District Attorney drops gun possession charges against Vernikov, says firearm was ‘inoperable’

Council Member Inna Vernikov was arraigned on Nov. 2 after she allegedly brought a gun to a protest at Brooklyn College last month.
The District Attorney has dropped a gun possession charge against Inna Vernikov.
File photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

The Brooklyn District Attorney has dropped criminal gun charges against southern Brooklyn Council Member Inna Vernikov after finding a key component of the gun she carried at a pro-Palestinian rally held at Brooklyn College was missing — rendering the weapon inoperable.

Vernikov — who represents District 48 — was arraigned earlier this month after turning herself in to NYPD following her controversial attendance at a rally on Oct. 13 where she was filmed and photographed with what appeared to be a handgun tucked into the waistband of her pants.

A New York State law carrying firearms in so-called “sensitive” locations, like schools and protests, even if the firearm is legally licensed. The council member, who did own the gun legally, turned over both her permit and the firearm to police when she turned herself in. Vernikov was originally charged with one count of criminal possession of a firearm.

At her arraignment on Nov. 2, Vernikov’s attorney Arthur Aidala argued that the gun may not have been operational, probing prosecutors to investigate. They eventually found that the recoil spring assembly was missing, THE CITY first reported on Friday. Per state law, a gun must be operable for a possession charge to stick. 

Aidala did not return requests for comment. 

“Peaceful protest is the right of every American, but bringing a gun to a protest is illegal and creates an unacceptable risk of harm that has no place in our city,” said Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for the DA’s office, in a statement to Brooklyn Paper. “The firearm recovered by the NYPD in this case was unloaded and missing the recoil spring assembly, rendering it inoperable, according to the NYPD’s lab report. In order to sustain this charge, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the weapon in question was capable of firing bullets. Absent such proof, we have no choice but to dismiss these charges.”

It was not immediately clear if the gun was functional at the rally itself, as Vernikov was not arrested until early the following morning. The NYPD did not return Brooklyn Paper’s requests for comment.

Vernikov claimed she attended the protest to support Jewish and Israeli students at Brooklyn College who were counter-protesting the event following the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent war declared by Israel. 

The council member told Brooklyn Paper on Friday that she was glad that the case was behind her and that she looked forward to representing her constituents for the next two years following her recent re-election.

“Ever since Hamas has unleashed a massacre on the people of Israel on Oct. 7, Jewish New Yorkers have been facing an unprecedented rise in hate and violence on our streets and on our college campuses,” said Vernikov. “I will continue [to] be a fearless fighter against antisemitism and for the public safety of all New Yorkers.”

Fellow Council Member Chi Ossé, who represents District 36, took to social media to condemn Vernikov on Friday, and said she was receiving special treatment from the NYPD.

“She should have been arrested at the protest while she brandished a gun on her hip to students exercising their democratic right to protest,” Ossé said in a statement released on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Even though she had a permit, the protest was occurring in a sensitive location where it’s illegal to carry a gun. Because the police didn’t do their job and arrest her at the protest she had hours to go home and potentially tamper with the evidence … Shame on the NYPD and shame on Inna Vernikov for bringing a firearm to a non-violent college protest to threaten students.”

Vernikov was due back in court in January, but the charges — which are still pending — are expected to be formally dropped on or before the court date, per THE CITY.