Upper East Siders Say 'Justice System Is Sad' After Man Arrested for Allegedly Harassing Them Is Released
Police said in a statement Tuesday, “the individual that has been arrested twice last month for harassing parkgoers at Carl Schurz Park was arrested again today for criminal mischief.”
A man dubbed the “serial spitter” by Upper East Siders he has allegedly harassed for months by reportedly spitting, kicking, chasing, cursing and throwing bottles at them, is back on the streets less than 48 hours after his Tuesday arrest, officials said.
The man, identified as 26-year-old James Hasho, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief in the fourth degree, menacing in the third degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and harassment in the second degree, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told Inside Edition Digital.
One incident allegedly took place on Nov. 29 in front of 321 East 90th Street. The other incident allegedly happened on Dec. 3 on East End Ave. and E. 84th St.
“Mr. Hasho was arraigned on both of these complaints earlier today. He was released on his own recognizance. Charges are not eligible for monetary bail,” said Caitlyn Fowles of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Attorney Jessica Heyman, of NYC Defenders, is representing Hasho. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 18, according to the DA’s office.
Heyman told Inside Edition Digital that “he is very mentally ill. He left court in the care of the Mayor’s crisis intervention taskforce. They identified him as someone in need of services."
Police said in a statement Tuesday that “the individual that has been arrested twice last month for harassing parkgoers at Carl Schurz Park was arrested again today for criminal mischief.” At that time, they said he was being “evaluated by medical professionals."
Over the last few weeks, many of the area's residents have been on edge, reporting frightening encounters with the man, who has allegedly been harassing mostly women, children and animals in the neighborhood.
Last week, two of the incidents allegedly took place near The Chapin School and The Brearley School, two private schools on the Upper East Side.
Beth, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used, told Inside Edition Digital she came across the man at the corner of 86th Street and York Avenue around 7:40 a.m. last Thursday.
“I was waiting to cross the street. This man came out of nowhere. He looked directly at me and then spit in my face. I quickly put my hand up to block my face and his spit hit my hand,” Beth said. “The attack was totally unprovoked.”
Beth said two women who witnessed the alleged attack ran over to her to see if she was OK. “I was completely in shock,” Beth said. “I’ve lived in the city for more than 20 years and something like this has never happened to me. Within minutes, I saw the worst of humanity and the best of humanity.”
After the disturbing encounter, Beth posted her story on an app called NextDoor that connects people in her neighborhood. She gave residents a description of what the man looked like and telling her fellow neighbors to be vigilant. News of her encounter spread, generating more than 240 comments with many telling Beth that a man bearing the similarly description attacked them, too.
The next day she filed a police report at the 19th Precinct. She said an officer sympathized with her then indicated that there wasn’t much they could do unless there was some type of visible injury.
Less than 24 hours later, a woman named Gina, who also spoke on the condition that only her first name be used, was dropping off her 16-year-old daughter at her high school on 84th Street and East End Avenue when a man allegedly attacked her.
“I was sitting in my car and my window was rolled down. He lunged at me, spit in my face and kicked my car,” Gina told Inside Edition Digital. “As I drove away he threw a bottle at me.”
Gina said her attacker was the same man that her daughter saw on Thursday at her bus stop on 83rd Street and York Avenue. Gina said her daughter witnessed the man chasing after a woman, who was screaming.
“I am panicked my daughter was just a few feet away from him,” Gina said. “There is no way I am going to have this animal near my kid.”
On Monday, she filed a police report, also at the 19th Precinct. She told Inside Edition Digital that it was labeled “criminal mischief."
Amy Henry told Inside Edition Digital that she saw who she believed was the same man walk through an organized school group of 8- and 9-year-old boys in Carl Schurz Park and spit on one of the kids.
“It was horrifying to see,” said Henry, who also called the 19th Precinct to report it.
Henry said she started noticing this man in September and said on another occasion, she witnessed him going after a dog walker with a broken bottle.
“The police are aware,” Henry said. “This guy has become unpredictable and dangerous. He needs help and has become progressively worse over the last few months."
Henry said she often sees him sprawled out in the park, passed out near children playing, as well as sleeping in a bathroom by Gracie Mansion.
“What is the tipping point here if this guy is spitting on your children, and, spitting on women randomly in the street?" Henry asked. "I would think that spitting is assault. What does it take for the police to actually take action? Are they going to wait until someone is physically harmed?”
Before learning of his arrest, Henry said she was considering carrying Mace. “You have to have a different mindset now when you go out,” she said. “Everything is not going to be peachy keen."
Nancy Ploeger said she had two encounters with a man who she says fits the same description. The first, she said, was on Nov. 11 after she left Starbuck’s on 90th Street and York Avenue. She said she was holding her dog's leash in one hand and had a cup of coffee in the other when the man suddenly tried to punch her in the head.
Ploeger said she “ducked and ran.” “He started to chase me and I started screaming, ‘Help me! Help me!' and two men ran towards me trying to help while the guy ran around the block," she said.
She says the second encounter happened outside of her Upper East Side apartment building on Thanksgiving morning when the man suddenly spit at the person with whom she was talking. That person was in a wheelchair.
“Women should not be afraid to walk in their neighborhood," Ploeger said. "He needs help. He needs to be taken off the street for his mental issues before he really does hurt someone. Spitting is bad enough, especially with COVID. It is disgusting."
One woman who did not want to give her name told Inside Edition Digital that she was attacked by who she believed was the same man on Dec 3. She says he was sleeping in the vestibule of her building and he spit at her, kicked the door of her building, and cursed at her.
For almost 30 years, she said she was "blissfully unaware" of any potential dangers of living in the neighborhood. Now, she said, she recently purchased pepper spray and an alarm for protection.
Several residents said that some of the doormen in the building are armed with baseball bats to protect themselves.
On Monday, another Upper East Side resident posted that the same man "assaulted and threatened to kill my doormen multiple times, and has broken into my apartment building."
"It seems the above are felonies," he wrote.
When Beth learned that a suspect had been taken into custody she posted an update on the Next Door app.“Sadly, I would put money on it that he is re-released and let go within in the next 72 hours," one person wrote in response to the update. "Stay vigilant! Stay alert. Be careful.”
On Thursday, when news spread that Hasho had been released, Beth told Inside Edition Digital that she was “not surprised."
“I think it’s a joke,” she said. “Our justice system is sad. We can’t even protect ourselves against known offenders.”
Gina says she was devastated to learn Hasho had been released.
“Can you believe this?” she said. “You go through the channels of filing a police report, going through the trauma. He gets arrested and then he gets released and is back out on the street.”
“The whole thing is sickening,” she said.
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