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Murder Charges to be Dropped Against Man in Union Square Attack

By Murray Weiss | August 25, 2011 8:12am

The scales of justice are meant to work for the rich and the poor. It certainly worked for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, said he was forced to drop rapes charges against Strauss-Kahn largely because of the lack of credibility of the French politician's chambermaid accuser, Nafissatou Diallo.

Some critics insist the DSK case is yet another example that we have a two-tiered justice system that leans heavily in favor of the influential. But in a few days, Manhattan prosecutors will appear before another judge in a murder case that did not attract DSK-like attention. They will recommend charges be dismissed against Keenan Bryce, a 29-year-old man who lives on the streets, DNAinfo has learned.

On July 8, Bryce was arrested outside Union Square Park after eyewitnesses pointed him out as the person who had beaten 53-year-old Stanley Novak to death with a heavy bike lock and chain a few hours earlier.

Until recently, the murder case was a sure thing.

At the scene, witnesses pointed Bryce out to cops a few hours after the 1:30 a.m. assault, sources told On the Inside. Later in the day, two of them pointed him out again in a police lineup: A distinctive looking man who stands 6-feet-2, has braided hair and was wearing little more than overalls without a shirt.

At his arraignment, Bryce railed in court like the troubled person he is. He even yelled and screamed at Howard Jaffe, the lawyer appointed to represent him. Jaffe recalled that he made little sense of much of what Bryce said that day. Except for one thing.

"I was in New Jersey," Jaffe recalled Bryce telling him. "He was really yelling and screaming and refusing to talk to me, except to say he was in New Jersey."

It was hardly something to alter the entire direction of a case.

Even the sister of the victim, Madeline Novak, was told Bryce was definitely her brother’s killer. She went on Facebook calling for Bryce to never be free.

"Justice will not bring my brother back, but I don’t ever want to see this animal Keenan Bryce ever walk the streets," she wrote on Facebook. "I want him in jail for the rest of his life, never to walk with freedom...just like my broken heart will never heal and my life will never be the same EVER!"

But the day after Bryce was sent to Bellevue, Jaffe received a call from Bryce’s brother, Robert Bryce, who works on Wall Street and lives in Sayreville, N.J., about an hour bus ride from Manhattan.

Robert Bryce said his brother frequently hung out near his home. And just an hour before the murder, Robert Bryce said he had spoken twice on his cellphone with his brother around midnight on July 7. Keenan said he was about to take a bus to Manhattan.

Jaffe told Robert Bryce to get his cell phone records to show that his brother was in New Jersey making and receiving calls.

The following day, Robert Bryce set out for a bus stop in Sayreville along Route 4 where he found a bus driver who vividly recalled his brother because Keenan Bryce, wearing overalls and no shirt, tried to board the bus, but only had $3 (the fare can cost more than $12). The driver remembered letting the wild-looking Bryce on the bus without forcing him to pay the full fare.

That happened at 1:30 a.m. — ten minutes after the murder took place more than 30 miles away.

Bryce notified Jaffe, who immediately reached out to NJ Transit.  Using the Freedom of Information Law, Jaffe requested video from four surveillance cameras shooting the bus stop and a nearby "Park and Ride" lot.

Discs containing the surveillance footage arrived in a brown envelope at the law office of Gotlin & Jaffe on Aug. 8. The lawyers quickly slid the discs into their computers. Suddenly they spotted Keenan Bryce outside the bus pulling out his wallet that had only $3 in it.

Jaffe quickly brought the tapes down to the Manhattan DA’s office, where they were reviewed. If that were not enough, Robert Bryce also learned that their father in Virginia had wired $40 to Keenan Bryce at a Times Square Western Union office.  According to Jaffe, after Keenan Davis picked up the cash at 3 a.m., he then wended his way on foot to Union Square Park, where at about 7 a.m. he walked by cops near a crime scene.

When Vance dropped charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Tuesday, Diallo’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson lashed out at Vance.

“If Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a bus driver from the South Bronx, would the district attorney really care about Diallo’s asylum application?” Thompson asked. “Would he turn his back on seven count indictment that a grand jury returned?”

The answer is that justice would demand it. And shortly, Vance is expected to sign another Recommendation for Dismissal, this time in a murder case that will free Keenan Bryce.