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'Boyish Prank' Led to OWS Protester's Bloody Clash with Police

By DNAinfo Staff on November 23, 2011 8:04pm

MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A protester bloodied after he allegedly stole a police officer's hat during a city-wide Occupy Wall Street demonstration last week was just participating in a "boyish prank," his attorney said Wednesday.

Brandon Watts, 20, has been arrested five times since the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement — most recently for allegedly stealing a deputy inspector's department-issued cap on Nov. 17 during a massive clash with police at Zuccotti Park.

Watts was the man whose face was bloodied during the day of demonstrations to mark the group's second month in existence, an image that was widely publicized in news coverage.

In addition to his felony arrest for grand larceny, Watts was also was allegedly caught trying to escape a police van and resisting arrest. Prosecutors say he tried to throw a AAA battery at the NYPD, pushed through police barricades and tried to run away.

But his lawyer, Martin Stolar, told reporters that his client's behavior was due to psychiatric issues that he's now trying to cope with, though he did not specify the type of affliction.

"Brandon is somewhat provocative," said Stolar, of the National Lawyers Guild, arguing that Watts' alleged conduct merely amounted to a "boyish prank" and should not be considered felony grand larceny.

"Brandon Watts is not the face of Occupy Wall Street," he said. "That would brand everyone who's a demonstrator as a person with a psychiatric issue."

Stolar said Watts' issues stem from his childhood when he was put into foster care at age 8. He was expected to being going to the Fountain House — a mental health facility in Midtown — to seek assistance, is staying away from Occupy Wall Street and living with a friend, according to Stolar.

Watts rejected a plea deal that would have given him 45 days in jail on misdemeanor charges. He was ordered held on bail after three of the arrests and Occupy Wall Street put up the money — $2,750 in all — to get him sprung.

A spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street did not immediately return a call for comment.