Man charged with attacking police in Times Square, vilified in Trump ad, was misidentified, DA says

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NEW YORK (AP) — A Venezuelan man who became the subject of national attention for allegedly kicking a police officer in Times Square, then flipping off news cameras on his way out of court, was cleared of wrongdoing on Friday after prosecutors concluded he played no role in the attack.

The stunning exoneration by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg came weeks after Jhoan Boada, 22, was widely vilified as the “smug” face of a Jan. 27th brawl between migrants and New York City police officers that touched off widespread political furor.

He featured prominently in a pro-Trump political ad titled “Joe Biden’s middle finger,” which ended on a freeze frame of Boada making the gesture while leaving his initial arraignment.

In a Manhattan courtroom Friday, prosecutors told a judge that further investigation proved Boada did not participate in the attack. The man seen in the video kicking an officer with pink shoes – initially identified by police as Boada – is now believed to be a separate person. That man has been charged and is awaiting criminal arraignment.

An attorney for Boada, Javier Damien, said his client was the victim of a “rush to judgment” by media, police, and elected officials. “It was a political football, and people were attacked with a broad brush,” he said. “It’s very sad.”

Boada, who lives in the city’s homeless shelter, had maintained his innocence from the start. During his arraignment on Jan. 31, his attorney told the judge that Boada had requested the surveillance footage of the incident be shared widely because “everybody who watches the videotape will not see him on there.”

Prosecutors agreed to release him without bail, noting that he did not have a criminal history and that they were still working “to conduct a thorough analysis of the incident and the defendant’s role in it,” according to a transcript of the proceeding.

At the time, news of Boada’s release drew fiery responses from conservative media and the city’s police officials. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell suggested that Boada and others had fled the city on a bus – an allegation that was later contradicted by officials.

“To add insult to injury to all of us, and we’re very benevolent people in New York City, to give us literally the finger on the way out the door,” Chell continued. “This is a host of issues that we have to talk about, and it stops right here.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, also lashed out at prosecutors’ decision not to seek bail, adding that all those involved in the assault should be deported.

In the weeks after the brawl, the Manhattan district attorney acknowledged that some of the people initially accused of kicking police were found to have played a less significant role in the melee than previously thought.

“We have to ensure we identify and charge those individuals who actually committed criminal acts in this matter,” Bragg said. “The only thing worse than failing to bring perpetrators to justice would be to ensnare innocent people in the criminal justice system.”

The assault charges against a 21-year-old were downgraded to evidence tampering after prosecutors determined that he had not touched police officers, but he had traded his jacket with one of the men who fled the confrontation.

A 19-year-old widely reported to have attacked officers also did not physically touch the officers, but allegedly kicked a police radio. Prosecutors also dropped assault charges against a 21-year-old for a lack of evidence tying him to the brawl.

Damien, the attorney for Boada, said his client was confused when police arrested him on assault charges two days after the incident, but he struggled to defend himself in English.

“He was trying to explain to the cop that he wasn’t there,” the attorney said. “But they wouldn’t listen to him.”

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