'It defies common sense': MTA chief decries NYC feces suspect's release, mayor calls for law change

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Thursday, March 3, 2022
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Janno Lieber, the head of the MTA, is sounding off after a man accused of smearing feces on a woman at a Bronx subway station is back on the streets. Marcus Solis has the story.

BRONX (WABC) -- The head of the MTA is sounding off after a man accused of smearing feces on a woman in a random attack at a Bronx subway station and who is facing charges in at least three other incidents is back on the streets.

"I'm not a criminal justice expert, but I don't understand how someone who commits this kind of assault - which was violent, horribly victimizing a transit rider - can just walk free even when he has four other open cases against him, including two other transit assaults and a hate crime charge," MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. "It defies common sense."

Frank Abrokwa, 37, was arraigned and released in the feces case Wednesday, only to be promptly turned over to Brooklyn detectives who recognized him as the suspect wanted for spiting on a Jewish man and making bias statements in Crown Heights.

After being arraigned in that case, Abrowka was given supervised release.

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Mayor Eric Adams is calling for the system to be changed.

"This individual should not be out on the streets of New York, and his release shows the scope of changes that we need to make in order to keep New Yorkers safe," he said. "It is the result of a failed mental health system, a failed housing and support system, and failing criminal justice laws that allow someone with a history of violence who poses a clear threat to public safety to just walk out of court. We can't allow this horrific situation to be the status quo and must make changes to our laws to both prevent these sort of attacks, through intervention and support, and, when they happen, to subsequently keep people who are clearly a danger to others off the street."

The high-profile case has outraged many in New York City, and the fact that Abrokwa has been released despite also being arrested at least three other times just this year has many already scared over rising crime questioning how this could happen.

"New Yorkers are beyond disgusted," PBA President Pat Lynch said. "They want to know why a person like this is out on our streets and subways, but they're not getting a straight answer. It's not just bail reform. It's not just the broken mental health system. Our fundamental problem is a political culture devoted to doing and saying the bare minimum. Election time is coming, so we will hear a lot of public safety talking points getting thrown around. We don't need more talking points. We need real leadership and action."

The Bronx District Attorney's Office insisted this is not a bail reform issue.

"The bail reform law was tweaked last July to allow us to ask for bail in bail ineligible cases if the defendant is a recidivist, which Frank Abrokwa is," the office said in a statement. "We believed bail was appropriate because of the horrendous nature of this case and because of Mr. Abrokwa's open assault cases in Manhattan and open petty larceny case in the Bronx."

Authorities say Abrokwa also has a history of transit related attacks. On January 7, he allegedly punched a 30-year-man on the subway platform at the 125th Street station at Lenox Avenue in Harlem.

And on February 5, he allegedly punched a 53-year-old man at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

His most recent arrest was February 22, when police say he was stopped while attempting to steal screwdrivers and pepper spray from a hardware store in the Bronx.

Police say Abrokwa has 44 prior arrests, one felony conviction and 10 misdemeanor convictions. He was taken into custody in the feces case at homeless shelter on Bronx Boulevard.

The victim spoke to Eyewitness News.

"I got out of work and was waiting for train, sat down for a moment," she said through a translator. "All of a sudden, a man approaches me. He hits me in the face and throws a bag of feces. He spreads it all over my face, in my hair, without a motive, for no reason."

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When he was arrested, prosecutors said Abrokwa told police, "(Expletive) happens" and "This is a (expletive) situation."

They tried to convince the judge that he should be held on $5,000 bail, despite the incident being charged as a misdemeanor that is not bail eligible.

The assault occurred days after Adams announced an aggressive effort he believes will make the subway system safer.

The plan is aimed at removing homeless people by deploying more police officers and mental health workers to trains and stations.

Adams called the incident "horrific" and a sign of the alleged assailant's mental health problems.

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