The Manhattan District Attorney’s office decided to release one of two men caught on a wild video being assaulted by baton-wielding police in Washington Heights, officials said Thursday.
The DA will defer charges against Sidney Williams, 37, while seeking assault charges against his running buddy — and possible blood relative — Aaron Grissom, 36.
The two men were arrested Tuesday during a violent clash with police caught on a bystander’s cell phone.
Williams suffered a broken nose when two transit cops, identified as Police Officers Jeffrey Mota and Bramlin Rosa, struck him with expandable batons on Broadway near 169th St. on Tuesday.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill scored the DA’s decision not to prosecute Williams.
The decision by the office Manhattan DA Cy Vance “puts safety of cops & public in jeopardy, & sends entirely wrong message to NYers,” O’Neill wrote on Twitter. “#NYPD is asking DAs to indict Grissom, charge Williams &, impose bail.”
At arraignment Thursday night in Manhattan Criminal Court, Judge Althea Drysdale granted the DA’s request that Grissom be released without bail, with a order of protection barring him from entering the subway station. He is charged with assault, attempted assault, and resisting arrest.
Grissom’s hair was matted, and he writhed in pain as he clutched his rib cage. He and Williams said nothing as one of their lawyers, Adam Wolk, yelled, “Don’t say anything! Don’t say anything. Make no comment.”
Their lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, demanded a grand jury probe into cops’ behavior in the case. “The reported 16 blows with a baton (including one to the head), the kicking, the actions taken by police while they were already on the ground must be criminally probed.”
As he sat in a jail cell on Thursday Williams’ face was visibly swollen although he behaved “like a gentleman,” sources said.
He also told those around him that Grissom was his half-brother.
The cops involved in the incident Tuesday were on a fixed post at the 168th St. and Broadway station responding to community concerns about vagrants when they heard about Grissom and Williams bothering people on stairs leading to the station.
“Police received numerous complaints of drug use and disruptive behavior at the 168th St. subway stop,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth D’Antonio said at Grissom’s arraignment.
“Officers approached the defendants and three others and asked them to disperse. The defendant punched Officer Mota in the head. The punch was caught on body-camera.”
Video acquired by ABC Eyewitness News shows Grissom lunging at the officers, shoving one of them backwards before the cops pulled their batons.
As the cops drew closer, Grissom allegedly swung his fist at one of the officers but never connected. When the second cop stepped in to help, Williams jumped in and attacked him, the sources said.
One of several videos shot at the scene showed the cops whacking Williams in the face, neck and back with their batons. One blow landed in the center of Williams’ face, making an audible crack.
Cops chased Grissom to a nearby car. Grissom ended up on the ground as cops appeared kick and hit him as they piled on to him.
All of the cops in the videos — which Mayor de Blasio called “troubling” Wednesday — remain on full duty. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau was investigating the incident.
A separate video acquired by the Daily News shows Williams boasting about his penchant for suing the NYPD.
“They don’t like me but they can’t touch me,” Williams says as he sips a drink in the video recorded sometime before the Tuesday beatdown. “They get hurt and I get paid. I got three lawsuits, working on number four. Keep f—ing with me, police. I’m gonna show you what it is.”