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New York to dismiss Diallo protest arrest cases

April 5, 1999
Web posted at: 1:42 p.m. EST (1842 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- More than 1,000 people arrested while protesting the killing of African immigrant Amadou Diallo can expect to have their cases dismissed.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau has decided to make a motion to dismiss all 1,175 cases this Wednesday, according to his spokeswoman, Barbara Thompson.

During 15 weekdays last month, protesters blocked the entrance or lobby to the New York Police Department headquarters and were arrested for disorderly conduct or trespassing.

"While the demonstrators did commit minor violations of law, the demonstrations were nonviolent, and they caused neither personal injury or damage to property," said Thompson, explaining the rationale for the dismissals.

The arrests were essentially by appointment, with lawyers for the activists handing over lists of volunteers planning to be arrested.

The demonstrators had been complaining about four police officers who shot at the unarmed Diallo 41 times on February 4, striking with 19 bullets and killing him in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building.

When the demonstrations started, the officers had neither been formally interrogated nor arrested by authorities. The officers have since been indicted for murder, causing the protests to stop.

The first of the arrest cases is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the city's summons court, a forum for violations less than a misdemeanor. These charges, no more serious than a traffic ticket, could have brought fines of $250 and a maximum 15 days in jail.

Most of those arrested spent five to seven hours in custody, "an appropriate sanction for this type of offense," Thompson said.

Among the more notable people arrested were former New York City Mayor David Dinkins; U.S. Representatives Charles Rangel, Gregory Meeks, and Nydia Velazquez, all of whom are Democrats from New York; Bronx Borough President Freddie Ferrer; actors Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and film director Jonathan Demme.

The four officers -- Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy -- are free on $100,000 bail each. All four pleaded not guilty to murder last Wednesday.

State Supreme Court Judge Patricia Williams will set a schedule for pretrial proceedings at the next court hearing, April 30, in the Bronx.

The officers' attorneys have said that Diallo, a 22-year-old street vendor from Guinea, did not obey their instructions and that police thought he was reaching for a gun when the shooting began.

Indictments expected today in N.Y. immigrant shooting
March 31, 1999
NYPD officers turn out to support their own in Diallo case
March 30, 1999
Sources: Four NYPD officers indicted in Diallo shooting
March 25, 1999
More than 200 arrested in protest of New York City police shooting
March 24, 1999
Civil rights leader arrested in police brutality protest
March 18, 1999

NAACP Online
  • NAACP President's Corner: NAACP to join NY protest of Diallo police killing
New York City Link
  • Message from the Mayor - A More Responsive and Efficient City Government
New York City Police Department
  • NYPD - 43rd Precinct
41 Shots: Reform the CCRB and the NYPD
Human Rights Watch
  • Shielded from Justice: New York
Amnesty International
  • Police Brutality Widespread Problem in New York City
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