Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has thrown out criminal charges against one of the two firefighters implicated in the brutal Jan. 29 fistfight at the Salty Dog, calling the smoke-eater a “peacemaker” rather than a blood-thirsty brawler.
At the same time, Hynes announced on Thursday that he has also downgrading to a misdemeanor charges against a second firefighter arrested in the attack.
Both Michael Reilly and Ryan Warnock of Engine Company 310 on Snyder Avenue in East Flatbush were taken into custody on Feb. 25 in connection with the fracas between firefighters and civilians that left four people seriously injured — all because of a spilled drink.
The victims claimed they were celebrating inside the Third Avenue hook-and-ladder–themed bar between 79th and 80th streets when one of them bumped into an off-duty firefighter and spilled his drink on him.
After a fierce exchange of words, 11 firefighters jumped the quartet. Brawlers even dragged one of the victims into a bar bathroom, where he was viciously beaten.
Out of all the firefighters involved, Reilly and Warnock were the only two to be picked out of line-ups and charged.
Citing evidence presented to the grand jury, Hynes, a Fire Commissioner during the Koch administration, said that Reilly, who was first accused of restraining a bouncer so the fight could be prolonged, “actually tried to act as a peacemaker.”
Hynes also said Warnock threw only one punch, although the jab “triggered the brawl.”
A grand jury indicted Wanock on one count of assault in the third degree — a far cry from the riot in the first degree and multiple assault counts he faced at his initial arraignment. He’s now facing one year in jail instead of five.
No charges were filed against Reilly.
When contacted about the stunning turnaround, Hynes’s spokesman Jerry Schmetterer said that the decision to drop charges against Reilly and downgrade the charges against Wanock ultimately rested with the grand jury, not his boss.
“The evidence was presented to a grand jury and this is what the grand jury decided,” Schmetterer said. “Its offensive to think Hynes changed anything because he was a former fire commissioner.”
A source close to the case said all the evidence came from the testimonies of witnesses, victims and participants — subjective statements which often contradicted each other.
“There was a video of the fight, but the video doesn’t really distinguish one part of it from another,” the source said. “Everything else rested upon the statements of those involved.”
After announcing the slaps on the wrist, Hynes hinted that more arrests in the Salty Dog brawl could be forthcoming.
“It is clear from our investigation that other individuals participated in this brawl,” he said in a statement. “If sufficient evidence develops to identify them and to prove criminal conduct on their part, additional charges will be brought.”
Chad Seigel, the attorney representing the victims, said he was “disappointed” by the grand jury decision.
“But we are going to continue to seek justice in another forum,” he said, adding that his office intends to sue both firefighters, the city and the FDNY.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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