A wanted ex-convict allegedly stole more than $ 2,000 in merchandise by threatening a drugstore worker with a knife – but his armed robbery charges were demoted under the controversial and progressive policies of the new Manhattan prosecutor, learned The Post.
The move follows a similar case – published on the front page of The Sunday’s Post – in which prosecutors reduced a robbery charge to petty theft in accordance with marching orders DA Alvin Bragg gave them last week.
“Bragg’s policies are an affront to all law-abiding citizens of New York City,” blasted former Manhattan deputy attorney Daniel Ollen, who is now a defense attorney.
“Violent criminals now have carte blanche to reoffend, knowing full well that they will never sniff inside a prison cell again.”
Ollen added, “If you thought things couldn’t get worse, think again. May God help us.”
In the latest case, career criminal William Rolon, 43, is charged with filling a plastic garbage bag with cold medicine and other items inside a Duane Reade store in the Lower East Side around 12:20 am Saturday.
When Rolon left the 100 Delancey St. store without paying, a manager confronted him and saw him wielding a pocket knife, court documents show.
“Fk you, I’ll take it all,” he would have said.
Rolon and an unidentified accomplice then headed west with the loot, worth $ 2,209, said law enforcement sources familiar with the matter.
Rolon returned to the store around 5:30 p.m. the same day and allegedly stole more cold medicine, paper towels and other items, court documents show.
Another official recognized Rolon in the previous incident – which was caught on CCTV – and called the cops, which led to his arrest, sources said.
While in custody at the nearby 7th District headquarters, a small package of heroin fell from Rolon’s sock, court documents said.
Police charged Rolon with first degree theft and criminal possession of a weapon in the first incident, sources said.
But when he was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court early Sunday morning, the theft charge was dropped by the Manhattan DA’s office and he was instead charged with two counts of petty theft and related offenses of low intensity, including second-degree threats, according to court documents. .
“If you’re a cop, you can’t charge a threat with petty theft. It’s a burglary, “said a police source.
“This is Police Academy 101.”
Prosecutors’ decision was in line with orders outlined by Bragg in a “Day One” memo he released on January 3, his first full day in office.
According to Bragg’s guidelines, certain corporate thefts should be prosecuted as petty theft provided no victims have been injured and there is no “real risk of physical harm.”
The manager Rolon allegedly threatened told cops she feared for her life and did not want to return to work, sources familiar with the matter said, and the criminal complaint notes that Rolon’s alleged conduct “made him fear. physical injury, serious injury or death.
“He just ignored the victim,” Manhattan defense attorney Michael Discioarro said of Bragg.
“He said to the victim: you don’t deserve state protection.
Discioarro, a former Bronx District Attorney, added, “If this is the way we’re going to prosecute crime – ignoring crime – we’re in trouble.
The manager declined to comment.
The incident at Duane Reade follows a theft arrest Thursday at a TJ Maxx store in Chelsea, after which the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association claimed that a prosecutor “intentionally omitted” from the criminal complaint an allegation that the suspect had threatened the workers with a pair of scissors.
The arresting officer refused to sign the complaint until this information was added, but prosecutors still downgraded a petty theft third degree charge, per Bragg’s orders. , sources said.
In his memo, Bragg first said all cases of commercial thefts with a “lethal weapon” or “dangerous instrument” would be downgraded, but his office rescinded that directive the next day amid outrage from Manhattan merchants. .
Instead, commercial thefts involving firearms will still be prosecuted as crimes, the prosecutor’s office said.
At the time of Rolon’s arrest on Saturday, he was wanted in Brooklyn for failing to appear in court in October on charges including assault with a weapon, records show.
The case concerns an incident that took place in April, according to records.
He was released on probation on his arraignment in Manhattan on Sunday and then taken to Brooklyn Criminal Court, where he was released without bail.
Former Manhattan District Attorney Mark Bederow said move to charge Rolon “with petty theft, in essence, ensured bail would not be set and he would be back on the streets after arraignment. “.
“Charging him with a misdemeanor also meant that the Brooklyn court that saw him after Manhattan’s arrest may have been unaware that the allegations were much more serious than petty theft, which likely led to his release again without bail, “he said. .
Bederow, now a defense attorney, also noted that Rolon’s case means that he could “be classified as a violent criminal, which would subject him to a significant and mandatory jail sentence if convicted of a criminal offense. robbery during his recent arrest in Manhattan. “
Bederow added, “The billing decision made by the Manhattan ADA appears to be in line with Bragg’s memo and exactly what a lot of people feared.”
Rolon has a rap sheet that lists more than 20 arrests that date back to 1991 and involve charges of rape, robbery, assault and drug trafficking, sources said.
In 1997, Rolon was sentenced to three to six years in prison for robbery in upstate Fulton County, and he was subsequently sentenced to five years in 2009 for attempted robbery from Brooklyn, according to records.
He was released from surveillance in the latter case in 2019, records show.
A veteran police officer said that while he agreed with Bragg that homeless and mentally ill shoplifters should be referred for treatment, “the violent guys who have guns – they have to be prosecuted with all the rigor of the law “.
“He says they should all take a break and I can’t agree with that,” the cop said.
Rolon is represented by the Legal Aid Society, which said in a statement that Rolon “is a prime example of a person in need of treatment and resources, not incarceration.”
“Prison and prison only create a vicious cycle of incarceration and only exacerbate root-cause problems and undermine public safety,” the statement said.
Bragg’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment and only sent a journalist Rolon’s criminal complaint – a public record under state law – after several inquiries.
But during a Monday morning radio interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show”, Bragg made a distinction between thefts by someone who “walks into the store” with a gun and “l ‘agitates’ and those involving what the criminal law calls a ‘dangerous instrument’.
“These are, you know, cases where, you know, someone tries and throws something like a pork chop at you,” he said.
“I don’t mean to be frivolous about this, but it literally can be a dangerous weapon under the law.”