Space Invader May Get Room Of His Own: A Jail Cell
A certain amount of pushing and shoving is to be expected on Manhattan’s overly congested sidewalks. Nonetheless, the perp locked up by the police on June 18 showed an even greater disregard for the personal space of his fellow citizens than the average harried pedestrian.
Police Officer Perry Kantor of the 19th Precinct spotted the suspect hogging a bench in Carl Schurz Park, at 88th Street and East End Avenue, around 7:50 a.m. and recognized him as fitting the description of a man wanted for a string of what the police described as “random assaults” between June 5 and June 13.
In the first assault incident, the suspect, a 27-year-old homeless man, allegedly approached his only male victim as he was walking northbound on Madison Avenue Street at 79th at 6:45 p.m. The perpetrator, who was standing at a pay phone, punched the pedestrian in the chest without provocation and wanted to fight. The victim apparently turned down this invitation and kept going.
June 11 was a busy day for the alleged pugilist. It started at 10:58 a.m. when he punched a 35-year-old woman on 79th Street and Second Avenue in the head, bruising her face. At 4:10 that afternoon, he strolled up to a 28-year-old woman at 80th Street and First Avenue and punched her in the stomach before fleeing northbound on First Avenue. A little over an hour later, he assaulted a 25-year-old female as she was walking southbound on First Avenue at 73rd Street, punching her in the arm as he passed her heading in a northbound direction.
His final attack occurred on June 13. A 28-year-old woman told the police that as she was walking southbound on York Avenue at 2:46 p.m., the perp approached her from behind and kicked her in the leg, knocking her to the ground and bruising her leg.
Officer Kantor initially arrested the homeless man for obstruction of a park bench. That’s a quality-of-life violation to be found in the New York City Parks Department’s rules and regulations, which prohibit park-goers from using benches so as to interfere with their use by others. Students of greensward law can find the applicable rule under Section 104 of the aforementioned guide. They might be interested to know that this section (“Prohibited Uses”) also includes a regulation that forbids the bathing of family pets in the parks’
In any case, obstructing the use of a park bench was soon to be but the first and least serious in a flurry of charges filed against the suspect, identified as Mbey Mponte, 27. Officer Kantor turned his prisoner over to the 19th Precinct detective squad, which conducted a series of lineups that allegedly resulted in two positive “hits,” or identifications, after which the homeless fellow was also charged with assault. A police spokesman was unable to say what the suspect’s motivation may have been for the assaults, if indeed he had one-and if not, whether he was emotionally disturbed.
Captain Howard Lawrence, the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer, was “on the edge” of sleep around 1 a.m. on July 4 when his beeper went off. “When the beeper goes off at 1 a.m., they’re not calling me for good news,” the Captain said. “But this was not bad news. It was informational.”
The news was that four teenagers had been arrested and that “one of them happens to be somebody of note.” That notable, of course, was Robert Iler, 16, who plays Tony Soprano’s sullen teenage son on the hit HBO series The Sopranos. As it turns out, the kid may have been doing less acting on the show than previously suspected.
Police charge that Mr. Iler and three buddies shook down a couple of teenagers for $40 at 74th Street and York Avenue around midnight. (Mr. Iler has pleaded not guilty, saying he had left the group of offenders before the alleged incident took place.) While Captain Lawrence occasionally receives late-night calls from his minions at the station house, this was probably his first regarding teens mugging other teens. Unfortunately, that’s a time-honored tradition on the Upper East Side, where robbing well-heeled adolescents is about as challenging as spearing fish in a kiddy pool. Of course, having one of the alleged muggers turn out to be a television star constituted something of a first for the 19th Precinct’s commanding officer.
“I get the stabbing calls,” Captain Lawrence explained, “the cop-injured calls. We’ve had incidents where the person has been stabbed and taken to the hospital. That’s something I want to know about-why it happened, if we can expect retaliation-so I can attack it.”
Captain Lawrence confessed he’s never actually seen The Sopranos-if a cable channel isn’t part of his basic service, he can live without it. He couldn’t recall whether any of his fellow officers tried to offer him a brief synopsis of the show and the character his prisoner plays, but said that if someone did, it would have gone right over his head. His teenage children, he added, thought the arrest “interesting,” but not much more than that.
“They don’t get too impressed any more,” he explained-not because they’re jaded teens themselves, but because of their dad’s job at one of the city’s most high-profile precincts.
Captain Lawrence said his lieutenant did everything he should have, including alerting the detective squad and-even more importantly-informing the office of the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for public information about the arrest. Once his blood pressure returned to normal, he got a sound night’s sleep.
“It was pretty cut-and-dried,” he said. “The fact that he was a figure on the show-just knowing that, you knew it was going to be in all the papers.”
He added that Mr. Iler, a.k.a. Tony Jr., received no special treatment at the station house. “If there were other prisoners there, maybe we’d keep him outside,” he said, referring to the holding cell off the main lobby. “I don’t think there were.”