NYC DA drops most looting cases from 2020 riots to prioritize Trump probe: report

New York City district attorneys in Manhattan and the Bronx have dropped looting charges against hundreds of people arrested and charged with involvement in riots that took place in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

“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 told local media, referencing the district attorney’s office. “It allowed people who committed crimes to go scot free.”

Critics note that many of the looters and rioters were caught on video committing crimes, even going as far as boasting about it on their social media accounts. Despite this, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. hasn’t moved forward with prosecuting the cases after more than 485 arrests were made last June.

The Manhattan DA prioritized its resources on a case against the Trump Organization on allegations of tax, loan, and insurance fraud. Roughly 222 of those pending looting cases have been dropped. A total of 73 convictions have been made on lesser counts such as trespassing, which do not warrant jail time, according to NYPD data. Some 128 cases currently remain open and another 40 which involve juveniles have been sent to family court.

Many small businesses in the Bronx were damaged, including an eyeglass store, owned by Jessica Betancourt, who says it’s “disgusting” to see how many looting cases have been dropped. Betancourt, who is also the vice president of the local merchants association in the Bronx says she is “in total shock that everything is being brushed to the side.”

“They could do it again because they know they won’t get the right punishment,” Betancourt added.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark has dismissed 73 of the 118 cases involving looting and rioting from last June. There have been 19 convictions for lesser counts and only 18 cases remain open at this time.

“We went forward with cases for which we had evidence and a complaining witness. Some cases were dismissed but we held people accountable because we do not tolerate violence against Bronx business owners,” the Bronx District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

There are over 600 commercial burglary arrests and over 3,500 unindicted felony cases backlogged, waiting to move forward in the courts according to Vance. Before dropping a case in connection to looting, Vance has directed his staff to review the defendant’s criminal history and determine whether police could place the suspect at the scene and determine whether the suspect 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,” Vance said, instructing prosecutors to keep “an eye towards rehabilitation” and the “continued goal to achieve consistency and equitable treatment in these cases.”

While many of the cases against the looters from last summer’s riots in New York City have their cases dropped, hundreds of Jan. 6 rioters who entered the Capitol Building remain behind bars on trespassing charges and other misdemeanors. Of the more than 500 arrests made so far related to the Jan. 6 riot, defendants who plead guilty to the more serious charges of assaulting officers or bringing a weapon into the Capitol Building are looking at anywhere from three to four years behind bars.

Others charged with less serious crimes such as disorderly conduct and protesting inside the Capitol Building are looking at anywhere from six months to a full year in prison. First-time offenders charged with misdemeanors are able to negotiate plea deals for no jail time.

One of the first plea deals to be made in these cases involved Paul Hodgkins, who faces an estimated 15 to 21 months in prison for pleading guilty to obstructing Congress earlier this month.

More than 200 of the Capitol Hill rioters face charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, a crime that carries more than 20 years in prison.

Some accounts of treatment by guards inside the Washington D.C. Central Detention Facility include harsh beatings, leading to severe injuries including one man’s jaw being wired shut and damage to his eye, that may leave him permanently blind.

Joseph McBride, the lawyer for Richard Barnett, the 60-year-old man who was caught in pictures with his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, claims that the guards’ poor treatment of the prisoners is in solidarity with law enforcement who were protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Guards have coined the term “1/6ers” to refer to the suspects and constantly say disparaging remarks to them like “the world hates them” and “they’ll spend the rest of their lives in here,” according to McBride. “The DC Central Detention Facility has become Guantanamo Bay for American Citizens,” McBride added.