WILLIAMSBURG — A Vice Media "Employee of the Month" who made his name writing about his years spent behind bars for a string of robberies fueled by heroin addiction is back in jail after he punched and bit a supermarket worker who tried to stop him from stealing $90 worth of coffee, authorities said.
Daniel Genis, 35, tried to sneak out of Brooklyn Harvest Market at 204 Union Ave. Sunday just before 5:30 p.m. with 12 bags of Folger's coffee that he'd stuffed into his own bag, according to police and a witness.
A supermarket worker realized Genis hadn't paid and took off after him, chasing him halfway down the block, where he caught up with him and struggled to get the coffee back, said the staffer, who declined to give his name.
Genis looked "dirty" and was acting "crazy," screaming that he hadn't stolen anything, the worker said.
In the struggle in front of the FDNY Battalion 35 stationhouse on Union Avenue, Genis fell to the ground and the worker held him down before police and firemen surrounded the two. As the employee held him down, Genis bit him in the hand, he said, showing off the bite mark still visible two days after the incident.
Prosecutors and police said Genis also punched the staffer, though the worker denied that.
"It's crazy how they do it in front of the precinct," he said, pointing out that Williamsburg's 90th Precinct is directly across from Brooklyn Harvest Market and adding that the grocery store is constantly targeted by thieves.
Speaking by phone, Genis's wife said that the two had been struggling to make ends meet and that her husband had mentioned shoplifting once before so he could put food on the table.
"I don't understand, that's so unlike him," said Petra Szabo, 43, after learning her husband was also charged with biting and punching the worker. "This is how low you can get when you are hungry."
Genis, whose father Alexander Genis hosts a radio show on Russian culture, grew up in New York. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and New York University, but in 2003 began robbing people at knifepoint to pay for his heroin addiction, he told NPR's Terry Gross.
After spending a decade in state prison for a series of robberies, Genis emerged in 2014, making a name for himself as a writer and journalist covering prisons, incarceration and addiction for the Daily News, Washington Post, Thrillist, Deadspin and Vice, where he was featured in a section called "Employee of the Month."
Genis was charged with assault, petit larceny and three counts robbery for the coffee heist. He also has one pending citation from May for spitting in public. He is currently being held at Rikers Island on $2,500 bail, which Szabo said the couple can't afford because the inheritance he received from his grandfather ran out last year.
He's due back in court on Oct. 21, records show.
He and his wife recently started a GoFundMe to try to raise money to send books to prisoners.
Vice Media did not respond to a request for comment.