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Sunday, May 9, 2021

New York City’s tool for vigilante justice

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On Tuesday, Anthony Rosario, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn, turned himself in to the NYPD after a video he made of him allegedly stealing a Prada purse from the subway car of the 6 train and video of him robbing another woman emerged online.

The Brooklyn prosecutor who stood by the footage, and charged him with robbery, said it had been made “all in good fun” by Rosario. “It was all playing around, it was all harmless, it was all about entertainment,” she said.

But the facts are less innocent. Since the video was published on Facebook on April 16, Rosario’s social-media presence has blossomed with celebrity posts and the help of an army of lawyers.

Rosario appeared in front of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the robbery. The DA’s office released footage from the videos to The New York Times in a joint effort to show the crime, The Times reported, as an act of foiled robbery. But the prosecutors’ approach — a statement of the facts as part of an effort to win an indictment — wasn’t feasible on Rosario’s level.

City Public Advocate Letitia James’ office then filed a lawsuit against the NYPD.

The NYPD immediately reached out to the Press Department to dispute Ms. James’ account, saying Rosario was positively identified from the subway video, and that the case would be dismissed once Mr. Rosario turned himself in.

Later that evening, Vance’s office released the footage from the third video with the suspect it arrested, 21-year-old Pablo Velazquez. A lawyer with the office said Velazquez had been charged with felony and misdemeanor robbery, according to the Times. That evening, The Times said Rosario’s defense team asked to see the video again, perhaps in an effort to clarify its contents.

Rosario’s lawyer, Marjorie O’Connor, told The Times after the video was released that he would plead not guilty to all charges.

To attorney James, “I hope that no one else in the same position takes advantage of this case to further their ends,” she said.

So, what do you call a teen who allegedly steals a purse and then allegedly applies the same theft defense that helped a murderer succeed in a previous post trial motion?

Start with more policing, and stop there.

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