LOCKPORT – A Niagara Falls man accepted a plea bargain Wednesday in connection with a June 18 collision that killed a pedestrian and injured her son.
Francis A. Maikranz, 55, of Whitney Avenue, admitted to leaving the scene of a fatality and leaving the scene of a serious injury accident in return for a promise that he will be sentenced to no more than two to six years in state prison.
“That’s in return for giving up his right to a trial,” Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said in court.
Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas agreed to Brenner’s sentencing recommendation. She will pass sentence March 6.
“I think we’re satisfied. He wouldn’t have gotten much more than that [if convicted at trial],” said Dan Davis, of Niagara Falls, grandfather of the victim, Nicole Rodriguez, 26.
Brenner said the sentences for the two felonies would have to run concurrently, so the longest Maikranz could have spent in prison was seven years.
Rodriguez and her son, Christopher Pelfrey, now 8, were struck at about 10 p.m. June 18 as they were crossing Hyde Park Boulevard near Jerauld Avenue in the Falls. Rodriguez died the next day in Erie County Medical Center. Her son was thrown about 50 feet by the impact and suffered internal injuries.
The boy is now living with Davis, his great-grandfather, and has returned to school, Davis said.
Maikranz wasn’t arrested until nine days after the accident. “I left the scene,” he said three times in court, but didn’t concede that he knew he had struck someone. He had told police he didn’t know that.
“Under the circumstances, he’s admitting that he should have known,” said defense attorney Dominic Saraceno of the County Conflict Defender’s Office. “That evening he didn’t know, but once he saw it on the news that there had been an accident in that area, he should have reported it.”
Saraceno asserted that Maikranz was confused by initial police statements to the media that Rodriguez and her son were struck by a maroon car with a nylon cover on the front and broken headlights. He said Maikranz was driving a bright red convertible with no cover, and he had no broken headlights. He said broken glass at the scene didn’t come from Maikranz’s auto.
Despite that, “when he heard of a fatality in an area where he knew there was an accident, he should have reported it and let the police investigate it,” Saraceno said.
Maikranz is a colon cancer survivor and is being treated for depression.
Maikranz has no prior criminal record. He said no when asked by police if he had been drinking that night.
Saraceno said Rodriguez’s blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.09 percent, above the legal threshold for intoxication, and she also had cocaine metabolites in her system.
“It might have been determined that the accident was her fault,” Saraceno said.
“Fault isn’t an element in leaving the scene,” Brenner responded.
“He didn’t stop,” Davis said. “If you hit somebody and don’t stop, then you should pay the consequences.”