After weeks of protests over the arrest of a Hamilton Heights bodega worker accused of murder, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said Tuesday it is dismissing the charges.
Jose Alba, 61, was charged with second degree murder after repeatedly stabbing Austin Simon, 37, behind the counter of the Blue Moon convenience store in Hamilton Heights on July 1.
"The investigation has shown that the people would not be able to prove homicide charges against Alba beyond a reasonable doubt at trial," the motion to dismiss read. "Critical to this conclusion is analysis of facts in this case as applied to New York's law of justification."
"Under New York law, when a defendant has properly raised a defense of justification, the defendant is not required to prove at trial that he was justified," the district attorney's court filing continued. "Just the opposite, the people are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified."
Alba claimed he was defending himself from the beginning and Bragg said Tuesday he could not prove otherwise.
According to the motion to dismiss, the argument began when Simon's girlfriend could not pay for a snack her 10-year-old daughter wanted.
Alba allegedly snatched the snack away from the child, which prompted her mother to yell at Alba, knock goods off the counter and repeatedly shout while leaving the store that Simon was "going to come down here right now and f*** you up."
When Simon arrived, he demanded an apology from Alba, which sparked the altercation.
Video surveillance footage shows Simon entering the area behind the counter, pushing Alba and grabbing him by the collar before the convenience store clerk grabbed a knife kept nearby.
In an interview with CBS2, Alba said, through a translator, that Simon's girlfriend also had a knife and stabbed him.
"He was put in a position where, he couldn't tell how it was going to end," the translator said. "He was just defending his life."
The New York Post reported that bodega workers and others rallied at City Hall last Wednesday in support of Alba and called on Bragg to drop the charges.
Alba's supporters "believe in him," Francisco Marte, president and founder of the Bodega and Small Business Group, told the Post at the rally, which he organized.
"They do believe it was self-defense," Marte said at the time. "The videos say it all. They make it clear that it's a case of self-defense."
Alba himself did not attend the rally, but previously told the Post he did not know "how this happened."
"But I'm also sad," he said in Spanish. "I know what the pain is. I ask that [Simon's family] please forgive me because I didn't want to do that."
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