The deranged driver who killed an 18-year-old tourist and injured 22 others when he plowed through a Times Square crowd was found not responsible for the 2017 rampage because of mental illness Wednesday.
A Manhattan jury found US Navy veteran Richard Rojas, 31, not responsible by reason of mental disease and defect on 24 counts related to the May 18, 2017, carnage that left young Alyssa Elsman dead.
The verdict means Rojas will face mandatory commitment to a mental health facility rather than prison time. A hearing on the matter is set for Thursday.
Attorneys for the accused, who’d been booted from the Navy in 2014, claimed at his trial that he was too mentally disturbed to know what he was doing when he drove into pedestrians at the “Crossroads of the World.”
Rojas appeared in Manhattan Supreme Court in shackles when the verdict was read.
The trial had been delayed several times over the last five years, including because of the COVID-19 shutdown.
“We are grateful to the jury for its service. Our condolences continue to be with the family, friends and loved ones of Alyssa Elsman, who suffered a terrible and tragic loss, and all of the victims of this horrific incident,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “I thank the prosecutors, detectives, analysts and staff members for their hard work and dedication on this long case.”
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