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Video helps exonerate Sunset Parker charged with assaulting cops

Innocent: Prosecutors are dropping charges against 17-year-old Sunset Parker Enrique Del Rosario after police and the district attorney’s office dragged him through 10 months of court on trumped-up charges that he attacked a police officer.
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Another Sunset Parker is vindicated after the prosecutors dropped trumped-up charges police filed against him based on video of the incident.

Prosecutors dismissed charges that a 17-year-old assaulted a police officer on June 8. Cops pinched Enrique Del Rosario last summer as he filmed them arresting revellers during Puerto Rican Day festivities on Fifth Avenue in Sunset Park. They beat Del Rosario and then tried to make him look like the aggressor, his lawyer said.

“Basically, my client was a victim of a gang assault by the 72nd Precinct,” said attorney Rebecca Heinegg. “Five officers slammed him against the gate of a closed store. Batons came down on his head.”

During the melee, one officer accidentally hit another cop with a baton, but when prosecutors brought charges against Del Rosario, they claimed he attacked that officer, said Dennis Flores, head of police watchdog group El Grito de Sunset Park.

Video evidence shot at multiple angles contradicts prosecutors’ claim, according to Heinegg and Flores.

A grand jury convened in September decided not to indict Del Rosa for assaulting cops, Heinegg said. The youth also faced charges of resisting arrest and larceny, court records show. Prosecutors offered to drop remaining charges against Del Rosario — and two unrelated low-level misdemeanors — if he stays out of trouble for the next six months.

The District Attorney offered the deal to stave off a trial and prevent the defense from introducing embarrassing video evidence showing police malfeasance, Heinegg said.

“This is a common way for the DA to get out of cases they don’t want to go to trial,” she said.

Del Rosario wanted to bring the case before a jury, but the assistant district attorneys’ offer to drop unrelated cases was hard to pass up, Heinegg said.

“This is as close to an outright dismissal that the ADA is willing to concede,” Heinegg said.

Del Rosario’s mother said coming to her son’s eight court dates over the last 10 months has itself been a trial, because she knew her son was innocent the whole time.

“He’s coming to court every month with no verdict,” mother Wendy Tabarez said. “I don’t know why [the judge] doesn’t do anything.”

Court proceedings forced the mother to take days off from her job to accompany her son to court — something that has cost her time off and pay, she said.

The case is the latest in a series involving vidoes exposing the 72nd Precinct’s apparently heavy-handed tactics.

Activists’ video evidence helped exonerate another Sunset Parker whom police charged with assault in a separate incident last summer.

Neighbors lashed out at police brass during an October town hall on police-community relations El Grito organized after video surfaced of police shoving a pregnant woman to the ground in September.

Del Rosario plans to file civil charges against the police department, Heinegg said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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