A 26-year-old from Brooklyn was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Wednesday following his guilty plea last year for sabotaging an NYPD van during 2020’s summer of police-brutality protests — and lying to secure a COVID-19 small business loan for a non-existent car wash.
At his sentencing hearing in Downtown Brooklyn, Jeremy Trapp’s public defender, Leticia Recinos, asked the judge to show restraint and let him out given that he had already served five months behind bars while awaiting trial and suffers from what she called severe mental health “deficits.”
“Mr. Trapp has difficulty understanding the consequences of his actions,” said Recinos, arguing that he was easily influenced by an NYPD informant who “called and texted” him “all day” in a bid to push him to cut a police van’s brake lines on July 17, 2020.
With regard to the COVID loan fraud, which happened a month before, the defense lawyer argued that Trapp had again been taken advantage of by another man who did not put his name on loan paperwork, evading prosecution but getting some of the money anyway.
Trapp’s conduct in both instances, she said, “was unquestionably influenced by his co-conspirators.”
During sentencing, Judge William Kuntz II referred to Trapp’s mental health issues, which he said included bipolar disorder and “autism spectrum disorder.”
Still, the judge ignored the public defender’s pleas for mercy, handing down the exact prison sentence that prosecutors sought — reading numerous quotes from Trapp, as recorded by police, in which he voiced a desire to burn and destroy NYPD property.
Trapp’s actions, Kuntz noted, “could have caused serious harm,” not only to police, but also to civilians who might have been hurt or killed by a police vehicle driving out-of-control had his efforts at sabotage not been foiled.
The Power of Suggestion
Trapp came onto law enforcement’s radar sometime around July 13, 2020 after a paid NYPD informant met him and got his number at a police brutality protest outside Brooklyn’s Criminal Court, according to an August 2020 court filing by FBI agent David J. Willams.
There, Trapp allegedly told the informant that the police were racist and that he wanted to hurt cops by cutting the brake lines of police cars, Williams’ complaint noted.
A few days later, the police informant, who had “proven reliable” in the past according to a criminal complaint, picked up Trapp and drove around as they scouted unattended cars to sabotage. On their first outing, they had no luck, but later that week they found a target: an NYPD van parked on 4th Avenue and 42nd Street in Sunset Park.
As the informant acted as a supposed lookout, Trapp crawled under the van and partially severed a line for the car’s wheel sensor damaging its anti-lock brake system. As he was on the floor, “both the [informant] and the NYPD officers conducting surveillance captured this incident on video,” according to the complaint. Police arrested him a few hours later.
‘A Big Mistake’
A subsequent police investigation after Trapp’s arrest found that he had previously lied in an application for a federal loan meant to help businesses’ offset temporary losses borne by the pandemic.
Trapp claimed he had a carwash located at his apartment building in Brooklyn and that he employed ten people — falsehoods which netted him a $42,500 loan and a $10,000 grant from the federal Small Business Administration, according to prosecutors.
NYPD surveillance of human-rights protesters has extended to several controversial cases over the years.
In August of 2020, the department attempted to use facial recognition software to track down an activist whose home police besieged for the alleged crime of shouting into a police officer’s ear during a demonstration two months earlier.
Through 2014 and 2015, according to documents obtained by The Intercept and The Guardian, NYPD and MTA undercover officers attended and shared photos from numerous anti-police brutality rallies, even tracking the specific movements and peaceful activities of individual protesters.
Trapp, through his attorney, declined to comment for this story.
In a brief statement at the hearing, he struggled to read, pausing and at one point starting over.
“My mind was not right. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart,” Trapp said. “It was a big mistake that I made.”
After the hearing, the court allowed Trapp to go home. Kuntz set his surrender date for Jan. 6, 2023.