By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
LOWER EAST SIDE — The subway system’s ailing surveillance network will help clear charges against a Lower East Side antiques dealer accused of selling stolen subway signs out of his East Houston Street shop, his lawyer said Thursday.
Noted civil rights attorney Ron Kuby claimed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s case against Billy Leroy will not stick because the transit agency’s spotty surveillance cameras would not have captured the supposed thefts in the first place.
Leroy, proprietor of Billy’s Antiques and Props at the corner of Elizabeth Street, was arrested in March for hawking the signs he had displayed in plain view at his shop for the past decade without incident.
Kuby believes the Manhattan District Attorney's office will ultimately determine that surveillance video would have caught the alleged thefts at the stations Leroy has been accused of receiving signs from — had the cameras actually been in working condition.
"[It's] the stupidest thing the MTA has done in recent memory," said Kuby, who made headlines this week for challenging the detention of attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shazhad.
“The DA’s office [will be] pissed at the MTA for their crappy cameras creating an unsafe situation — you know, like, murders and terrorism and stuff," he added. “Everyone lives happily ever after, and eventually somebody fixes the freaking cameras.”
Leroy explained that he purchased the signs from an MTA subcontractor whose job it was to dispose of them after installing new ones at various subway stations.
“My guy was legitimate,” Leroy said. “He wasn’t some sort of weird thief guy.”
Kuby emphasized that the unidentified subcontractor legally sold the signs to Leroy, ultimately absolving him of any wrongdoing.
“The fact that the MTA expected this subcontractor to destroy [the signs] rather than sell them doesn’t create any liability for Billy Leroy, but it does show why the MTA is out of money, because they take a wonderfully marketable, valuable asset and they pay someone to destroy it.”
Leroy also expects to have the 96 signs that were confiscated from his shop returned if the case is dropped.
“If [the MTA] appointed Billy their marketing director, they could dig themselves out of their fiscal hole,” Kuby added. “Billy figured out a way to turn trash into treasure.”
The MTA declined to comment on the matter.