[UPDATE: Jazmine Headley has been ordered released. More below.]
Brooklyn prosecutors announced Tuesday that they were dropping all charges against the woman whose infant son was ripped from her arms by police officers in a viral video, amid growing calls for the young mother to be released from jail.
"Like everyone who watched the arrest of Jazmine Headley, I was horrified by the violence depicted in the video and immediately opened an investigation into this case," said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. "It is clear to me that this incident should have been handled differently."
Despite the DA's decision, the 23-year-old mother remains on Rikers Island. She's been locked up since Friday, due to a bench warrant from New Jersey for a 2016 misdemeanor arrest. But advocates and some elected officials are demanding her immediate release, citing a legal provision that would allow a judge to set her free under the district attorney's recommendation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has also faced widespread criticism for not speaking out about the incident more forcefully. Though he tweeted on Tuesday in support of the decision to drop Headley's charges, the mayor spent most of Monday ignoring questions about the case, even as he delivered a speech celebrating the city's police oversight board. His office has not responded to inquiries about whether the mayor believes the officers and Human Resources Administration officials involved in the arrest should face discipline.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is outraged when Trump's law enforcement separates families, but when his own NYPD cruelly rips children out of the hands of their parents, he can barely muster interest. https://t.co/upZAcHXm8s
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) December 11, 2018
"He should be at the forefront of this situation and he should act as swiftly as if that were Chirlane McCray on the ground and Dante had been grabbed from her arms," said Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo during a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
As protesters chanted "release her now," Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of the Brooklyn Defender Services, provided new details about Headley's case. She said that the 23-year-old mother had arrived at the HRA office hoping to learn why daycare vouchers for her 1-year-old son had been suddenly cut off, and was forced to wait four hours.
"Every witness who was there, who saw the part before the video, says that she was just sitting on the floor with her baby," Schreibersdorf added. "There was no escalation here."
Headley's attorneys said they were headed to court later in the afternoon to petition for their client's freedom, and calling on New Jersey prosecutors to drop the credit card theft charge that triggered her detention. If the judge refuses to grant Headley's release from Rikers, she will likely be transported to a New Jersey jail in the morning. The public defenders have also set up a GoFundMe for Headley, which they say will go toward helping her pay for childcare once she returns to work. The campaign raised nearly $13,000 in just a few hours.
On Monday night, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks released a statement saying that two HRA peace officers had been placed on modified duty. Police Commissioner James O'Neill called the video “disturbing,” but has so far refused to release the names of the officers involved in the arrest, and has not said whether the NYPD would release body camera footage showing the moments leading up to the confrontation.
"The bottom line is that this woman is in jail and this child is still without his mother," New York State Attorney General-elect Tish James said on Tuesday. "What we needed was an adult in the room."
UPDATE: 3:50 P.M. A Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge has ordered Headley released from Rikers Island on her own recognizance. She will be sent home this evening, according to the Brooklyn Defender Services.
Moments after the judge's decision was announced, Scott Hechinger, an attorney with the Brooklyn Defender Services, tweeted that Headley's 1-year-son was on his way to the hospital with "lingering bruising." The group is now calling on the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office to dismiss all charges against Headley related to her 2016 arrest, noting that she "has been through so much."
Our social worker is w/ her on Rikers.
Another social worker is with her mom & child.
Child is on way to hospital again. He’ll be okay but lingering bruising.
She needs to be in Mercer County, NJ tomorrow morning.
We’re calling on Mercer DA to dismiss immediately.
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) December 11, 2018