Charges dropped against Sunset Park teen after videos show cops lied

Charges dropped against Sunset Park teen after videos show cops lied
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Another Sunset Park resident is vindicated after prosecutors dropped charges that video of the incident proved were trumped-up.

Prosecutors dismissed charges that 17-year-old Enrique Del Rosario assaulted a police officer on June 8. Cops pinched Del Rosario last summer as he filmed them arresting revelers during Puerto Rican Day festivities on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park. They beat Del Rosario and then tried to make him look like the aggressor, his lawyer said.

“Basically, my client was a victim of a gang assault by the 72nd Precinct,” said attorney Rebecca Heinegg. “Five officers slammed him against the gate of a closed store. Batons came down on his head.”

During the melee, one officer accidentally hit another cop with a baton, but when prosecutors brought charges against Del Rosario, they claimed he had done the damage, said Dennis Flores, head of police watchdog group El Grito de Sunset Park.

Video evidence shot at multiple angles contradicts prosecutors’ claim, according to Heinegg and Flores. One video shot at the scene shows a high-ranking officer tell the person filming that doing so is illegal. It is not.

The clips show a tense scene involving activists and bystanders shouting and chanting, “We’re moving!” as police make arrests and shove back the crowd, sometimes smacking at cameras and striking people with batons.

A grand jury convened in September decided not to indict Del Rosa for assaulting cops, Heinegg said. The youth also faced charges of resisting arrest and larceny, court records show. Prosecutors offered to drop the remaining charges against Del Rosario — and two unrelated low-level misdemeanors — if he stays out of trouble for the next six months.

The District Attorney’s Office offered the deal to avoid a trial and prevent the defense from introducing embarrassing video evidence showing police malfeasance, Heinegg said.

Inconvenienced for truth: Enrique Del Rosario’s mother Wendy Tabarez said bringing her son to court every month has cost her becasue she has to take days off of work.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“This is a common way for the DA to get out of cases they don’t want to go to trial,” she said.

Del Rosario wanted to bring the case before a jury, but the assistant district attorneys’ offer to drop unrelated cases was hard to pass up, Heinegg said.

“This is as close to an outright dismissal that the ADA is willing to concede,” Heinegg said.

Del Rosario’s mother said coming to her son’s eight court dates over the last 10 months has itself been a trial, because she knew her son was innocent the whole time.

“He’s coming to court every month with no verdict,” mother Wendy Tabarez said. “I don’t know why [the judge] doesn’t do anything.”

Court proceedings forced his mother to take days off from her job to accompany him to court, something that has cost her time off and pay, she said.

The case is the latest in a series involving videos exposing the 72nd Precinct’s apparently heavy-handed tactics.

Activists’ video evidence recently helped exculpate another Sunset Park resident whom police charged with assault in a separate incident.

Battered: Police left 17-year-old Enrique Del Rosario bloody after arresting him for blocking traffic in Sunset Park on June 8.
El Grito de Sunset Park

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.