NEW YORK, NY – Apparently, in crime-ridden New York City, you can be arrested 122 times for shoplifting and walk away scot-free, but thanks to “soft on crime” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, if you defend yourself from an attacker, you get the book thrown at you.
However, despite Bragg’s best efforts, Manhattan bodega worker Jose Alba, 61, was released from the infamous Riker’s Island prison on Friday after a judge lowered his bail from a whopping $250,000 – Bragg had originally wanted $500,000 – to a more manageable $50,000.
The super-progressive Bragg sparked outrage earlier this week when his office charged Alba with second-degree murder after the immigrant from the Dominican Republic was forced to defend himself last Friday from a violent ex-con who came behind his counter at the Hamilton Heights store where he works and attacked him over a bag of potato chips.
The incident stemmed when the girlfriend of the attacker attempted to purchase a bag of chips at the bodega, but was unable to do so because her EBT debit card was declined; angered, the woman left and soon afterwards, her boyfriend – Austin Simon, 35 – entered the store and angerly confronted Alba.
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The confrontation – caught on the store’s video surveillance camera, albeit without audio – shows Simon coming behind the counter and aggressively cornering and attacking Alba, pushing the older man down into a chair and yelling in his face. He then grabs Alba by the collar and pulls him out of the chair within the cramped space, at which point Alba grabs a knife from a shelf and proceeds to stab Simon; at this point the two move out of the view of the camera, but when Alba walks back into the frame a moment later, he and his knife are covered with blood.
Simon – who had previously served time for robbery, assault, and other charges – was rushed to a local area hospital where he later died from stab wounds to his chest and neck. Responding police placed Alba under arrest; Simon’s girlfriend, who police say had stabbed Alba in the arm with a knife of her own during the scuffle, was shockingly not charged for doing so by Bragg’s office.
After being slapped with a second-degree murder charge, Alba – who has no criminal record – was held at Rikers Island on $250,000 bail; however, a judge lowered that to $50,000 on Friday, at which time Alba’s relatives and employer posted the $5,000 needed to release him on a bail bond.
According to his release agreement, Alba is confined to New York City, must wear an ankle monitor, and he had to surrender his passport.
Legal experts have expressed outrage and dismay over Bragg’s decision to charge Alba for what they say is a blatant case of self-defense; Alba is scheduled to face a grand jury on July 20, at which time some experts feel he will beat the trumped-up charges and not even face a trial.
“I think it’s outrageous they’re going into a grand jury with that charge,” criminal defense attorney Katherine Fernandez said. “I think Alvin Bragg is making a huge mistake here. We have a city riddled with crime for the last two years and we have a store employee, a guy who from what I’ve heard comes to work every single day and has never been in any trouble, defending himself and the store when he is threatened over a bag of potato chips. It’s unfathomable.”