The Manhattan District Attorney's office plans to drop charges against a man who was punched by a New York Police Department officer on a subway car, the office confirmed to CNN Wednesday night.
"This individual was charged with Assault because the arresting officer reported an injury requiring medical attention subsequent to the arrest," Manhattan District Attorney spokeswoman Caitlyn Fowles said in a statement.
"After a thorough investigation, our prosecutor intended to offer the individual an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal at his next court appearance. The District Attorney was provided with the available footage last night and determined that our office will advance the case for this purpose, dismiss the Assault charge, and offer an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal for the remaining misdemeanor charge."
The Legal Aid Society had called for the charges to be dropped against their client, who is only identified as a 30-year-old named Joseph, citing body camera footage in the case. They also called for two NYPD officers to be fired after they were involved in what the group says was a brutal attack on an individual in a New York City subway car.
"As we have previously stated, our office is continuing to review all aspects of this encounter, including any potential police misconduct," Fowles added in her statement. "Our office has charged dozens of uniformed officers for official misconduct and violence since 2010, and will continue to do so in any case where such charges are supported by the facts and the law."
A subway ride home
Body camera footage released by Legal Aid captures the incident on May 25 just after midnight. Police say the use of force in the incident is under review.
The incident occurred after police approached a man to arrest him after he refused to leave a subway car, according to a criminal complaint.
Legal Aid attorneys say the officers demanded their client Joseph exit "without legal reason."
Legal Aid said Joseph was riding the subway on his way home to Brooklyn and was accused by the officers of occupying two subway seats. Edited police body camera video released by Legal Aid shows the train was largely empty.
He moved to an adjacent car, and when police attempted to remove him "he began flailing his arms and kicking his legs, making it difficult to place him in handcuffs," according to the redacted complaint released by defense lawyers.
The edited video released by Legal Aid shows one officer strike the man while he was in the subway car and a short struggle between the man and the officers. Mace was used on him, Legal Aid said, before he was handcuffed and taken for medical attention.
The footage was provided by the District Attorney's office as part of discovery in the case, Legal Aid attorney Redmond Haskins tells CNN.
Haskins tells CNN Joseph was bloodied, had bruises on his face and needed to get a CAT-scan.
The officer delivering the factual basis for the complaint observed Joseph "shove" another officer and described the two as "grappling" on the floor. The second officer informed the reporting officer that during this entanglement, Joseph apparently kicked an officer in the hand, the complaint states. The officer sustained swelling and pain to the knuckles and was transported to a local hospital.
CNN has not seen the full, unedited version of the body camera video and is not naming the officers.
Joseph had three active warrants, NYPD says
"A warrant check conducted at the time of the arrest revealed the male had three active warrants," police said. Legal Aid did not comment when asked about the outstanding warrants.
"The brutal attack on Joseph by these officers is both unconscionable and completely indefensible. The body worn camera footage speaks for itself: these officers singled out our client for taking up two seats on a virtually empty subway car and then resorted to violence as their first impulse," said Edda Ness, staff attorney with the Manhattan Trial Office at The Legal Aid Society.
In a statement, NYPD said, "We are aware of the use of force incident and it is under review: On Monday, May 25, 2020, officers observed the individual in violation of MTA rules and instructed him to leave the train several times. The several lawful orders were ignored and the male attempted to strike an officer. He was removed from the train and officers attempted to take him into custody. The male resisted arrest and attempted to flee the location. A warrant check conducted at the time of the arrest revealed the male had three active warrants."
The Police Benevolent Association offered no comment, but a spokesperson said the officer whose hand was injured is still out with the injury.