Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Pepper-Sprayed Woman to Meet With Manhattan Prosecutors
Monday, October 17, 2011 - 12:00 AM
A woman who was allegedly pepper-sprayed by a Deputy Inspector in the police department will meet with prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on Monday. Members of the office's Official Corruption Unit requested the meeting in response to a letter her lawyer sent to District Attorney Cy Vance demanding that NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna be prosecuted for assault.
Bologna was captured on video pepper-spraying a group of female protesters on September 24 near Union Square during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration.
One of the women, Kaylee Dedrick, can be seen in the video dropping to her knees behind an orange mesh barrier after Bologna used the pepper spray. Dedrick's lawyer, Ron Kuby, submitted a letter to Vance on October 11, asking the office to apply for a warrant for Bologna's arrest and to charge him immediately.
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office declined to comment on any meeting with Dedrick on Monday.
Prosecutors routinely interview witnesses to incidents that could potentially lead to criminal charges, but a request from prosecutors for a meeting with a witness does not confirm that criminal charges will be brought.
"A Deputy Inspector of the NYPD — he's not some patrol officer, who's just having a bad day," Kuby said in a phone interview Friday. "He's an extremely high-ranking official, so what is done to him sets the example — and sets the tone — of what's going to be done to other people, if they engage in misconduct."
Although Kuby's letter suggested that Vance convene a grand jury "to consider felony charges," Kuby said on Friday a straightforward misdemeanor assault charge would be most appropriate in this case, along with possible official misconduct charges.
Kuby said he is not asking for Bologna to be locked up in prison, but said the Deputy Inspector needs to be processed through the criminal justice system just as any other individual would be if he or she had committed the same conduct displayed in the video.
"It would be a very welcome sign, for those of us who believe in equal justice under law, for him to be arrested, released on his own recognizance, and then he can plead guilty to even a lower level offense," Kuby said.
Shortly after the incident, the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents high-ranking police supervisors, said that Bologna’s actions were motivated by his concern for the safety of the public and for the officers under his command. The union said Bologna’s use of pepper spray restored order that day.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the protestors were engaging in "tumultuous conduct" that day, but said that the Civilian Complaint Review Board has also started an inquiry into Bologna's actions, as had the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau.
The New York Times reported that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office began investigating the incident last month.
Kuby said there have been no discussions between him and his client about going forward with a civil suit. Right now, he said, they are just focused on making sure a criminal prosecution of Bologna goes forward.
"The object isn't to make money or to cash in. There's no huge pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. The injuries were simply, and thankfully, not that serious," Kuby said.