Power Of A Mother’s Love Key To Passing Vasean’s Law: McLaughlin
In closing out a chapter of one of the most important victories for justice in New York state in recent years, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin cited as the most significant factor a human emotion that is as old and enduring as life itself: the love of a mother for her child.
Speaking at the June 3 ceremony where Governor George Pataki signed Vasean’s Law, the legislation that, hopefully, will eliminate injustices occurring under the previous DWI law, McLaughlin stated that the long struggle and effort that brought about passage of the law should remind all of us once again, “The power of a mother’s love is strong and never ending. It can move mountains—and lawmakers—to protect children.”
In this instance, McLaughlin was referring to the herculean effort made by Monique Dixon of Kew Gardens Hills to get justice for her 11-year-old son, Vasean, so that his death at the hands of a driver operating a car while intoxicated one evening last October as he played near his home would not have been in vain.
Continuing his quietly passionate address, McLaughlin (D–Flushing) stated: “So while we mourn the loss of Vasean and are saddened by the injury to his buddy, Angel [Reyes], we know that from their horrific accident, the suffering of other DWI victims and their families will not have the extra burden of a justice system without justice.”
McLaughlin acknowledged that he was proud of the role he had played with his colleagues in government to change the DWI law so that the death of or serious injury to someone by a drunk driver is now adequate reason, by itself, for the driver to be charged and prosecuted as a felon. “There’s no need to prove that a stop sign or red light was also passed,” McLaughlin explained.
“And perhaps the most important lesson to learn is that drinking and driving is a bad choice, but if you choose to drink and drive and hurt someone, there’s a huge price to pay and it is called Vasean’s Law. Although this little boy will never become a man, his spirit and his name will outlive us all. Indeed, with the current rash of hit and runs and DWIs, the clear message is that a car is a weapon. But just like a gun, it requires a person to pull the trigger, and now that person has Vasean to contend with,” McLaughlin added.
Present for the bill signing by Pataki, which took place at P.S. 165 in Flushing, which Vasean had attended, were all the principal players in getting Vasean’s Law passed by the state legislature, beginning with Dixon, whose emotional six-week lobbying tour, which reached every legislator, brought together the votes that made the bill a law.
They included Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the sponsors of Vasean’s Law, McLaughlin, Assemblymember Nettie Mayersohn and state Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Serphin Maltese, Democrats except Maltese; and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, a longtime advocate for strengthening penalties and creating a more workable DWI law. Brown advised the legislators and guided them in drawing up the new law.
Commenting on the new law, Silver (D–Manhattan) also paid homage to Vasean’s mother. “The accomplishment we mark today is not only a tribute to Vasean Phillip Alleyne, but also to his mother Monique Dixon, a woman with an enormous heart and a remarkable ability to bring people together,” he said.
Four days after the governor signed Vasean’s Law, a bill sponsored by Maltese to make the law effective immediately instead of on Nov. 1, 2005 passed both houses of the legislature and went to Pataki for consideration.
Maltese (R–C, Middle Village), in proposing the new starting date, reasoned: “Drunk driver’s are causing tragic accidents every day in New York, sometimes with fatal consequences. It makes sense to put this law into effect as soon as possible to deter people from drinking and driving and preventing further tragedies. The senate has fought for this tougher DWI measure for many years and we shouldn’t wait another five months for it to go into effect.”
State Senator Frank Padavan, the only other Republican from Queens in the state legislature, also urged the governor to sign the bill moving up the effective date.
In signing Vasean’s Law, the governor had stated: “For far too long deadly drivers had been able to evade just prosecution because of inadequacies and loopholes in our laws. But thanks to these new laws we are finally able to bring to justice those who flagrantly disregard the rules of the road and cause needless tragedies. These new laws will not only increase penalties for deadly drivers who leave the scene of an accident, but will also eliminate the need for prosecutors to prove criminal negligence in order to charge a drunken driver with a felony.”
In addition to signing Vasean’s Law, the governor also signed into law a bill imposing stiffer penalties on drivers who flee from the scene of an accident they were involved in.