A bodega worker who was charged with murder after stabbing a man inside his store plans to sue the city for wrongfully prosecuting him and for the time he was jailed in Rikers Island before his case was dropped.
Jose Alba, 61, filed notices of claim against the city and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in September 2022, seeking $10 million in damages. Alba alleges that they wrongfully brought a case against him for defending himself against ex-con Austin Simon, 35, who died during the struggle.
Alba claims that his case was mishandled from the start. When police arrived in Hamilton Heights, they failed to take witness statements, including from Alba himself, and relied solely on the word of Simon’s girlfriend, Tina Lee, who had stabbed Alba in the melee.
The police also neglected to look at video footage of the incident “which was available, and which clearly showed there was no criminal liability on the part of Alba,” according to the filing, the New York Post reported.
According to the legal precursors to lawsuits against certain New York agencies, the police also failed to present all relevant and exculpatory information to the NY County District Attorney’s Office and withheld exculpatory information.
The New York Post reported:
The DA’s Office, based on the information from cops, brought “the highest charge possible” against Alba and asked for extremely high bail “so that Alba would be punished regardless of the facts of the case,” the filing states.
Prosecutors also “decided not to arrest Tina Lee who had no reasonable basis to stab Alba,” the claim says.Bragg, in a public statement at the time of the arrest, admitted that his office was still reviewing evidence and the investigation was ongoing.
But “This review … should have been done by the NYPD and DA investigators before Alba was arrested and charged,” the filing states.
At Rikers, Alba was kept “under inhumane and unconstitutional conditions,” the claim states.
He was kept in the intake area without COVID-19 protections and only hours after his arrival was he finally taken to the medical facility, where staff said he’d need to have his wound cleaned twice daily and pain and fever medications administered to help prevent infection, the papers claim.
According to his lawyers, Alba plans to sue for claims including false arrest, malicious prosecution, withholding exculpatory information, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
“Jose Alba is a hardworking New Yorker who was confronted with a choice, defend himself from a violent attack, or face possible dire consequences,” said Alba’s lawyers, Imran Ansari and Richard Cardinale.
“Unfortunately, law enforcement didn’t see it that way, and put an innocent man through the system, forced him to endure harsh conditions on Rikers Island, and failed to provide him adequate medical treatment, before dismissing his charges in the face of mounting pressure and public outrage.”