The seizure-prone Staten Island woman who fatally mowed down two Park Slope kids in a crosswalk had been instructed by a doctor not to drive weeks before the tragedy, prosecutors said Thursday.
Dorothy Bruns, 44, was arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court on a 10-count indictment on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, assault, and reckless driving related to the March 5 crash that killed Joshua Lew, 1, and Abigail Blumenstein, 4.
After a judge set her bail at $75,000 bond or $25,000 cash, Bruns, wearing walking boots on both feet, wept and said “no” when officers went to escort her out.
Bruns, who was also hit with a red light violation, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.
Assistant District Attorney Craig Esswein said in court: “This tragic accident was foreseeable and it was avoidable had the defendant listened to what her doctor said,” as he noted that a neurologist at Richmond University Medical Center had advised Bruns “not to drive” back in January after being hospitalized.
“She’s the last person who should be in a car, but she didn’t listen for whatever selfish reasons,” Esswein said. “And two families lost children because of the defendant’s selfishness.”
According to prosecutors, Bruns, who has multiple sclerosis, had a medical episode while driving on Staten Island and “lost sensation to the left side of her body,” causing her to crash into a parked car on Jan. 8.
She was hospitalized for two days – during which time she suffered a seizure.
Bruns was instructed not to drive for one year due to her medical condition upon her discharge and again during follow-up appointments on Jan. 16 and Feb. 13, the DA’s office says.
On Jan. 20, Bruns’ car was allegedly involved in a fender-bender on Staten Island and left the scene.
“Despite what the doctor told her she was out driving in Staten Island,” Esswein said.
Esswein said Bruns suffered three seizures on the day of the double-fatal crash — one at the time of the collision, one in the ambulance after the harrowing incident and one in the hospital.
The young children were crossing the busy Brooklyn intersection of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue with their pal moms, Tony Award-winning actress Ruthie Ann Miles – the mother of Abigail – and Lauren Lew, the mom of Joshua, when Bruns struck all four of them and another person.
The Broadway actress, who won a Tony Award in 2015 for her role in “The King and I,” was pregnant at the time of the crash. Her unborn child was not harmed.
Bruns told cops at the time she suffered a seizure that caused her to run a red light and lose control of her white Volvo sedan.
According to the DA’s office, witnesses said Bruns allegedly had her head “hanging back when she drove into the intersection” and first responders observed her foaming at the mouth.
“Before [the victims] realized what happened the car was upon them and everyone got hit,” Esswein said, adding that Abigail “was knocked down and died of skull fractures” and Joshua “had a severed spine.”
In court Thursday, Bruns’ lawyer David Jacobs said that Bruns drives a car for work for a company called ClearCaptions, which aids the hearing impaired, and that her doctor gave her a letter “clearing her for regular activities.”
“The sole function of her employment is to deliver these units. Without driving she would be no use for ClearCaptions. The neurologist knew that and wrote a letter that she can resume all prior functions,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs added: “It seems like the real legal issue raised by this indictment is whether or not the defendant – not versed in medicine – understood the risk that was imposed to drive with the medical condition that was diagnosed.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez rejected notion that Bruns’ neurologist gave her the all-clear to drive.
“We’ve spoken with that doctor,” Gonzalez told reporters at a press conference after the arraignment. “He was clearing her to go back to work — not to operate a vehicle.”
Gonzalez called the tragedy a “heartbreaking case for all people of Brooklyn,” as he explained how his three young sons often cross that same intersection. “It was devastating to me,” he said.
“[Bruns] was told her medical condition could cause her to have a seizure and she continued to drive,” Gonzalez said. “She was told not to drive. She took the lives of two innocent babies.”
During Bruns’ arraignment, Jacobs said Bruns should be released on her own recognizance.
“I’m not saying this for any sympathy — she has two fractured feet,” Jacobs said. “She may need rods in her feet…[and] may need rods in her spine. She cannot walk on her own.”
It’s unclear what Bruns’ injuries are from.
Bruns was taken into police custody Thursday morning at her Targee Street home after a Brooklyn grand jury voted to indict her.
Her car has racked up 12 violations since 2016 for several offenses, including speeding in school zones and running red lights.
Bruns’ next court date is scheduled for June 13.
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