New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov was arraigned Thursday morning in Kings County Criminal Court after she turned herself in for allegedly bringing a gun to a rally at Brooklyn College last month.
Vernikov, a Republican who represents Brooklyn’s 48th District, attended the pro-Palestinian rally on Oct. 12 to support the Jewish and Israeli students counter-protesting the event. Photos of the Council Member posted online after the event appeared to show her Smith & Wesson nine-millimeter pistol tucked into her waistband, and the NYPD later said a portion of the firearm was “protruding from the front portion of her pants.”
Vernikov does have a legal license to carry a firearm, but New York State law prohibits individuals from openly-carrying them, with only concealed weapons being permitted. Guns are also not allowed at “sensitive locations,” including at protests or on college campuses.
Backlash on social media was swift, with many calling for Vernikov’s resignation as her actions were seen as a direct violation of state gun laws.
The Council Member has not responded to Brooklyn Paper’s requests for comment regarding the incident.
At Thursday’s arraignment, Vernikov’s defense attorney Arthur Aidala said that despite the plethora of pictures and video shared on various social media platforms that appeared to show the Council Member with a gun clearly displayed, prosecutors for the case needed to provide definitive proof that the images were not digitally altered.
“You need proof beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody committed a crime,” said Aidala, according to a report by the Gothamist. “And a photograph taken by we don’t know who, under what circumstances, is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The defense has also insisted that the prosecution call at least one witness to testify to actually seeing Vernikov with a firearm at the Oct. 12 rally. Additionally, Aidala wants the prosecution to run ballistics tests on Vernikov’s gun to ensure it is in fact an operational firearm.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office declined to comment on Vernikov’s case since it is still pending. The next step in the proceedings will be a presentation before a grand jury.
The Council Member is due back in court in January. She is running for re-election to her seat in the Nov. 7 general election, and is facing a challenge from Democrat Amber Adler.
Several protestors from pro-Palestinian group Within Our Lifetime stood outside of Kings County Criminal Court during the Thursday proceedings calling for Vernikov to resign from her position, especially ahead of the Nov. 7 election which could see the Council Member re-elected to represent her district.
The protestors chanted statements like “Vernikov you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide,” as the elected official was arraigned inside. Following news of the arraignment, New Yorkers took to social media to voice their opinions.
“She needs to resign,” said one user on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If she is not ideologically impartial and cannot serve her constituents fairly she has no business with local government.”