Prosecutors alleged that the son of a former aide to Mayor de Blasio's wife stabbed and killed a fellow drug dealer during a fight over money, while the 19-year-old's attorney claimed he was acting in self-defense during a robbery attempt.
Khari Noerdlinger, 19, of Edgewater, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges Tuesday in the death of Savion Lewallen, a 16-year-old boy from Spring Valley, New York. He's being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
At the arraignment, prosecutors alleged that both the suspect and victim were drug dealers and that Lewallen approached Noerdlinger on Monday over money he thought he was owed. They argued over the money, and at some point, Noerdlinger allegedly stabbed the 16-year-old in the leg, severing the teen's femoral artery.
His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said that Noerdlinger was jumped by the 16-year-old and several accomplices and was acting in self-defense.
"He probably saved his own life by taking the actions he did," he said. "That's fairly clear."
Prosecutors say that Noerdlinger was calm after the stabbing and told a witness what had happened. He left the scene and changed clothes afterward, they alleged.
Initially, authorities had said that Lewallen had come to Edgewater with four other suspects to rob Noerdlinger. Those other men were all booked on robbery charges Tuesday.
Rachel Noerdlinger was the chief of staff for first lady Chirlane McCray and had served as a spokeswoman for the Rev. Al Sharpton.
After she left her $170,000-a-year job in the city in 2014, news reports divulged that Noerdlinger's boyfriend pleaded guilty to manslaughter 21 years earlier and mocked police as "pigs" on Facebook.
A Department of Investigation probe also found that she omitted key information on her background check.