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DA Vance Drops Assault Charges Against Subway Rider Punched by Police

Joseph T. was hit and pepper sprayed by NYPD officers as they removed him from a 6 train at 51st Street in  May.
Joseph T. was hit and pepper sprayed by NYPD officers as they removed him from a 6 train at 51st Street in May.
Screengrab from video courtesy of The Legal Aid Society

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced plans to drop cop-assault charges against a homeless person after watching police body-camera video that shows an officer pummeling the man on the subway.

A spokesperson for Vance said prosecutors were also “continuing to review all aspects of this encounter, including any potential police misconduct.”

And an NYPD spokesperson said the department was “aware of the use of force incident and it is under review.”

Yet prosecutors chose not to scrap misdemeanor resisting arrest charges against the subway rider, and said he’d be offered a deal in which the charges could be dismissed in six months.

Vance’s office declined to say why he believed the resisting-arrest charges were still warranted.

The move came after THE CITY posted body-cam footage of the May 25 incident, in which a cop is seen punching 30-year-old Joseph T. and dragging him off a No. 6 train in Manhattan after accusing him of taking up more than one seat in a near-empty subway car.

“I felt like my heart was going to fall out,” Joseph, who asked that his last name be withheld to protect him from retaliation, told THE CITY over the weekend.

Joseph was charged with felony assault after the cop said the suspect kicked his hand, injuring him, in the 51st Street station.

He had said he was on the train around 12:30 a.m. that day after growing tired of waiting for a bed in a crowded Manhattan homeless shelter. Joseph could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Vance Views Tape

Vance decided to drop the felony charge, punishable by up to seven years in prison, after reviewing the video Tuesday night, a spokesperson said.

“The district attorney was provided with the available footage,” said the spokesperson, Caitlyn Fowles.

An assistant district attorney had previously watched the video, Fowles confirmed.

Joseph’s defense attorney said Vance’s offer of a plea deal on the remaining resisting- arrest rap fell “woefully short” and that all charges should be dismissed.

“It’s shameful that it takes a bad headline for Vance and his [assistant district attorneys] to finally do right by our vulnerable clients,” said Edda Ness, a staff attorney with Legal Aid’s Manhattan Trial Office.

After THE CITY’s story was published, a bevy of elected officials — including City Councilmember Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-The Bronx, Westchester) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-The Bronx, Queens) — expressed outrage.

“This is dangerous and disrespectful treatment of our fellow New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” Biaggi tweeted.

“Did this confrontation have to happen?” Ocasio-Cortez asked on Twitter. “Or could it have been prevented if we had invested in guaranteed housing and jobs, social/health first responders, educational opportunities, expanded [unemployment insurance], etc?”

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