By Carol Tannenhauser
The Upper West Side man arrested on November 19 in connection with an alleged threat to the Jewish community in New York appeared in court on Tuesday to face a new charge: conspiracy.
Matthew Mahrer, 22, of W. 94th Street, was detained by MTA officers in Penn Station in November along with Christopher Brown, 21, of Aquebogue in Suffolk County, New York. Both men were charged with “criminal possession of a weapon.” Brown was also charged with “[making] a terroristic threat and aggravated harassment,” according to an NYPD spokesperson. Brown was held without bail, while Mahrer was ordered held on $150,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond.
On Wednesday, the Rag learned from City Council Member Gale Brewer’s office that Mahrer’s family, who are Jewish, had paid the bail shortly after Mahrer’s arrest and he was released. However, the Assistant District Attorney (ADA) assigned to the case, Edward Burns, requested an arraignment hearing to ask Judge Neil Ross of Manhattan Criminal Court to return Mahrer to custody due to the new charge and new evidence, said a spokesperson for Brewer, who attended Tuesday’s hearing.
The ADA told Judge Ross that since his arrest, Mahrer has remained in contact with a man who had driven him and Brown to buy a gun. According to the ADA, the driver — who was not named — has since been arrested on gun charges, and Mahrer has allegedly sent money to his commissary account in jail.
Judge Ross denied the request to return Mahrer to jail, according to Brewer’s spokesperson, and ruled that Mahrer can continue living at his parent’s apartment. The ADA then asked the judge to order an ankle monitor for Mahrer, which the judge also denied. The judge did agree that Mahrer should forfeit his passport, but the defense attorney said Mahrer doesn’t have a passport.
Mahrer’s presence in the neighborhood is alarming some residents, according to Sheldon Fine, president of the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing and a member of Community Board 7. “Members of synagogues and neighbors on the West Side are shaken by this decision,” Fine said. “They are asking, ‘Why was the safety of people in our community not an important factor in this decision?'”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was in the courtroom and told reporters after the hearing that he “understands Upper West Side residents’ concerns, but trusts law enforcement will be diligent. He was in favor of returning Mahrer to custody,” said Brewer’s spokesperson.
In a letter to Fine, Brewer wrote, “These crimes are terrifying, unacceptable and continue to rise at an alarming rate across the city. The DA’s office also told me that they have increased their staffing in the Hate Crimes Unit, and the Community Partnerships Unit recently hired a Deputy Director for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.”