A Manhattan judge on Thursday ordered the release of a career criminal charged with stabbing his girlfriend to death out of concern he could contract coronavirus at Rikers, the Post has learned.
State Supreme Court Justice Mark Dwyer freed Pedro Vinent-Barcia, 63, and 15 other inmates after the Legal Aid Society filed a petition arguing that their detention exposed them to serious medical harm in the midst of a pandemic sweeping through city jails.
Prosecutors objected, citing the brutality of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record.
Assistant DA Patricia Bailey said Vinent-Barcia terrorized Bernice Rosado for months before tracking her to a cellphone repair shop in Harlem on June 29, 2018, and repeatedly stabbing her in the chest and back.
The gruesome attack was captured on surveillance video and witnessed by numerous bystanders, according to court papers.
After cops nabbed him, he allegedly asked, “Is she dead? I hope so.”
The prosecutor told Dwyer that Vinent-Barcia was arrested in Florida for stabbing another girlfriend in 1993 and biting off a piece of her ear.
The judge ultimately sided with Legal Aid lawyer Corey Stoughton, who stated in court papers that Vinent-Barcia has cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease and type II diabetes.
“As a result of his medical conditions and age, Mr. Vinent Barcia is at high risk for severe illness or death if [he] contract[s] COVID-19,” he wrote.
The Legal Aid Society, which represents indigent clients, has argued in their petitions that the continued confinement of elderly and sickly inmates during a pandemic violates their constitutional rights.
The city Department of Correction said Friday that 103 inmates at city jails have tested positive for coronavirus — a significant jump from the 75 reported on Wednesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city planned to release 375 inmates this week.
“Clearly, Judge Dwyer felt that a jury should decide on this defendant’s fate, not a virus,” said Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen.
As of Wednesday, DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office had consented to freeing a total of 244 inmates.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis,” Vance wrote in a memo to his staff. “I believe we should use our discretion to recommend release of certain individuals from Rikers who do not present a clear threat to public safety.”
He added, “Extraordinary times call for us all to be flexible, but still to be guided by fundamental principles of safety and justice.”
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