D.A. Won’t Prosecute the Cops Who Pepper-Sprayed and Sucker-Punched Protesters


Late on a Friday afternoon is widely agreed to be the best time for sheepish newsmakers to announce the things they really really hope the media doesn’t report on too much. Last Friday afternoon, coming at the end of the most exhausting and depressing news-week in recent memory, was a full-moon-high-tide-converging-low-pressure-systems super-storm of Friday news-dump oblivion.

In short, it was a great time for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to announce that it won’t be bringing any charges at all against Anthony Bologna, the NYPD commander caught on video gratuitously pepper-spraying a bunch of helpless, immobilized, unarmed and nonviolent women in September of 2011.

Bologna isn’t the only one prosecutors are letting off the hook. In the same announcement, The D.A.’s office said it also won’t be prosecuting Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona, who was filmed sucker-punching protester Felix Rivera-Pitra in October 2011, tearing his earing right out of his ear.

Cardona is also thought to be the officer caught on video punching another protester a few weeks earlier.

Gothamist quotes a “source with knowledge of the prosecutor’s decision” as justifying it this way:

“It was not clear from the evidence that their actions were not justified…. These were two on-duty members of law enforcement, reacting during a chaotic scene that included much more than the short video clips that most people have seen. The minutes before and after the incidents create significant doubt as to the criminality of the officers’ actions.”

Former prosecutor Thomas Curran told the Times he had spoken to the D.A.’s office about the cases, and that “the evidence that the D.A. saw suggests that he had his arm cocked in a fist form before Cardona hit him.” As for Bologna’s pepper-spraying,

“The department guidelines Inspector Bologna was found to have violated had to do with using pepper spray in a nonarrest situation without sufficient training, which Mr. Curran said was an entirely different thing from committing assault.”

The absence of any prosecution doesn’t mean Bologna will have gotten away with the pepper-spraying scot-free.The NYPD docked him 10 whole vacation days for the act, and transferred him from Manhattan to Staten Island. He’s also facing civil suits from the people he pepper-sprayed, and the city has said it won’t represent him in that suit. (In a small burst of minor Orwellian linguistic genius, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly worried to the press that that decision would “have a chilling effect on police officers taking action.” Those interested in further discussion of chilling effects in relation to Occupy Wall Street might want to read this report.)

Bologna won’t be footing the bill for his defense, though — his union, the Captains Endowment Association, will be covering that. It had been widely reported that the City wasn’t going to be spending its resources defending Cardona in his civil suit either, but this morning DNAInfo reports that city lawyers will be representing him after all.