'Professional Agitators' on NYPD 'Wanted' Flier Beat Charges
HARLEM — The Harlem couple who had their faces and home address displayed on "wanted posters" after being branded "professional agitators" by the NYPD for filming police stop-and-frisks have been aquitted or had charges against them dropped.
Matthew Swaye, 35, and his partner Christina Gonzalez, 26, were both facing charges ranging from felony assault to disorderly conduct for confrontations with the NYPD.
But over the last few weeks, Swaye won acquittal during a trial where he represented himself against charges of disorderly conduct after a July 12 confrontation with police outside the Bronx Criminal Courthouse.
Charges against Gonzalez for the same incident have been dropped.
Earlier this week, the Manhattan District Attorney's office also dropped felony assault charges against Gonzalez filed after a June 17 anti stop-and-frisk march in Manhattan. Police say Gonzalez moved a barricade causing a police officer to injure his hand.
"Don't get your face on a wanted poster that says you call attention to police abuse, and then get within the range of police," said Gonzalez's attorney Paul Mills.
Mills says the Manhattan District Attorney's office kept trying to reduce the charges against Gonzalez for the June 17 incident, finally offering a deal that would erase the charges from her record if she stayed out of trouble for six months.
Gonzalez rejected that deal and the the case was dropped.
"They wanted me to plead guilty and have a criminal record and I said no. They had absolutely no case," said Gonzalez.
A spokeswoman from the Manhattan District Attorney's office declined to comment on the case.
She said the arrests are based on her and Swaye's activities protesting stop-and-frisks.
"I think the poster is still in the back of some people's heads," said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez and Swaye were attending a meeting of the 30th Precinct's Community Council on June 28 when they saw the flier which contained side by side mugshots of the pair as well as their home address, DNAinfo New York first reported.
"Be aware that above subjects are known professional agitators," read the flyer, which had the NYPD shield and a seal of the NYPD's Intelligence Division.
"Above subjects MO is that they video tape officers performing routine stops and post on YouTube," the sign said. "Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and to deter officers from conducting there [sic] responsibilities."
The flyer warned police not to "feed into above subjects propaganda."
"It's influencing everything," he said.
Many of the couple's arrest, if not related to civil disobedience, come from mouthing off to the cops. It's a right the couple has, said Mills.
"People should not get the wrong idea that these dismissals and acquittals show the system works. This shows the police are making unlawful arrests in retaliation for people exercising their first amendment rights," said Mills.
The two activists aren't in the clear yet. Swaye still has disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration cases in Brooklyn and Queens. Gonzalez has seven cases pending, stemming from civil disobedience activities during Occupy Wall Street and anti stop-and-frisk activities.
"I'm going to trial for all of these cases. I feel really positive that the truth is coming out," Gonzalez said.
Last week, she picked up another charge after protesting the arrest of a man during her Bronx court case. She plans to take that to trial too.
"I got two cases dismissed but I gained one. To me it seems like police are playing a game," said Gonzalez.