of the two highest charges, aggravated vehicular manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter in the first degree.

Judge Barrett said he consulted five fellow judges before making “the most difficult” sentencing call of his career.

Ultimately, he said, the prevalence of deaths caused by drunk drivers led him to believe that all such offenders must serve prison time.

But, he said, the maximum sentence of five to 15 years was too harsh for a man who lived “an exemplary life” as a dedicated law enforcement officer and is a churchgoing father consumed with remorse.

“Mr. Spellman may also regard this sentence as a penance that will ultimately set you free,” he said.

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