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Charges against hundreds of NYC rioters, looters have been dropped

Hundreds of people arrested for looting and rioting across the Big Apple last year in the wake of George Floyd’s police-involved death have had their charges dropped, according to an analysis of NYPD data — figures ripped as “disgusting” by local business owners.

In the Bronx — which saw fires in the street and mass looting last June — more than 60 percent have had charges dropped, according to the investigation by NBC New York.

Along with 73 out of the 118 arrested getting charges completely dropped, another 19 were convicted on lesser counts like trespassing, which carries no jail time, the report said.

Some 18 cases are still open, with the station not accounting for the other 8 arrests.

In Manhattan — where looters ran rampant across Soho and midtown, even invading Macy’s — some 222 of those arrested had their cases completely dropped, while 73 got lesser counts.

Of the 485 arrested at the time in the borough, just 128 cases remain open, with another 40 involving juveniles and cases sent to family court, the outlet said.

A protester stands in front of police with a "Justice for George Floyd" sign.
73 out of the 118 arrested in the Bronx and 222 of those arrested in Manhattan have had their charges dropped.
ALBA VIGARAY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Those numbers, to be honest with you, is disgusting,” Jessica Betancourt, who owns a Bronx eyeglass store that was looted and is vice president of a local merchants association, told NBC.

“I was in total shock that everything is being brushed off to the side,” she said.

“They could do it again because they know they won’t get the right punishment,” she said of the looters and rioters who once again left the Bronx burning.

A NYPD SUV on fire.
A NYPD SUV on fire during protests in 2020.
Stephen Yang

Former NYPD Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman said that the district attorneys’ offices and the courts had “allowed people who committed crimes to go scot-free.”

“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,” Chapman told NBC.

Sources in the DA’s offices insisted that in many cases, the evidence was not strong enough for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There was also a backlog of cases to handle sparked by the courts being closed for months due to the pandemic, the report said.

A business owner sweeps up damage from looters.
A Bronx business owner called the dropped looting charged “disgusting.”
Richard Harbus

NYPD Deputy Inspector Andrew Arias also asserted painstaking work went into trying to prove each case.

“We had to analyze each case individually and see if, in fact, we could prove the right person had committed the crime,” Arias said.

Bronx DA Darcell Clark declined repeated requests for an interview, as did Manhattan DA Cy Vance, NBC said, with the latter’s office busy investigating former President Trump’s businesses, NBC said.

Boarded up windows of the Macy's Herald Square store.
Macy’s Herald Square boarded up ahead of expected riots in June 2020.
Christopher Sadowski

The station noted an internal memo in which Vance says there are more than 3,500 unindicted felony cases waiting to move forward that have been on hold because of the pandemic.

Before dropping a case, Vance told his prosecutors to review defendants’ criminal histories, whether police could really place the suspect at the scene, and whether the individual caused “any damage to the store.”

“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,” Vance told his office, according to NBC.

A person takes a picture on their phone of a shattered store window.
Former NYPD Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman said the courts had “allowed people who committed crimes to go scot-free.”
Richard Harbus

A court spokesman told NBC that the decisions to dismiss cases were primarily made by the district attorneys. “An application must be made by the district attorney or as they have done with hundreds of DATs, decline to prosecute them,” said Lucian Chalfen.

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