NEW YORK — A New York City teen is proclaiming his innocence while he remains behind bars, his college hopes hanging in the balance as the NYPD continues to investigate the allegedly crooked officer who arrested him.
Pedro Hernandez, 18, of the Bronx, has proven to be a standout, college-bound student with a full scholarship behind bars, according to WPIX-TV, and hoped to have his case dismissed on Wednesday.
Instead, a procedural issue may force him to lose everything except, he and his family say, his innocence, which they hope to be able to prove after summer’s end.
Hernandez was brought into court on Wednesday afternoon in shackles. His hands were also covered in padded hand restraints.
“They’re treating him like an animal,” his mother, Jessica Perez, said outside of court. “But he’s standing tall.”
A year ago, WPIX exclusively released a surveillance video that surfaced of Hernandez being badly beaten by a security officer at a juvenile detention facility to which Hernandez had been assigned.
After our report, the officer was fired and charged with multiple felonies. Hernandez had been held at the juvenile facility on charges that were later dropped.
However, the police officer whose arrest sent him to the facility is the same officer who is now the subject of an extensive internal investigation and removal from duty after he was captured on video violating city law and NYPD procedure.
Officer David Terrell was seen shooting craps with a group of men gathered on a Bronx street last year. Terrell was in his uniform at the time, his service weapon at his side. He was gambling over whether or not to release an arrestee in handcuffs in Terrell’s squad car.
“Terrell has been suspended,” said private investigator Manuel Gomez. “His badge and gun have been confiscated and he’s being investigated for [criminal wrongdoing] on multiple cases.”
Gomez has been hired by Pedro Hernandez’s family to help them fight a new charge against Hernandez — attempted murder.
Just over a year ago, Terrell arrested the Bronx teen in the case of the shooting of another teen that left the victim injured.
The evidence against Hernandez that Terrell assembled has raised widespread suspicion, particularly by the shooting victim, who has said that Hernandez is not the shooter. Eight other teens who witnessed the shooting have also said that somebody else committed the crime. The witnesses have said, in video recorded statements, that Terrell threatened them with physical violence if they did not claim to investigators that the shooter is Hernandez.
Hernandez, meanwhile, needs exoneration now more than ever.
Last month, he graduated from high school with distinction through a program on Rikers Island. He also received a citation for leading other students to fulfill their high school equivalency requirements. He also was awarded a full college scholarship.
However, Hernandez said he can’t accept admission or the scholarship if he’s behind bars.
On Wednesday, a hearing in court here had the possibility of setting him free by beginning a trial to prove his innocence.
However, scheduling conflicts by Hernandez’s lawyer and the judge now prevent Hernandez’s case from being heard until just after Labor Day.
As a result, Hernandez will now lose his entry to college, unless somebody comes forward to pay his $250,000 bail.
Alternatively, Hernandez could have pleaded guilty on Wednesday in an arrangement the district attorney had set up, which would have put Hernandez on probation for five years, after which his record would be wiped clean.
Instead, he insists on proving his innocence.
“Everybody needs to stand together and say that our kids don’t deserve a plea deal,” his mother told WPIX. “They deserve a future.”
Hernandez’s trial is set to begin Sept. 6.