On the cusp of the two-year anniversary of Drane Nikac’s death, the trial of now former Bronx Det. Kevin Spellman — accused of striking and killing the 66-year-old woman while driving drunk — is slated to begin on Wednesday, November 9.
At the latest hearing on Tuesday morning, the defense told Judge Steven Barrett that it would likely be seeking a jury trial, which would be an unusual occurrence and counterintuitive request, according to a source with knowledge of the Bronx court system.
“ … Juries tend to be pretty anti-cop,” the source said.
Ms. Nikac was struck by the then 42-year-old Riverdale resident Det. Spellman’s gray government Chevy sedan early in the morning on October 30, 2009, on Kingsbridge Avenue between West 232nd and West 233rd streets.
Det. Spellman, who is believed to still live in a home on Douglas Avenue and was a 22-year-NYPD veteran, worked in the Bronx Fugitive Task Force and had desks at several precincts around the city, sometimes working out of the 50th Precinct, sources said.
The night of the incident, he got off work at about midnight, police said, and was on his way home after a night out with fellow officers at Pauline’s Cabaret, at 5757 Broadway, a bar that recently closed but was a favorite of Five-O officers.
He was hit with 11 charges, the most serious of which is aggravated vehicular homicide.
After the short hearing, nine members of Ms. Nikac’s family gathered to discuss the case.
Rosemarie Arnold, the attorney for a civil suit against the city, the NYPD and the officer, said the family would happily agree to a trial jury. She also said the family, which has shown up to every hearing in the case over the last two years, has been frustrated by scheduling conflicts.
“The second anniversary is coming up at the end of the month and they would like to see swift justice,” she said.
The start date could be pushed up to Monday, October 24 if both Bronx District Attorney James Goward and defense attorney Robert Brunetti can reschedule other trial dates.
Mr. Goward’s is prosecuting three Riker’s Island prison guards accused of setting up a fight club that pinned inmates against each other, which has caused conflicts with scheduled appearances in Det. Spellman’s case.
Regardless of the legal timeframe, Sara Juncaj, 27, Ms. Nikac’s granddaughter, said the family was planning a vigil at the site of the accident and to attend services in Ms. Nikac’s hometown in Montenegro to mark the two-year anniversary of her death.