- Rich Klein
EXCLUSIVE: Berman Had DWI,15 Other Driving Convictions Before 2014 Fatal Crash In Woodridge
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
FALLSBURG - Alan Berman - the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed six-year-old Rivka Weinman in front of the Village Park Bungalow Colony on Tabaczynski Road in Woodridge in 2014 - was convicted of driving while impaired in the Town of Wallkill in December 2012.
That was one of 15 convictions on his license recorded by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles from 2006 through 2015, The SullivanTimes has learned exclusively.
Berman, 33, is the son of former Empire Resorts President Robert Berman, who is currently chairman and chief executive officer of a company that helps local governments utilize artificial intelligence technology that gathers traffic data that's aimed at improving public safety. He is also the lead principal in RH Land Development, which has a warehouse project known as Avon Commercial Park pending in Rock Hill.
The SullivanTimes last Friday obtained multiple documents from the Department of Motor Vehicles Fatal Crash hearing that was held on September 11, 2015 in Monticello with DMV Administrative Judge Walter Zulkoski presiding. The hearings are mandatory for drivers in New York State in which an accident results in a fatality.
Criminal defense attorneys Tim Havas, president of the Sullivan Legal Aid Panel, and Steve Lungen, Sullivan County's long-serving former District Attorney, represented Berman at the hearing.
In the final hearing report (attached below) signed the same day as the hearing, Zulkoski wrote: "There is no evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by the Respondent or mechanical failure that contributed to this accident. Zulkoski added: "The police accident report lists pedestrian error or confusion as an apparent contributing factor to the accident."
Zulkoski's report does not indicate if Berman was ever tested by Fallsburg Police for drug or alcohol use and it also does not mention it there were any witnesses to the crash who might have been interviewed by police. It also makes no mention of the speed Berman was going or a forensic examination of his speed at the time of the incident.
However, it does note that Fallsburg Detective Brendan Pavese testified at the hearing, marking the first time Pavese has appeared on any document connected to the incident.
Regarding the DWI from 2012, the Town of Wallkill Town Court on Monday ( February 14) confirmed that Berman plead guilty to a traffic infraction instead of the misdemeanor charge (Section 1192 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law).
Berman paid a $300 fine plus a $260 surcharge, according to the clerk.
The judge in the matter was Patrick Owen, who also has a personal injury law firm that specializes in auto and pedestrian accidents. His law firm website states that since 1999, he has "limited his practice to representing the injured, taking on large insurance companies, local , county, national and international corporations on behalf of personal injury victims. "
The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Michael Purcell, declined to comment when reached this week at the Orange County District Attorney's office but said he would forward The SullivanTimes’ request to a superior there.
After his DWI conviction on December 11, 2012, Berman’s license was suspended for 90 days, beginning on December 31 and he was ordered into the state's Drinking Driving Program (DDP). That program's name has since been changed to the Impaired Driver Program.
When The SullivanTimes began investigating the 2014 fatal incident in 2019, Fallsburg Police Chief Simmie Williams told this media outlet that then-District Attorney Jim Farell told him that he was taking over the investigation. At that point, according to the Fallsburg Police report, Weinman ran into the road (where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour) and collided with the Audi driven by Berman.
Copy of the DMV Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident report that was signed by Fallsburg Police Officer John Chevalier and reviewed/signed by Sergeant Chris Pratti on December 16, 2014, more than three months after the incident. The two also signed the original DMV incident report , also on December 16, 2014 and sent it to the DMV.
Farrell, now a County Court judge, never made any public statement about any investigation that he supposedly took over, so it's unclear if one was done or completed. Berman never faced any criminal charges and did not receive any traffic tickets. It's also unclear at press time if Fallsburg Police at the scene of the 2014 incident ran Berman's license that would have revealed past convictions, including the 2012 DWI.
District Attorney Meagan Galligan's first boss when she joined the Sullivan DA's office in 2009 was Lungen and she was later mentored by Farrell, which lead to her promotion in 2016 as chief assistant district attorney when the position became open after a departure. Since becoming Acting District Attorney and after winning election to DA in November 2020, she has never commented about the possibility of reopening the Berman file.
Meanwhile, Farrell was DA when retired Fallsburg Judge Isaac Kantrowitz struck and killed two teenagers in Rock Hill in June 2019. Lungen - who mentored Farrell for many years before retiring - was also the defense attorney for Kantrowitz, who died last year one week after State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick declined to sentence the 88-year-old to any jail time after he plead guilty to an unclassified misdemeanor of reckless driving.
Sholom Weinman, the father of the victim from Lakewood, NJ, confirmed to The SullivanTimes in March 2019 that the District Attorney's Office told him during a meeting there in June 2015 that Berman had tested positive for an unspecified drug in his blood. He could not recall which drug it was. He added that he was accompanied by a well-known local attorney to that meeting. Reached today (Thursday, February 17), Malky Weinman, his wife, said she did not remember the name of the attorney who represented them in the matter and declined further comment.
Fallsburg Chief Williams has never commented about the case beyond stating that Farrell took over the investigation. He further declined comment this week while Lungen and Galligan did not respond when asked by email about the DMV hearing report and Berman's past driving record. (Galligan was also asked specifically if she planned to reopen the Berman file).
On the day of the accident, Berman's then-girlfriend Jenna Widmann was riding with him. However, it appears she was never asked to testify in the DMV fatal crash hearing. The couple were later married but have since divorced.
The vehicle that Berman drove that day, an Audi, was registered to his mother.
Weinman was a resident of Lakewood, NJ.
Below is a list of Alan Berman's convictions from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles database as of July 2015.
Support The SullivanTimes' investigative reporting by making a donation of any amount today.