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Jul 17, 2012 10:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Grand Jury Fails To Indict Hampton Bays Man Who Killed Cabbie

Jul 18, 2012 10:31 AM

Nearly three months after killing a cab driver with a single punch to the head during an altercation, a Hampton Bays man will face an assault charge—instead of manslaughter, the charge sought by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office—after a grand jury declined to indict him on the more serious count last week.

Kenneth J. Tofty-Forrest, 27, landed a single punch to the head of Four Ones Taxi driver Robert Levasseur just after 2 p.m. on April 21 in the Chase Bank parking lot near the 7-Eleven convenience store on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, sending the cab driver into a coma. The 53-year-old Riverhead resident died five days later at the Stony Brook University Medical Center. The cause of death was later determined to be blunt force trauma.

Mr. Tofty-Forrest was charged with assault in the third degree following the incident, pleaded not guilty and was later released after posting $500 bail. He told police he struck the cab driver while coming to the defense of Hampton Bays resident Faith Miller, who had an altercation with Mr. Levasseur after she said she recognized him as the driver of the cab that had cut her off earlier in the day on Bay Avenue, forcing her car off the road.

The D.A.’s office presented evidence to a grand jury earlier this month seeking an upgrade of charges to felony manslaughter in the second degree, or, alternately, criminally negligent homicide. But on Friday the grand jury, after hearing testimony from witnesses, voted to decline to indict Mr. Tofty-Forrest on the charges, and instead directed the D.A.’s office to file a single charge of assault in the third degree, according to Bob Clifford, a spokesman for the D.A.’s office.

If convicted, Mr. Tofty-Forrest could be sentenced to up to a year in the Suffolk County Jail. Mr. Tofty-Forrest was expected to be arraigned on the charge in Southampton Justice Court on Wednesday.

His attorney, Cornelius S. Rogers, said on Wednesday that he would ask the court to dismiss the charge, saying that if there wasn’t enough evidence to support the stronger charges, the lesser charge should also be called into question.

“We believe there’s problems with what transpired in the grand jury, and I’m going to ask them to dismiss the charge,” he said. “I will file a motion telling [the judge] to read the grand jury testimony and asking her to dismiss the charge.”

He noted that he provided the grand jury with information and case law that he said demonstrated that his client “acted in defense of another.”

Following the April 21 incident, Mr. Tofty-Forrest told police that when he was leaving the 7-Eleven, he saw Mr. Levasseur punch Ms. Miller in the face and was compelled to intercede. Some witnesses on the scene, however, said Mr. Levasseur instead pushed Ms. Miller, according to the D.A.’s office.

“I had to do something,” he told police at the time, adding, “after I hit him I called police to report it.”

According to a police source, Mr. Tofty-Forrest came up from behind and landed an unexpected, punch to Mr. Levasseur’s right eye, sending fragments of his orbital bone, or eye socket, into his brain. He fell to the ground and was conscious for several minutes before falling into a coma.

Ms. Miller, a former dispatcher for the same cab company, said that after Mr. Lavasseur cut her off earlier in the day, she later observed the taxi driver pulling into the Chase Bank parking lot in Hampton Bays. When she recognized him, she said, she confronted him about the earlier incident and Mr. Levasseur got out of his taxi, approached her and struck her.

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Good News!!! Glad to hear this train went off the tracks! Taxi cab drivers out here are out of control, not saying he deserved to die, but the punch seems to have been in order.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 8:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
free to wander around hampton bays hitting more people. should only be a couple more years now before he lands that charge of life in jail.
By ghost (29), hampton bays on Jul 18, 12 1:32 PM
What a joke. The man could get up to 1 year in jail for "murdering" another man. No wonder this country is going to hell in a handbasket. Mr. Tofty-Forrest should be thrown in jail for the rest of his life. Better yet, an eye for an eye. One less mouth to feed from the taxpayer's dollar!!
By bobalooey (45), East Quogue on Jul 18, 12 3:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
murder |ˈmərdər|
the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Fail.... NYS doesn't have the death penalty as an option, if it did this case would fall far short of meeting the criteria for it to be implemented. As for cost it is hard to determine which is more economical and varies case to case. As I stated earlier the punch was dead on, although it being a "sucker punch" does detract from the chivalric influence.....
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 6:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
premeditation is NOT a requirement for all murder charges--- only First degree murder. The DA filed manslaughter charges, which is correct . what I cant understand is how the DA failed to get an indictment - who was the ADA who presented and what is his/her experience?
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 19, 12 7:09 AM
True, you should take it up with the editor of the Apple dictionary where it was copied and pasted from... It should say intentional killing. I can understand why the ADA couldn't get an indictment, just think how hard it would be to find someone who hasn't been subjected to the inconsideration demonstrated by too many cab drivers. The fact that the cabbie had just pushed/punched a woman may have weighed on their decision. I for one would not have voted for the indictment on manslaughter. Just the ...more
Jul 19, 12 3:05 PM appended by ICE
My mistake it wasn't the Apple dictionary, but the New Oxford American Dictionary. Which is even more surprising to have an inaccurate definition....
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 3:05 PM
a picture of this soon to be free man would be nice hint hint 27 east
By baymen (26), hamptonbays on Jul 18, 12 6:52 PM
Why "Fails" to indict? What does the Press know that the grand jury didn't know?
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jul 18, 12 6:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Roll through stop signs, signals optional, cutting people off who have the right away... eventually someone is going to get pissed off, and it happened. When people realize a car is a deadly weapon when not driven correctly perhaps the odd punch in the head won't happen. We've all seen it, again and again....
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jul 18, 12 7:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
A Corrections Officer is killed in a bar fight - and it's news for months.

A drunk Corrections Officer kills a Hispanic man & it's nothing.

A punk sucker punches a Cabbie from behind, he dies and it's nothing.

Now, I don't like the Cabbies either but there are some interesting standards around here.
By G (342), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 11:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
The second Wrongful death this guy was involved in, how does that work?
By patrick61 (18), Hampton Bays on Jul 26, 12 1:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Pretty disgusting how someone can continually assault people and get to run free destroying families! What's with the Suffok County D.A.'s office?? There is NO WAY this cabbie hit ANY woman! Not only a Christian but a retired Airforce man who was overseas fighting for our freedoms to come home and die at the hands of an animal?!?! How is the 'road-rage' of the supposed victim not in question as she was the one who 'followed' the cabbie behind the parking lot?? How are there no cameras at the ...more
By hamptonette (6), Southampton on Jul 28, 12 12:07 PM