The man charged with shoving a woman onto the subway tracks in Times Square was acting in self defense, his attorney claimed at his first court appearance on Saturday.
Carlos Ortiz, 32, is accused of snatching a woman’s belongings at the 42nd Street subway station, then pushing her onto the tracks of the northbound R train, according to police.
But Ortiz’s attorney, Francis White of Legal Aid, argued that witnesses who spoke to police and the media unfairly assumed his client to be a “mugger,” or “snatcher.”
“It seems the people have a very weak case,” White said.
“He’s clearly – even by their theory to some degree – a victim, someone who was attacked by woman who falls into the subway.”
On Friday around 1:45 p.m. Ortiz allegedly grabbed a woman’s belongings at the 42nd Street subway station then pushed her onto the track for the northbound R train, according to police. Bystanders quickly jumped into action, helping her off the tracks back onto the platform and even nabbing Ortiz as he tried to flee, holding him until police arrived on scene, cops said.
The 36-year-old woman was transported to Bellevue Hospital with head injuries. Ortiz was arrested and charged with assault on Friday after a witness identified him in a police lineup, officials said.
Ortiz appeared disheveled in court on Saturday, wearing a dirty gray sweatshirt.
“We have a situation here where someone fell into a subway as part of an altercation so the supposed good Samaritans assumed that the pusher was a mugger and a perpetrator, and made statements to the police, or to the press, or someone to that effect,” White said.
“Assuming that what seemed to happen was my client was accosted by someone and he was protecting himself,” White added.
Video evidence of the assault appears to show the victim hitting Ortiz moments before he pushed her on the tracks, Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Sudley revealed.
“This is a serious case where the defendant stands accused of pushing a woman onto the subway tracks after an altercation, causing the woman to be hospitalized with a serious head injury,” Studley said on Saturday.
“There is a video of the complainant assaulting or attempting to assault the defendant in the moments preceding the defendant pushing the complainant onto the subway tracks,” she said. “There is also an eyewitness that stated the complainant was striking the defendant prior to the push.”
White asked that Ortiz be freed on supervised release, but that request was denied by Judge Robert Rosenthal, who set his bail at $5,000 cash and $30,000 bond. The prosecution had requested bail be set at $20,000 cash.
“This is a very strong possibility that there will be a terrible miscarriage of justice if bail is set,” White said. “My client is described in newspapers as a homeless person. Obviously he cannot make bail.”
Ortiz has one prior misdemeanor charge in New York, according to Studley, with two other misdemeanor convictions in Connecticut, for which he served one year in jail after providing law enforcement with two separate names. He also had multiple warrants in 2014 for charges such as aggressive vending and trespassing. Those charges were all dismissed, except one where he made $1 bail.
His next court appearance will be on Thursday, Nov. 18.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul responded to the alleged attack on Friday, vowing to make the city’s public transportation system safer.
“I am horrified that a woman was pushed onto the tracks at the Times Square subway station today, and I’m hoping for her full recovery,” she said in a tweet Friday. “I’m working with @MTA and our City partners to make our transit system safer. No one should ride the train or walk the streets in fear.”
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