CONCOURSE VILLAGE — About 100 supporters of Pedro Hernandez, a Bronx teen awaiting trial in a shooting case, gathered with his family in front of the Bronx District Attorney's Office Thursday morning, demanding that charges against the teen be dropped.
Hernandez, who spent a year in jail on Rikers Island, was accused of a robbery and supplying a gun involved in a 2015 shooting. His case has become a cause célèbre for many justice-system reformers who believe he's being railroaded by an overly aggressive system.
The family's private investigator, Manuel Gomez, told the audience that he uncovered "a hornet’s nest of corruption" in Hernandez's case that goes all the way up to the District Attorney's Office, and that Assistant District Attorney David Slott had worked with two corrupt detectives, Daniel Brady and David Terrell.
Slott "not only falsified the cases with them, but put in letters for them to be promoted" based on false arrests, Gomez said.
His statement partly echoes allegations in two recently filed notices of claim that name Bronx Assistant District Attorney David Slott. Gomez called for charges against not only the police officers involved in the Hernandez case, but also against Slott, who is the prosecutor.
Hernandez has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, assault and reckless endangerment. He was also charged in 2015 for a robbery case that is still pending.
Jessica Perez, Hernandez's mother, also addressed the crowd, taking issue with the fact that she tried for a year to get her son's bail reduced but that the Bronx District Attorney's office only lowered it from $250,000 to $150,000 on July 26, once the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization stepped up to pay.
“I was able to post bail but not to that extreme, but I guess my money wasn’t good enough," Perez said.
She asked those gathered to think beyond her son and called for bail reform and for closing Rikers Island.
She added that too many young black and Hispanic people are awaiting trial at Rikers Island, usually for low-level offenses and are “unable to afford bail and stuck in hell that can last several years."
In 2016, 78 percent of 9,790 people on Rikers were defendants awaiting trial—according to a recent report commissioned by the City Council. Of those, 52 percent were black and 33 percent were Hispanic. Only 10 percent were white. And of the total pre-trial jail population, close to 75 percent were those simply unable to make bail.
Hernandez, who has been free since July 27, did not show up to the rally but his brother read a statement in which he said he was grateful he could return to his family, his studies and preparing for college.
"But it is still not yet a time for celebration because there are so many other young people that remain in cages simply because they cannot afford to purchase their freedom," he said in the statement, calling for an end to the cash bail system.
Several groups, including the NYCLU, and a number of elected officials like New York State Senators Michael Gianaris and Gustavo Rivera, and a representative for Assemblyman Michael Blake spoke at the rally, which was organized by Justice League NYC.
The Bronx District Attorney's Office declined to comment.