A woman was kicked down a flight of stairs at a Manhattan subway station Friday, and police believe the suspect is a repeat offender who slugged another straphanger at that same exact same station just six months ago.
The attack occurred at a stairway on the southbound side of the N line at the Herald Square station around 7:30 a.m., according to police. The 65-year-old victim was kicked down the stairs from behind, police said, and was brought to the hospital. She was said to be in stable condition.
The suspect, John Chappell, was arrested for the alleged assault and later released. The 64-year-old Chappell is a familiar face to police, with 67 previous arrests dating all the way back to 1982 for attempted arson, police said, after trying to set fires to garbage outside people's homes. He's had other arrests for arson, as well as robbery, fraud, public lewdness, reckless endangerment, petit larceny and jumping turnstiles.
On Dec. 22, 2020, Chappell allegedly punched another woman at the exact same subway station in another random attack. He was released after that violent incident as well.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Chappell being let go again doesn't make any sense, given his lengthy history of violent crime. He said that Chappell is an example of a broken system of so-called catch and release.
"We're arresting somebody for pushing a woman down the stairs, and then we release them back into the streets? I mean, this is craziness," Shea said in an interview with NY1.
The Legal Aid attorney for Chappell said he is being supervised, telling the New York post he was not released because of bail reform, and that the prosecutor requested cash bail. The lawyer said "Mr. Chappell is 64 years old. He's frail. He was released to supervision, not held in a dangerous jail where his life would be at risk."
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Rashmika Nedungadi asked for bail to be set at $200,000 cash, $600,000 bond, stating that Chappell not only has three felony convictions, but 48 misdemeanor convictions and has failed to appear in at least 11 prior cases, and has had both parole and probation revoked.
"Given the severity of this case, defendant's history of not returning to court, and the fact that defendant faces substantial state prison time in this case the requested bail is the least restrictive means to ensure his return to court," Nedungadi said at the hearing
However, in the end, the judge ordered Tier 2 supervised release for Chappell despite his history.
Chappell isn't the only suspect in a recent attack who has a spotty history with the law. The homeless man arrested Tuesday for the seemingly random and unprovoked attack on an Asian woman also was nabbed multiple times in 2020. That man, identified as Alexander Wright, was similarly released despite having been arrested 40 times before, officials said, with his most recent arrest coming on May 10.
"What's the common denominator? People arrested multiple, multiple, multiple times, and released," Shea said.