Bail laws questioned after suspects released in Times Square officer attack may have left NY

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, February 3, 2024
Bail laws questioned after suspects released in Times Square officer attack may have left NY
CeFaan Kim has the details.

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- The search continues for at least eight other suspects involved in a fight with two NYPD officers in front of a migrant shelter on 42nd Street in Times Square.

It's believed that the 14 men involved are migrants, and most, if not all, are believed to be residing in the city shelter system in housing for migrants. Six have been charged so far and five have been released without bail.

While officers visited migrant centers throughout the city overnight, continuing their search for the other men suspected in the attack, it's believed that the first four people who were arrested and charged left on a bus heading to Calexico, a border town in California.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who spoke publicly about the incident on Friday, said there simply wasn't enough evidence to hold the first suspects arrested over the weekend on bail.

"We assessed the evidence, brought the appropriate charges and we're continuing to investigate," Bragg said. "The important thing is to keep the right people accountable for the right conduct."

Prosecutors were able to hold Yohenry Brito, whom Bragg called "the person who we believe to be the most culpable" and who "played the largest role in the incident," on $15,000 bail at his arraignment Thursday night, and is currently at Rikers Island. Police say he is the man who resisted arrest that sparked the melee over the weekend.

"We are still receiving additional video, which shows us more of the incident, including better views for positive identifications, much of which we did not have over the weekend," Bragg said, calling it a time-consuming process. "The video is disturbing, but I want to remind New Yorkers the video is the start of the process. Not the end."

The Manhattan District Attorney is facing mounting criticism from the NYPD, the mayor's office and the governor who says changes to bail laws have generally worked - resulting in a decline in repeat offenders - but called this particular situation "abhorrent."

The NYPD Chief of Patrol said he hopes this case starts a larger conversation on the issue regarding bail laws.

"This was a bail eligible offense, why bail wasn't asked for, we don't have an answer for that, but the judge also had an opportunity to step in and remand them to Rikers -- now these four are on a bus, the whole system needs to be looked at," said Chief of Patrol John Chell.

It's believed the four men used false names with a faith-based charity that purchased the bus tickets for their trip.

NYPD officials acknowledge they broke no laws by leaving town and don't plan to chase after them.

"They have a court date, so if they don't come back for the court date, the judge will issue a bench warrant for them, but until that time, no, they are free to do what they want," Chell said.

Investigators believe all of the suspects in the Times Square attack were initially in the area to commit crimes.

"Nobody should be attacking the folks that live in New York City and they should absolutely not be attacking law enforcement. I think it's important that we get everyone that was involved in this incident," said Camille Joseph Varlack, Mayor Eric Adams' chief of staff. "I think they should go through the criminal justice system and if convicted, yeah, they should be deported."

The attack, which was caught on video, shows a group of men kicking and punching two NYPD officers on the sidewalk. According to the NYPD, the two officers were trying to break up the disorderly group when things escalated.

Of the men that the NYPD has identified so far, seven have arrest histories ranging from robbery to petit larceny.

Governor Kathy Hochul this week echoed the NYPD's disappointment in the court system.

"I'm not satisfied with that at all, she said. "These are law enforcement officers who should never under any circumstances, be subjected to physical assault. It's wrong on all accounts and I'm looking to judges and prosecutors to do the right thing."

The incident prompted growing concern from the New York Immigration Coalition that a few bad apples would put a target on the greater asylum-seeking population.

"I think that we have to really highlight that these are isolated incidents," said Robert Agyemang, Vice President of the New York Immigration Coalition. "It feeds into kind of the belief system that these people are coming and they're messing up things when it's not really the case."

According to data from the mayor's office, there were fewer migrants in the city's care since last week.

On January 7, 2024, the city reported 69,000 migrants in their care, as opposed to 67,500 on January 23. Meaning that migrants are leaving the city's care faster than they are coming in.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website, and on Twitter @NYPDTips.


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