Mayor Adams fumes over release of teen who attacked cop in Harlem subway station
Mayor Eric Adams has called the state legislature to hold a special session to alter criminal justice reform laws and make it harder for people accused of robbery and other offenses to be released on bail.
Adams’ comments come after an altercation between transit police officers and two teenagers on a subway platform in East Harlem. He said that one teen, a male 16-year-old, who could be seen in a viral video punching the transit officer and slamming his body into a subway gate, had recently been arrested for robbery.
The teens were charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to NYPD officials. Police sources told NY1 that the male teen was released on his own recognizance. NYPD spokespersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We’re saying, let’s reexamine the bail laws in the area of violent offenders,” Adams said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday. “Robbery’s a violent crime.”
Major crimes are up by more than a third over 2021 and 2022, according to the latest report from NYPD. Murders, however, are down slightly over last year.
Transit crimes are up more than 50% over 2021, the report states, the highest year-over-year jump of any of the categories tracked in the report.
As crime rises in the city, Adams has blamed reforms that went into effect two years ago that limited the number of offenses for which judges could remand defendants to jail and raised the age at which authorities could charge people as adults from 16 to 18 years old. He has also suggested that the court system is processing cases too slowly.
“As soon as we catch them, the system releases them, and they repeat the action,” Adams said. “When I say we’re the laughingstock of the country, this is what I’m talking about. How do we keep our city safe, when the other parts of the criminal justice system — they have abandoned our public safety apparatus?”
Adams suggested that Albany lawmakers should convene to rewrite the bail rules as they did last month to pass new legislation that prohibited where civilians can carry guns, in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a state gun control law.
“We’re not talking about someone that steals an apple,” Adams said. “We’re talking about someone that has repeatedly used violence in our city.”
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg defended the release of the male teen after his earlier arrest, citing the teen’s age, which was 15 at the time, and lack of criminal history.
“Our system must respond to children as children, and intensive community monitoring was the appropriate pre-trial determination for a fifteen-year-old child with no previous arrests,” Bragg said. “Violence against our police officers is unacceptable, and given his age at the time of arrest, we consented to send his second case to Family Court as soon as possible, where he would receive the age-appropriate interventions and supports he needs while being held accountable.”
The viral video showing the physical fight does not show what preceded it. Police officials say the teens did not pay their subway fare, prompting an officer to approach them.
Adams said that one officer, instead of arresting the teens for fare evasion, asked the pair to leave the station.
“I am outraged by this assault,” Janno Lieber, MTA chair, said in a statement. “The fact that an individual who had multiple prior arrests was able to attack an officer and be immediately released makes no sense.”
Adams’ call for rewriting the criminal justice reform laws comes after Gov. Kathy Hochul asked lawmakers to revise the laws ahead of the passing of the state budget earlier this year. Those changes gave judges more discretion to set bail for a wide range of offenses if they are repeat offenses, such as for gun possession and petit larceny.
Hochul said Tuesday that she had no plans to call for a special session on bail reforms, pointing to the changes made in the budget. She said that state lawmakers should take up the issue when the next session begins, in January.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor, has also criticized state bail laws. Earlier this month, Zeldin was attacked at a campaign event; after the attacker was released following his arrest, Zeldin faced questions over why the district attorney overseeing his charges, who served as an official on the nominee’s gubernatorial campaign, did not immediately level a bail-eligible offense.
State Senate deputy majority leader Michael Gianaris criticized Adams’ comments in a statement.
“It’s sad Mayor Adams has joined the ranks of right wingers who are so grossly demagoguing this issue,” Gianaris said. “He should focus less on deflecting from his own responsibility for higher crime and more on taking steps that would actually make New York safer.”
Adams’ calls to require criminal defendants to be remanded to jail more often comes as the city’s main detention center, Rikers Island, has seen rising numbers of deaths, with 11 people dying in the jail complex this year, compared with 16 in 2021.