Accused Serial Groper Released by Judge After Alleged Brooklyn Attack
MANHATTAN — A man who was freed on $1,000 bail after he allegedly groped a woman in Midtown was accused again of exposing himself to a woman — but this time walked out of court just a day after the alleged attack.
Ivan Prokopenko, 34, of Staten Island, who has a lengthy arrest record, walked out of Brooklyn Criminal Court last month without having to post a single dime in bail after his arraignment.
He was released just a day after he was caught in Bay Ridge and accused of terrorizing a 27-year-old woman who was out walking her dogs after midnight. He allegedly exposed himself then chased her to her home.
Brooklyn prosecutors asked for $5,000 bail, but Judge John Hecht, who was aware of the previous Manhattan case, released Prokopenko, requesting only that his lawyer get him into a counseling program by his next court appearance on June 12.
"I think it is crazy he is out,” the woman, a substitute special education teacher who asked for anonymity, told “On The Inside.” She said she no longer feels safe in her home and is now hunting for a new one.
“How could you let someone with this record just go and be on the street?” she continued. “What are you waiting for? For him to do something worse? To rape someone? To kill someone?”
A spokesman for the Office of Court Administration said he could understand her sentiment.
“People often are upset because they want bail to be used in ways it can’t be used,” he said, pointing out that the charges against Prokopenko were misdemeanors.
“For better or worse,” he added, ”bail can only be used to ensure that a defendant returns to court and it cannot be used for preventive retention or punishment.”
According to court records, Prokopenko was arrested at least five times on an array of petty crimes — none apparently involving sex misconduct — before he was arrested in Manhattan on March 14. At 10 p.m. that evening, he allegedly grabbed a woman at the corner of West 45th Street and Fifth Avenue and put his hands up her skirt before she broke free and escaped.
In that case, he was freed on $1,000 bail.
Four weeks later, on April 18, he was arrested after the Bay Ridge incident.
According to authorities, the Brooklyn woman was out walking her two dogs when she suddenly saw Prokopenko come running towards her.
At first she thought he might be a jogger, but when he stopped about a half a block away she saw he wasn't wearing jogging clothes and was in jeans and a white shirt. She immediately started to worry when he started following her.
“He looked at me and then crossed the street to the side I was on,” the woman recalled. “Every time I slowed down, he slowed down."
She crossed back to the other side of the street, and again he followed. Then she slowed again, hoping he would pass her by. But he stopped. "He pulled down his pants" and began masturbating, she said.
She hit the nearest flight of stairs to a house as though she lived there and began ringing doorbells and taking out her keys to scare him off.
But he barely moved.
And when no one came to the door, she took off again with her two pets in tow.
Finally she made it home, where she breathlessly called her boyfriend, a city firefighter.
"She was panicked and frightened and barely could speak," he said. “I could not understand her at first.”
When he calmed her enough to hear the story, he called 911 and told her to do the same as he raced home.
When he arrived, he saw a man in the lobby who matched the description of his girlfriend’s assailant, and he called his girlfriend, who came down and identified Prokopenko, who was arrested when cops pulled up.
An expert on sex assault crimes told On the Inside the fact that Prokopenko “was traveling" between boroughs was "a bad sign," indicating he might be "hunting."
"And there appears to be an escalation” of aggressive behavior, the expert added.
Through his lawyer, Prokopenko did not respond to a request for comment.
Following Prokopenko's arraignment, Judge Hecht, a former official at the Legal Aide Society, freed him with the lone proviso that he "show proof of counseling" by his next court appearance.
"I am in shock and I feel really vulnerable and nervous and so at risk," his victim said. “You tell yourself it can’t happen to you, but he was sitting in my lobby."
"The fact he knows where I live just creeps me out," she continued. "That is the worst part.”
She and her boyfriend are now looking for a new place to live.
“I just want to be somewhere I feel safe and not always looking over my shoulder,” she said. “I don't want to live like that.”