Niagara Gazette

December 19, 2012

Driver in fatal hit-and-run offered plea

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Falls man accused of running down and killing a mother, injuring her 6-year-old child and then leaving the scene of the crime, has been offered a plea deal by Niagara County prosecutors.

The deal would require Francis Maikranz to plead guilty to the top two counts in a three count grand jury indictment. Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas said she would not make a commitment on the length of a probable prison term if Maikranz takes that plea offer.

His lawyer asked for some time for Maikranz to consider the deal and Farkas gave him until Jan. 2 to decide.

Maikranz, 54, 2238 Whitney Ave., has pleaded not guilty charges of leaving the scene of a fatality accident, leaving the scene of a serious injury accident and tampering with physical evidence. All three charges are felonies.

He is free on a $100,000 bail bond, but Farkas has barred Maikranz from driving as a condition of his release.

Maikranz has claimed he didn’t know that he had run down Nicole Rodriguez and her son as they crossed Hyde Park Boulevard at Jerauld Avenue at 10 p.m. June 18. The mother and her little boy were in the crosswalk at the time they were struck.

The force of the crash knocked Rodriguez’s son out of his shoes and threw him a short distance from the crosswalk. He suffered non-life threatening injuries and has reportedly recovered from them.

Rodriguez was knocked unconscious by the force of the car hitting her. She was rushed to the Erie County Medical Center inBuffalo, where she died the next day.

In a statement given to Falls Traffic Division officers after his arrest, Maikranz made a claim eerily similar to one from a defendant in a high-profile hit-and-run fatality in Erie County.

“He acknowledged striking something, but he didn’t know what he’d struck,” Traffic Officer James VanEgmond said. “He chose not to stay (at the crash scene). Only he knows why he didn’t choose to stop.”

Maikranz’s claim that he didn’t know he had hit a person is the same line of defense that was used by Dr. James Corasanti,who was accused of striking and killing a young skateboarder in Amherst. Corasanti and his defense team argued to a jury that he knew he “had hit something,” but didn’t know what and kept on driving.

An Erie County Court jury acquitted Corasanti of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter and found him guilty of only a misdemeanor drunken driving charge.

Niagara County District Attorney Michael Violante said he was not surprised that Maikranz used what is becoming known as the“Corasanti Defense.”

Maikranz was arrested two weeks after the crash at his girlfriend’s Town of Niagara home. His heavily damaged 1997 Chrysler Sebring convertible was in the garage next to the residence.

Investigators said it appeared that Maikranz was trying to repair the vehicle at the time of his arrest.