THE BRONX — The Bronx District Attorney moved Wednesday to dismiss charges against Pedro Hernandez, the teenager indicted for his involvement in a 2015 shooting who spent a year on Rikers Island as his case became a rallying point for justice-system reformers.
Bronx DA Darcel Clark made the announcement Wednesday morning, just before the trial was set to begin, noting problems with witness accounts and inconsistent information provided to prosecutors.
The DA's Public Integrity Bureau, its Conviction Integrity Unit, Crime Strategies Unit, senior trial attorneys and a veteran prosecutor investigated the case, including interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses, Clark said in a statement.
In court Wednesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Julian Bond O'Connor said that “the victim of this shooting could not identify the assailant" and that “witnesses accounts in this case have ben inconsistent and contradictory.”
He added that one of the original witnesses was no longer cooperative and could not be located after an extensive search.
Hernandez, 17, was also indicted for a 2015 robbery, that case is still pending. He is due back in court on Oct. 23.
In court on Wednesday, Justice Steven Barrett accepted the motion to dismiss the gun charges against Hernandez and eliminated bail in both of the cases.
Hernandez, who walked out of court smiling, said he found out about the dismissal while in the car with his family Wednesday morning and that he now has "a lot of thinking to do."
He said he wasn’t surprised at the decision, noting he woke up Wednesday with a "lucky feeling."
“I feel good” he said, thanking his lawyers and supporters.
Jessica Perez, Hernandez’s mother, explained that the whole ordeal had been a "roller coaster" but that she knew her son would eventually win out.
“We knew it was coming,” she said, adding, “it was just a matter of time.”
Manuel Gomez, a private investigator hired by the Hernandez family, was elated Wednesday morning when he heard the news, calling it "total vindication."
"I feel like I won the lottery," he said, adding more work needs to be done to address the alleged corruption underlying the case.
Gomez previously claimed an assistant district attorney "falsified the case" against Hernandez while working with two corrupt detectives. That prosecutor, David Slott, did not appear in court Wednesday.
The accusation echoes recently filed notices of claim stating that individuals were coerced and falsely arrested by police and prosecutors in a number of cases, including ones involving Hernandez.
Several lawsuits have also alleged misconduct on the part of police officers involved in the Hernandez case.