Sunday, January 18, 2015

Guler Ugur extraordinary Photographer killed by Prezidor Porbeni

Guler Ugur in red at Harriman State Park, 2014

Guler Ugur was my friend, one of the most extraordinary women I knew. Full of spirit and talent, she always brought me flowers when we met. The last was a single large yellow sunflower. Her memorial will be at the Tribeca Synogogue for the Arts February 8th.

Guler Ugur was killed by Prezidor Porbeni, who fled the scene after hitting her in his mother’s SUV on December 31, 2014 at 6 pm. Guler was crossing 113th Street and Amsterdam Avenue on her way to St. John Divine for the annual New Year’s eve concert. He was driving with a suspended license, illegally passing on the right and speeding. When he hit Guler she was thrown 80 feet and declared  dead at St. Luke’s on the same block.

Porbeni turned himself in (ten days later with his lawyer), only after the SUV he was driving was posted on the Internet for five days. Porbeni is 28-years-old and has a criminal history including two pending felony cases: an armed robbery and a separate crime of beating and punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach and choking her until she couldn’t breath. (Source from police reports filed on court website.) When he turned himself in, he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident in a fatality and driving with a suspended license. (As of this date there is no further information on his case.)

In a police report I read that Porbeni said he left the scene because he was scared. This is pathetic. Before he killed Guler he was free to live his life despite two pending felony cases.  Should his mother be charged as well? Is it a crime to give your car to someone with a suspended license?

Guler was a beautiful woman. Her personal life is as extraordinary as her professional life.  Born in Turkey to Muslim parents, she was the oldest of eight. Her family moved to Germany where, (she told me), after years of sexually abusing her, her father sold her into marriage when she was 12 or 13. She ran away and was placed in foster care, where her foster parents kept her home from school and used her as a domestic slave.  Running away again, she was able to eventually grow up away from adults who were supposed to protect her. She came to New York as a very young photographer and I met her in my job as an immigration paralegal and was able to help her obtain a working visa as an extraordinary photographer.  She supported herself (and others) with her successful career and converted to Judaism. She was more than a friend, she also photographed my gigs and head shots for many years.

More recently, before it got too cold I went hiking with Guler twice. Days before she was killed, we spoke on the phone. She was happy. We made plans to spend some time in Florida. Her death was so sudden. It is impossible to understand the senselessness of it. I often think of the absurdity of the press calling her death an accident. In this case, there is no accident, but there is the law of cause and effect. 

In the law of cause and effect, Guler would be alive today if it wasn’t for Probini's previous criminal activity and his actions moments before he killed Guler. Shouldn’t he be charged with manslaughter? He didn’t have a license, he passed on the right, and he had to be speeding for her to be thrown 80 feet. He shouldn’t have been driving period. And why was he even free with two pending felonies? Who paid for his bail? If you drive with a suspended license and you kill someone, - and flee the scene - (can't help but wonder what or who was in his car when it happened) isn't the appropriate charge manslaughter? In his two priors, he threatened the lives of others. Killing Guler is no accident. One felony. Two felonies. Now Three. This is an accident? This is a man with a history. Unless a judge can get him off the street, sadly his next crime is predictable and it will not be an accident either.