NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The man caught on camera sucker-punching a stranger who later died of his injuries was not charged with homicide, but faces misdemeanor assault instead, sparking outrage, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
Surveillance video showed Mathew Smith punch Patrick Gorman in the head right outside his Queens home. Nine hours later, Gorman was dead.
Smith was arrested, but he was not charged with homicide. Instead, he faces misdemeanor assault.
“It’s sickening how this man could walk the streets again and possibly do the same act of crime once again,” Jennifer Perez, of Soundview, told Sanchez.
Perez’s father, Ildefonso Romero Jr., was also killed by a single punch to the head in 2014 while trying to break up a fight outside their home in the Bronx.
The 17-year-old convicted of sucker-punching Romero was also charged with misdemeanor assault and served just five months in jail.
“The end result was that my dad died. And for someone to just go in and get a slap on the wrist, because that’s basically how it looks like, to walk away free from it — it’s disgusting,” Perez said.
The Queens district attorney’s office said current state law limits the criminal charges against Smith.
Private attorney Stuart Slotnick said in New York, Smith’s actions need to be considered reckless in order to be a felony.
“If they had brass knuckles, or they did something else, then it could be considered reckless, and then a felony,” he said.
State Sen. Jeff Klein wants to change the law in the state. He introduced the Ildefonso Romero Jr. law, which would make a single punch death a felony offense.
The senate passed it, but the assembly did not.
“If you kill someone with a gun, or a knife or one punch, it’s the same thing. Same impact,” Klein said. “It’s an intentional crime and I believe that individual should be punished not with a misdemeanor but a class E felony.”
Klein said he hopes to reintroduce the law for the third time when the state legislators are back in January.
Smith is being held on $10,000 bail. He could face less than one year in jail.