The Bronx District Attorney’s office announced Friday that it will drop charges against Enger Javier, a man who spent two years in Rikers Island for a 2012 murder he has long maintained he didn’t commit.
District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said in a press release that her office did not have enough evidence to prove Javier’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that new evidence had changed its stance on his case. “Our duty as prosecutors is to do justice, and since I am not convinced that the identification of Mr. Enger as the perpetrator is correct in light of these recent statements by the witnesses and other evidence that we reviewed, this indictment must be dismissed,” Clark said.
Javier (above left) was accused of killing Hansell Arias, a 19-year-old, in a gang-related stabbing outside a Bronx McDonald’s in 2012, and spent two years in pre-trial detention at Rikers before potentially exculpatory DNA evidence led to his release on bail. A key piece of evidence against him was the testimony of Jansel Paula—a man who later recanted, saying the statement he gave police was coerced. Other witnesses also came forward claiming that Javier was not involved in the killing, and pointed to another member of his gang, the Trinitarios, as the perpetrator. (In light of the ordeal, Javier has since said he’d like to leave the gang life behind.)
Surveillance video that police recovered from the scene shows a crowd chasing Arias down Webster Avenue before his death. Javier is present in the video, but he stands away from the crowd, on the sidewalk. According to court transcripts, prosecutors repeatedly denied the existence of the video before turning it over to Javier’s legal team in December.
“Imagine being in jail, being charged for something you didn’t do,” Javier told Gawker in an interview at his home in January. “You would go crazy, thinking about it every day, you know?”
Reached by telephone Sunday, Javier was considerably sunnier, saying he thought the news was a joke when he first heard it “I’m feeling great,” he said.
Still, after years in jail and on house arrest, he was reluctant to fully accept the news until it is made official. The charges have not yet been formally dropped, and he is scheduled to appear in court later this month. “I’m going to celebrate when they officially drop the charges,” he said.
According to District Attorney Clark’s statement, the investigation into Arias’ death is still ongoing. “We must do right by Mr. Hansell Arias and his family,” she said.