May 28, 2023
REAL TALK From AJ Woodson

How Crime & Violence Is Disregarded In Black Communities By Our Criminal Justice System

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Black Westchester has always reported one of the most important positions Black and Brown communities can vote for is the Office of District Attorney. Lamont Riddenhour is a prime example how public safety is disregarded in Black Communities. The long-overdue Riddenhour arrest also sheds light on the inequality of safety and security between Black and White municipalities across Westchester County.

Many Mount Vernon residents were scratching their heads, wondering how an alleged serial arsonist was free to continue to set fires despite being arrested on multiple occasions.

District Attorney Anthony Scarpino said there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Black Westchester has been very vocal about the DA dropping the ball when it comes to Mount Vernon. Especially with this individual who is clearly a threat to public safety and possibly suffers from some sort of mental health issue. Only with the help of Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health Joseph A. Glazer, ESQ. and CPRT Team leader Nieves, did Riddenhour get arraigned according to Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Glenn Scott.

While blame was being thrown around everywhere by residents on Facebook, the Mount Vernon Police Department did their job. From February 8 until he was finally arraigned on April 17th, Riddenhour has been arrested 32 times on a plethora of 49 criminal charges including varying degrees of Arson, Robbery and Attempted Robbery, Grand and Petit Larceny, Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Trespass, and Criminal Contempt. 

“Everyone agrees that no other community in Westchester County would be treated in this manner,” Commissioner Scott – who feels the DA’s office is trying to paint him as being incompetent, inexperienced, and waivering in opinion – shares with Black Westchester. “No other community would tolerate it. I will not tolerate it nor be whipped like a slave [for speaking up and calling it out].”

Commissioner Scott told Black Westchester exclusively on April 17th, “the DA’s office was useless, releasing Riddenhour over and over again. On his last arrest we sent him directly to Mental Health and had him held until we could build a felony arson case and that is how we ended this one man crime spree.”

DA Scarpino disagreed with Commissioner Scott’s assessment of the situation and told Black Westchester the crimes Riddenhour were charged with were not eligible under the bail statute.

The District Attorney does not and cannot make the decision to release defendants after they are charged with a crime. That decision is up to a judge, based on the law and nature of the charges. With respect to this individual defendant, the charges on which he has been arrested previously, and will still be prosecuted for, were not eligible under the bail statute. In addition, our multiple requests for mental health evaluations, which would have allowed him to be held, were denied by sitting judges. While the District Attorney’s Office rejects the Police Commissioner’s regrettable and inaccurate comments, we are grateful this individual is no longer on the streets of Mount Vernon and we will continue to do everything we can to keep Mount Vernon and Westchester safe.”

Ok so let’s look at the facts. Again, from February 8 until he was finally arraigned on April 17th, Riddenhour has been arrested 32 times on a plethora of 49 criminal charges, including 7 felony charges, 2 of which are classified as Violent Felonies, which does not fall under the bail statute DA Scarpino referred to. Here is a brief summary of the 60 plus days of terror from Riddenhour and his many arrests.

In the month of February 2020, he had 4 total arrests, 1 was a warrant arrest the others were Criminal Trespass and in one of those instances he was also charged with Criminal Possession of a Control Substance (CPCS) in the 7th degree.

In the month of March 2020 is when the Arson charges began.  Riddenhour was arrested a total of 22 times in March with charges varied but included 14 Criminal Trespass or Trespassing charges.  5 Arson charges (2 Arson 5, 2 Arson 3, 1 Arson 4), 2 Criminal Contempts, 1 Robbery 3rd and various other misdemeanor and violation charges.  There were even 4 occassions where there were 2 arrests in a single day.

In April he had a total of 6 arrests on a total of 12 charges. Arrest charges include Arson 2, Attempted Robbery 1, Arson 5, Reckless Endangerment, and Criminal Contempt.

So far in 2020, Lamont Riddenhour has been arrested on a total of 7 felony charges, 2 of which are classified as Violent Felonies.  In total the MVPD has charge Riddenhour a total of 10 counts on various degrees of Arson. 

Black Westchester has learned the Detective Division is currently looking at approximately 12-15 other incidents of apparent arson that match Riddenhour’s MO, of these one involves an occupied home (13 S. 10th Av) and another involves an automobile. 

The MVPD is also working with Yonkers Police and Fire Departments to see how many fires can be attributed to him there. As of now Yonkers FD states they have 5 in the month of April that match.

With 32 arrests consisting of a plethora of 49 criminal charges including 7 felony charges, 2 of which are classified as Violent Felonies that do not fall under the bail statute, one has to ask why was this individual free to terrorize Mount Vernon and Yonkers for 60-plus days?

Has the District Attorney’s office actually changed since Janet Defiore for Black People?

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