A career criminal with dozens of prior arrests has allegedly struck again, shoving a 65-year-old woman down a flight of stairs at a Midtown Manhattan subway station, police said Tuesday.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea first detailed the troubling attack during a Tuesday morning appearance on NY1 — while decrying New York’s “catch-and-release” justice system.
“Friday, we had a 65-year-old Asian woman brutally pushed down the stairs in the transit system at 34th Street,” said Shea, who during the same appearance announced the arrest of a homeless man in an unrelated hate-crime assault on a woman in Chinatown. “Again, officers make the arrest in short order.
“What’s the common denominator? People that are arrested multiple, multiple, multiple times and released.”
An NYPD spokeswoman identified the suspect in Friday’s attack as John Chappell, noting that he was charged with assault.
Chappell, 64, was previously busted last December for allegedly slugging a woman without provocation as she waited for the R train at 34th Street’s Herald Square station.
That victim, 68-year-old Rosella Trombetta, was left with a broken nose — and doubted whether she wanted to keep living in New York, her boyfriend said.
At the time of the December attack, Chappell, who was then homeless, had 77 prior arrests, including busts for assault, reckless endangerment and petit larceny.
But he was simply issued a desk appearance ticket for assault and cut loose.
Shea on Tuesday bemoaned the revolving-door system that freed Chappell in December to allegedly strike again — and said that the same outcome had followed Friday’s bust.
“We’re arresting somebody for pushing a woman down the stairs and then we release them back into the street? I mean, this is crazy,” he said. “This is where we need help. This is where the laws intersect with people on the street and at a time when we’re having hard discussions about reform … and treating all people equally, let’s have this discussion too.
“We need help on some of these laws,” he continued. “We cannot be chasing our tail, catch-and-release, catch-and-release.”
Court records indicate that, between December’s incident and Friday’s, a John Chappell with the same birth year was also arrested or issued a violation in an additional four cases, including a January assault bust.
The NYPD could not immediately confirm Tuesday how many times Chappell, who now has an address on Madison Street in Bushwick, has now been arrested.
Chappell was released again following his most recent arrest — even though a prosecutor asked for $200,000 cash bail, his Legal Aid Society lawyer Rebecca Isabelle Heinsen said.
“Mr. Chappell wasn’t released because of bail reform. This was a bail-eligible case. The prosecutor requested cash bail,” she said. “Mr. Chappell is 64-years-old. He’s frail. He was released to supervision, not held in a dangerous jail where his life would be at risk. Let’s not forget, he’s presumed innocent. These are accusations right now.”
Additional reporting by Aaron Feis