Activist Accuses NYPD Of Falsely Charging Him With Crime
A community activist is accusing police of falsely charging him with a crime that could send him to prison for years. NY1's Natasha Ghoneim filed the following report.
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71-year-old Joseph "Jazz" Hayden has done time for manslaughter and drug conspiracy. Now, he said his in-our-face opposition to the NYPD stop-and-frisk program may send him back to prison for what he calls trumped-up weapons possession charges.
"There are some things in life worse than prison," he said. "That's living without self-respect and without honor."
A few months ago, Hayden shot a video of officers stopping and frisking someone in Harlem. He said when they saw what he was doing, they told him to "go sell some more drugs, sir. We know your background. I know who you are."
His lawyer, Sarah Kuntsler, said the current charges against him are payback for getting involved.
"The NYPD in Harlem retaliated against a known community activist who goes out on the streets in the evening and films the police," she said. "It's not rocket science."
Hayden and his supporters rallied outside criminal court before a hearing Tuesday morning. Hayden said the same officers he videotaped during that stop-and-frisk pulled him over in Harlem in December for what they said was a broken brake light. He said the light was fine.
Police said when the officers approached his car, Hayden reached for the center console of his Jeep. According to the criminal complaint, the officers seized a switch blade from the console and a wooden club. Hayden said what they really took were a pen knife and a commemorative bat.
"I would reach for a knife and a bat to attack the NYPD with a gun on their hip? Do I look like I'm insane?" he said. "These guys are nothing but bullies."
Hayden faces two counts of weapon possession. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years behind bars.