Driver in Beekman hit-and-run pleads guilty

Tiffany Murdaugh pleaded not guilty in criminal court on Wednesday. Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
File photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Tiffany Murdaugh, seen here leaving court after initially pleading not guilty last July, pleaded guilty on June 1, and now faces up to six years in prison.


The driver who seriously injured a woman and narrowly missed a group of schoolchildren during a hit-and-run incident near the Spruce Street School last summer has pleaded guilty and could now go to prison for up to six years.

Tiffany Murdaugh, 35, who ran down a Downtown mother after jumping a curb on Beekman St. on April 13 last year, was convicted of assault in the second degree and reckless endangerment in the first degree in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

In a deal reached with the District Attorney’s office, Murdaugh pleaded guilty to lesser charges than she originally faced, and she now faces 2–6 years behind bars.

The sentence could have been higher had she been convicted of the original charge of assault in the first degree, which alone carries a maximum of seven years.

Murdaugh, through her lawyer, declined to comment on the conviction after her court appearance. She is expected to be sentenced on August 3.

“This defendant careened onto a sidewalk near an elementary school at 8 o’clock in the morning on a school day,” DA Cyrus Vance said in a statement after the plea. “It is a miracle that no one else was hurt by her recklessness. This driver not only narrowly missed a mother and her two young children, she seriously wounded a woman who had to endure months of physical therapy to rehabilitate her leg. I hope this conviction serves to deter reckless and illegal driving that endangers our city’s residents.”

Video from the incident showed Murdaugh, who lives in Philadelphia, swerving onto the sidewalk in her 2013 Dodge Challenger around 8 a.m. on April 13 near the intersection of William St. right next to the school, according to the DA’s office.

She drove nearly half a block along the crowded sidewalk, hitting Heather Hensl, a 37-year-old mother of two who was on her way to work at NewYork Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital.

Hensl, who didn’t return a call for comment by press time, suffered serious injuries, including a broken knee and a head laceration, and told Downtown Express last year that she was unable to walk for months due to the accident.

“I didn’t see her coming at me,” she said of the crash, which knocked her onto her back. “I immediately knew that something was wrong with my left leg.”

Hensl also told Downtown Express last May that she intended to press civil charges after Murdaugh’s criminal trial was over.

After fleeing the scene of the Beekman St. mayhem, Murdaugh drove over the Brooklyn Bridge and got into another accident in Crown Heights, where she rear-ended another car and then abandoned her own.

In addition to the 2–6 years for the reckless endangerment charge, Murdaugh also faces two years in prison with three years of post-release supervision for the assault charge, but Judge Gregory Carro said the two sentences would be concurrent, meaning they will be served at the same time.

A third misdemeanor charge, for leaving the scene of the accident without reporting it, was not included in the plea deal, although Carro expressly made Murdaugh acknowledge that she fled to Brooklyn after the crash.

She was arrested about a month after the crash after she was questioned by officers at the First Precinct, despite the fact that police had originally planned to charge her only for a misdemeanor.