Last December, Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, a 71-year-old Harlem resident who has extensively documented the NYPD’s law enforcement activity in his neighborhood, was pulled over by two officers he had filmed before. The officers claimed he had a broken taillight, but Hayden wasn’t charged with a traffic offense. Instead he faced up to 2-7 years in prison on felony weapons charges for a rusted, broken switchblade knife and a novelty-sized baseball bat.
Today, the Manhattan DA’s office offered Hayden an ACD and five days community service in lieu of the felony charges. “Just think about the amount of public resources spent on trying to prosecute me for a broken knife,” Hayden said in a phone interview. “I’m talking the police, the vehicles, the three days I spent in jail, the lawyers, the court appearances. In these economic times, this money was wasted on absolute bullshit. That’s what you have to call it.”
Gideon Oliver, one of three attorneys on a team defending Hayden that included Sarah Kunstler and Rebecca Heinegg, said that for a defendant to arrive at an ACD after beginning with felony charges was very unusual. “This is a tremendous victory,” Oliver said. “The DA argued that they offered [the ACD] because the knife was inoperable, but regardless of those statements, [the agreement] certainly would not have happened without the enormous amount of community support that was displayed in and out of court.”