Unlicensed driver pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of 4-year-old New York girl

An unlicensed teen driver accused of killing a 4-year-old girl while he was fleeing from police has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges in a plea deal that is expected to result in a prison sentence of three to nine years.

Franklin Reyes Jr. pleaded Thursday after a Manhattan judge gave him another day to decide on the sentencing deal offered by the court in the June 2013 death of Ariel Russo. Prosecutors wanted a sentence of up to 11 to 15 years.

Reyes also pleaded guilty to assault, unlawful fleeing of a police officer and escape, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office. He is expected to be sentenced March 25.

Reyes was 17 when the crash occurred. But the judge said in January that Reyes could not be treated as a youthful offender because he had been arrested twice on felony charges since the fatal crash.

Reyes, who was driving his parents' SUV without a license, jumped a curb and slammed into a restaurant on the ground floor of an apartment building at West 97th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, pinning Ariel and her grandmother, Katie Gutierrez.

He was fleeing from officers at the time who were trying to stop him from driving erratically.

"From the beginning he wanted to apologize for the family," Reyes' mother, Lilia Reyes, said outside court Thursday. "He never did anything intentional."

The tragedy spurred legislative changes to emergency response-time tracking.

The city, citing Ariel's death, enacted a law requiring the Fire Department to calculate emergency response times from the moment a call is made, not when a 911 operator transfers the call to a dispatcher.

The city's investigative arm said human error caused a four-minute lag in processing calls to rush an ambulance to the scene. However, the response time was still deemed faster than average.

Police officers arrived at the scene immediately and began radioing for an ambulance. But a 911 emergency medical dispatcher didn't take steps to process the information and took a break, the Department of Investigation said. A colleague relieved her, noticed the unresolved job and immediately began working on it. A lieutenant assigned to supervise dispatchers said he was busy with paperwork and didn't notice the lingering job.

A passing firefighter and rescuers from a flagged-down ambulance attended to the unconscious Ariel on the street. She was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a hospital.