The Washington Times: Don’t defend yourself in New York City: If you do, you will be prosecuted

May 29, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new op-ed at the Washington Times.

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The message in New York City is clear: don’t try defending yourself or anyone else from violence. If you do, you will be prosecuted by the city’s District Attorneys.

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New Yorkers are likely to be very familiar with two recent cases.

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— 61-year-old bodega worker Jose Alba fatally stabbed an ex-convict who attacked him behind the counter.

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— A Marine veteran, Daniel Penny, was charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for fatally restraining a man who was threatening to murder others on a New York City subway.

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Public outcry caused prosecutors to eventually drop the case against Jose Alba, but he had to spend time at Rikers Island prison because prosecutors initially faced a $250,000 bail. Alba’s experience drove him to leave the U.S. and move to the Dominican Republic. Daniel Penny is still facing trial in October. Now, there is a new name to add to the list: that of Francisco Valerio, a 53-year-old wine store owner and married father of two. 

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Last week, Valerio shot and wounded a man who tried stealing wine before assaulting the store owner’s brother. Valerio is a concealed handgun permit holder, a rare breed in New York City. Now, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz is seeking to put Valerio behind bars.

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Valerio says that the gun was fired by accident when he came to the aid of his brother. But it was a defensive gun use, and the store owner should have been allowed even to intentionally shoot the assailant.

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The 20-year-old criminal is only being charged with petty theft for stealing the alcohol, but not for the more serious charge of assault. But while Valerio faces up to seven years in prison, the criminal faces a maximum of just 364 days.

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The United Bodegas of America (UBA) supports Valerio. “The videotape shows Valerio did not intentionally discharge his weapon,” the UBA noted

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“He had a permit to carry it and they were assaulting him, and it was an accident,” a neighbor told New York’s Fox 5. Others who know Valerio are dismayed by the charges. “I’m sorry for them because they are good people,” said Russell Dickerson, a 56-year-old basketball coach and restaurant owner who frequents the liquor store. “I can’t say anything bad about them. They take care of their customers, and they run a good business.

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While New York persecutes law-abiding people who try to protect themselves and others, criminals are often let go scot-free. New numbers show that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has downgraded 60% of felonies to lesser charges, almost always to mere misdemeanors.  At the same time left wing DA’s aren’t going after real criminals and crime is increasing, with reported violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, and felony assault) in New York City in 2023 up by 32%. Amid such leniency, reported murder rates are now up 23% from 2019 levels. At the same time, the rate at which people are reporting crime to police has plummeted, so the real spike in crime is much larger than the numbers show. Total crime, reported and unreported, has soared in large cities of more than a million people.

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Amidst the rise in crime, people in Valerio’s neighborhood are saying that they’ve “never seen such a thing happen in the neighborhood.”

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Unfortunately, while much of the news coverage focuses on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz shows the problems with New York City prosecutors go much deeper.

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Valerio is already facing massive legal costs due to this travesty of justice. Whatever the case’s final outcome, the uncertainty of it will be both financially and emotionally draining.

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John R. Lott, Jr.,”Don’t defend yourself in New York City: If you do, you will be prosecuted,” Washington Times, May 29, 2024.

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