On April 6, 2015, Carlos Moncayo, an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant, was buried alive when a 14-foot trench collapsed at the construction site on 9th Avenue, where the restaurant Pastis once stood. His employer, Harco Construction, was found guilty of manslaughter and reckless endangerment by Manhattan Judge Kirke Bartley this past July. The Judge based his findings on the fact that the contractor ignored safety warnings from inspectors. However, the Judge spared the company, and company officials, jail time, or a fine, and ordered Harco to produce and broadcast a series of public service announcements about construction safety.
On December 14th, the construction contractor appeared in court and advised the Judge that it would not produce the commercials. According to prosecutors, individuals who refuse to comply with sentences may be held in contempt of court, but no such option exists for corporate defendants. While it is likely that the Judge will now impose the maximum $10,000 penalty, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance called the fine “Monopoly money” and asked the legislature to increase penalties for corporations found guilty of crimes like manslaughter. Moncayo’s foreman, Wilmer Cueva, was found guilty of reckless endangerment and was recently sentenced to one to three years in prison.
—Arthur Z. Schwartz