Bronx teen Malik Ayala’s supporters call it a victory
Disorderly conduct charge dismissed against Lehman High School student arrested for handing out pamphlets with Black Panther symbol
A group opposed to police in public schools trumpeted a dropped disorderly conduct charge against a Lehman High School student as a victory for student rights.
Malik Ayala, 16, got the summons last spring and turned down a plea deal, demanding a trial that was supposed to happen last week.
A judge dropped the charge after the officer who wrote the ticket failed to appear in court. Ayala faced 15 days in jail if convicted.
A police source said the officer who wrote the ticket was never told of Ayala’s trial date.
Ayala’s attorney, Marne Lenox of Bronx Defenders, called the charge against the teen “baseless,” in an emailed comment.
“Not guilty of the offense charged, Malik refused to accept any plea offer and was vindicated today when a judge dismissed his summons ticket,” Lenox said.
Ayala, a sophomore and member of the school’s Student Leadership Council, said he got the ticket as he distributed flyers protesting the city’s plan to close the school. Ayala said a school security officer saw a Black Panther logo on the paper and claimed the symbol was illegal.
Ayala admits he had some choice words for the cop, Police Officer Joseph Foreman.
“I said something like, ‘You’re a disgrace to black people,’” Ayala said. “’The devil comes in disguises. Blue first, black second, I know how that goes.’”
“Every time we demand a trial, they always end up dismissing the case,” said Agnes Johnson, a member of People Power Movement, which backed Ayala. “That tells us these things are really bogus.”
In Bronx court last Tuesday, 30 members of People Power Movement there to support Ayala claimed Bronx Criminal Court officers mistreated them.
“They made us take our shirts off and turn them inside out,” Johnson said. The red tees bore the group’s name, along with a large fist graphic.
David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, acknowledged that shouldn’t have happened.
“If we had it to do over again, it’s not unlikely we would have handled it differently,” Bookstaver said.
Court policy forbids messages on clothes that might influence the outcome of a trial but the manual is vague, Bookstaver said.
“We are rewriting the policy. We believe the end result will take the burden off court officers and put it on the judge,” Bookstaver said.
Ayala previously beat another disorderly conduct charge in the same manner. He was arrested April 18 after he videotaped officers who stopped and frisked his classmate outside a subway station.