Business owners and residents in New York City are expressing fury at the revelation that prosecutors have dropped looing and rioting charges against hundreds arrested during chaos that swept the city last summer.
After 603 were arrested in Manhattan and the Bronx during the most intense days of looting last June, 295 of the cases have been dropped completely, according to NYPD data reported by WNBC-TV on Friday.
Now Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr and Bronx DA Darcel D. Clark are facing tough questions about why hundreds walked free after the looting rampage caused an estimated tens of millions in damages.
Business owner Jessica Betancourt, whose Bronx eyeglasses shop was destroyed last summer, vented her outrage at the situation.
‘Those numbers, to be honest with you, is disgusting,’ she told the NBC affiliate. ‘They could do it again because they know they won’t get the right punishment.’
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr’s office dropped 222 cases out of 485 arrests connected to last summer’s riots and looting
People loot a Dolce & Gabbana store in Soho on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Manhattan
Last summer’s riots saw mobs smashing stores and holding a ‘looting dance party’ in SoHo. Above, looters tear through a SoHo store last June
In Manhattan, the NYPD data shows there were 485 arrests connected to last summer’s riots, which saw mobs smashing stores and holding a ‘looting dance party’ in SoHo.
Of those cases, 222 were later dropped and 73 saw convictions for lesser counts like trespassing, which carries no jail time. Another 40 cases involved juveniles and were sent to family court, and 128 cases remain open.
In the Bronx, 118 arrests were made as mobs smashed shops along the borough’s commercial corridors.
Since then, the NYPD says District Attorney Clark’s office and the courts have dismissed 73 of those cases, well over half the total.
Eighteen Bronx cases remain open and there have been 19 convictions for mostly lesser counts which carry no jail time.
Bronx DA Darcel D. Clark oversaw the dismissal of more than half the borough’s 118 arrests
People outside a Dolce & Gabbana store in Soho on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Manhattan
Vance and Clark declined interview requests from WNBC, but a source close to the DA’s office said that prosecutors were too overwhelmed to carry forth the looting cases, with a backlog of cases after the pandemic shut courts.
Vance’s office has been busy preparing a criminal case against Donald Trump, said to center on allegations of tax, loan and insurance fraud at the Trump Organization.
The DA insider also said that in some cases, there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the looters.
NYPD investigators are privately furious that prosecutors are letting the looting cases drop, after cops spent countless hours on a task force helping assemble evidence to make the cases stick.
‘If they are so overworked that they can’t handle the mission that they’re hired for, then maybe they should find another line of work,’ former NYPD Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman said of prosecutors.
People loot from a Paul & Shark store on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Manhattan
A looter grabs merchandise during a night of protests and vandalism over the death of George Floyd on June 1, 2020 in New York City
In an October 2020 memo obtained by WNBC, Vance said there were over 600 commercial burglary arrests in addition to over 3,500 unindicted felony cases waiting to move forward in the courts
Vance ordered his prosecutors to review defendants’ criminal histories and scrutinize whether police could really prove the suspect caused ‘any damage to the store’ before dropping cases.
Vance wrote: ‘For many of these commercial burglaries, you will be asked to reduce the initial felony charge to a misdemeanor and to dispose of the case … with an eye towards rehabilitation.’
He also stressed the ‘continued goal to achieve consistency and equitable treatment in these cases.’