The Slatest

Charges Dropped Against Mother From Viral Arrest Video, but She’s Still in Jail (UPDATE: She’s Been Ordered Released)

A white bus with the word CORRECTION on it in large letters drives past a Rikers Island sign.
Rikers Island.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Brooklyn, New York, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has dropped charges against 23-year-old Jazmine Headley related to her arrest at a social services office on Friday, he announced Tuesday. Headley was charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration, and trespassing after security guards called police over a dispute that apparently began because she was sitting on the floor while she waited with her 1-year-old son to renew a child-care benefit. (A witness to the incident who recorded it on a widely viewed video has said the office was very crowded and there were no chairs available.) Responding officers pulled Headley’s son out of her arms while she was struggling on the ground and threatened bystanders with a stun gun; the NYPD says it is investigating the officers’ actions. Gonzalez, the DA, said he was “horrified” by the video of the incident and that “the consequences this young and desperate mother has already suffered as a result of this arrest far outweigh any conduct that may have led to it.”

Headley, however, remains in custody at New York’s Rikers Island jail because a New Jersey judge has not yet decided whether she should be extradited across state lines to face 2016 charges of credit card fraud. In fact, NJ.com reports, New Jersey hasn’t even been formally notified that Headley was arrested:

While the DA’s office said staff are working with Mercer County authorities to speed up the process that will see Jazmine Headley either released or extradited on the warrant, New Jersey court officials have said the state courts haven’t even been notified that she’s being held. An official in Mercer County Superior Court said the judge who issued the warrant last summer has not been notified by New York officials that Headley is being held on the warrant. Thus, he has not been prompted to make a decision about whether she should be released and given a new court date in New Jersey, or held pending extradition.

The public defenders’ office representing Headley has filed a motion requesting her release from Rikers. (Update, 4:30 p.m.: A New York judge has granted the motion and Headley will be released. The credit card case has not yet been resolved; a relative of Headley’s told NJ.com that those charges are without merit.)

A review of Rikers data by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015 showed that 1,500 inmates at the facility had been held while awaiting trial for more than a year, essentially punishing them with long-term incarceration before they’d been convicted of anything. (Roughly half of individuals held awaiting trial at Rikers are there because they can’t afford bail rather than because they’ve been deemed a flight risk or danger to the community.) In one notorious case, a teenager named Kalief Browder spent three years in Rikers over minor charges (he was accused of stealing a backpack) that were ultimately dropped; Browder later took his own life.