A group of New York City elected officials is demanding that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg drop his case against bodega clerk Jose Alba in the stabbing death of an ex-con who attacked him behind the counter.
The bipartisan group of City Council members said the DA’s controversial, progressive approach to law enforcement was “rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent.”
“The fact that you are even prosecuting Mr. Alba reveals how your perverse sense of justice not only protects violent criminals, but actively seeks to destroy the lives of crime victims, ”the lawmakers wrote Bragg on Thursday.
The group also called Bragg’s handling of Alba’s case “particularly jarring” in light of his generally soft-on-crime policies and the “countless cases where defendants were allowed to plea down to lesser charges and then later go on to commit additional crimes.”
“Your approach is not a policy of restorative justice or de-incarceration,” according to the letter.
“You are simply rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent.”
The letter was signed by Councilmembers Robert Holden (D-Queens), Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island), Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn), David Carr (R-Staten Island), Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn), Joann Ariola (R-Queens) and Vickie Paladino (R-Queens).
In a milder statement Friday, Councilman Shawn Abreu (D-Manhattan), whose district covers the slaying scene, said the murder charge against Alba “should be reexamined based on publicly available video evidence which appears to strongly indicate self-defense.”
“The events of July 1, just two blocks from my office, underscore the need for public safety and a fair judicial system,” Abreu said.
“It is critical that our justice system fairly examine the facts, in this case, to avoid further compounding this tragedy.”
The officials’ statements followed remarks Thursday by Mayor Eric Adams, who said, “My heart goes out for this hard-working, honest New Yorker that was doing his job in his place of business, where a person came in and went behind the counter. and attacked him. ”
Alba, 61, is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Austin Simon, 35, inside the grocery store at 3422 Broadway in Hamilton Heights shortly after 11 pm July 1.
Surveillance video shows Austin shoved Alba against a wall of merchandise and was trying to lead him away when the older man fought back and plunged a knife into his neck.
The dispute was allegedly instigated by Simon’s girlfriend, who accused Alba of grabbing a bag of chips from her daughter’s hand when the mom’s electronic food-stamps card was rejected as payment.
In a statement to cops, Alba allegedly said, “He wanted me to come apologize to the girl. I took the knife we used to open boxes and I stabbed him. ”
Despite having no criminal record and video showing Mr. Alba acting in self-defense, you charged him with second-degree murder and asked the court to hold him on $ 500,000 bail, which was only reduced to $ 250,000 by the judge, ”the councilmembers wrote in the letter to Bragg, a Democrat.
“This approach to justice makes most New Yorkers think the city is on a self-destructive path to oblivion.”
On Thursday afternoon, Bragg’s office reversed its position on Alba’s bail and asked a judge to reduce it to $ 50,000, allowing his family to raise $ 5,000 in cash and secure his release on bond.
Alba refused to answer questions from reporters when he later arrived home at his Hamilton Heights apartment wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.
He’s due back in court on July 20.
Bragg spokesman Doug Cohen said Friday, “We are continuing to review the evidence and the investigation is ongoing.”