A young New Yorker, Mariah Charles, was stopped by police on her way to school and violently arrested for not carrying an ID. Her case is now in court, and Charles is opting to go to trial and face the risks of a trial rather than take a plea. Charles wants to stand up to the civil rights abuses those in her community face and hopefully help others, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) reported.
The incident happened on April 28, 2017, when Charles was only 19; she is now 20. Charles, who attended South Brooklyn Community School, was walking to school with her friend Danielle Ward, 17. They were just a block away from her school that morning when an NYPD squad car pulled up to them. Two officers came up to the two friends and asked where they were going. Charles responded they were on their way to school and then the officers asked for her identification. She said she had no ID on her but suggested the officers could walk with her to school which was just a block away.
“If someone don’t have ID they literally walk with you to school so that’s what’s I thought they were going to do. And I thought wrong,” Charles told JJIE.
According to JJIE’s report, it’s unclear why the police stopped Charles in the first place. In New York City, you are not legally required to carry an ID, and you don’t need to show an ID unless you are under reasonable suspicion of a crime. Some sources told JJIE she was stopped as part of a truancy stop, but Charles was 19 at the time which is over the legal age to drop out, which is 17.
“You’re Touching Me and I’m a Female,” Charles Yelled As Police Rough-Handled Her
Charles went to walk past the officers and one grabbed her arm. The officer then dropped her hand and they talked for a few more seconds before Charles attempted to go on her way again but the officer grabbed both of her arms and pulled them behind her back.
The second officer who had been speaking to Ward a few feet away came up to help the first officer restrain Charles, who is 5 foot 2 and about 120 pounds. They pinned her to the ground and handcuffed her while Ward could only film the arrest on her mobile phone.
“I’m going to school and I’m a female,” Charles screamed. “You’re touching me and I’m a female. What are you doing? What are you doing? Somebody go to my school! Somebody go to my school. Danny, please go to my school. Danny, please.”
With the police officers cuffing her friend to the ground and then trying to push her headfirst into their car, Ward took off for school to get help. Security camera footage shows the officers push the struggling Charles onto the ground again, lift her up sideways and throw her headfirst into the car.
Bystanders began to appear, and as the cops stood with the car doors opened, Charles got out of the car. Another violent struggle ensued with the still handcuffed Charles and cops shoved her back into the car again. The police car then took off with Charles in the back. As JJIE reported, the whole incident lasted five minutes.
Charles’ case came to the Brooklyn Criminal Court, with Charles and her legal representative debating on how to proceed. Before her case was called, her Legal Aid attorney Robert Heilbrun and Dennis Flores, the co-founder of a community cop watch organization, talked over with Charles her options.
“I Want To Teach Others and Open Up My Generation’s Eyes To What We’re Going Through”
The two men talked over with Charles her options to either go to trial or accept an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD). Taking an ACD would allow her to walk with the condition that their charges will be dismissed if she is not arrested again within six months of taking the plea. It is a dilemma because accepting the plea makes defendants feel guilty for an offense they have not committed and leaves them vulnerable to another questionable encounter with cops during the six month period. However, choosing to go to trial may lead to a conviction which can carry stricter sentences.
“I’m not telling you to take it or not to take it,” Heilbrun told Charles. “My job is to make sure you don’t get a criminal record.”
After a lot of considerations, Charles made up her mind. She would go to trial. When her case was called, and she stood before the judge, Heilbrun announced to the court that his client would not be taking the ACD plea but would choose to go to trial. The judge set July 9 as the trial date.
The NYPD would not comment on the case, and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office would also not comment on the issue. But Charles had a final word before she left the court premises.
“I didn’t feel I should go with the easiest decision,” she said. “Me taking an ACD is saying that it’s OK — it’s OK what they did. I feel like I want to teach others and open up my generation’s eyes to what we’re going through.”