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Andrew Gounardes

Attorney Arrested for ‘Criminal Mischief’ Charge Will Sue Driver for Wrongful Arrest

Adam White says he plans to take action against the driver who had him arrested. Photo: Julianne Cuba

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You can obscure your plate, but you can't hide...

Just one day after Brooklyn’s top prosecutor announced he'd dismissed the criminal mischief charge against attorney Adam White for removing a piece of plastic from an obstructed license plate last month, White says he plans to take action against the still-unidentified driver for his wrongful arrest.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Wednesday night said he had “insufficient evidence to prosecute” White after cops cuffed the lawyer (who, ironically, represents victims of traffic violence) on Nov. 11 after he removed a piece of plastic that obscured a single digit on the plate of a Chevy SUV parked on Fourth Avenue near St. Marks Avenue. But that was only the beginning for White, who says he plans to sue the driver — who he believes may be connected to the NYPD — in the coming weeks.

Cops call it criminal mischief to un-deface this scofflaw's plate. File photo: Adam White
Cops call it criminal mischief to un-deface this scofflaw's plate. File photo: Adam White
Cops call it criminal mischief to un-deface this scofflaw's plate. File photo: Adam White

“He made false allegations that I damaged property, and I did no such thing, and I believe he has connections with the police department and he got me arrested because of those connections — that’s my strong suspicion,” said White, standing at Borough Hall alongside advocates and Brooklyn pols, who have said they are “deeply disturbed” by the arrest.

The dismissal of the case does nothing to deter the many drivers — a good portion of them municipal employees and cops themselves — who break the law by defacing their license plates to evade camera tickets and tolls, or to avoid accountability in fatal crashes.

"If we were to walk over to the neighborhood precincts, we'd see a concentration of cars with defaced license plates,” said Brooklyn Council Member Lincoln Restler. “That there are too many city workers who are defacing their own license plates while they are supposedly upholding our local law. We have to have one set of rules we have to hold everyone accountable.”

For an interactive version of this chart, click here
For an interactive version of this chart, click here
For an interactive version of this chart, click here

Cops care little about the issue, as 78th Precinct  commanding officer Capt. Frantz Souffrant showed when he defended the arrest of White, but also from the city’s own data showing a massive slowdown in the number of tickets issued to drivers for defaced plates so far this year. Though October, cops have written just 5,430 tickets citywide to drivers with covered plates — nearly half the number they issued last year during the same period of time, according to the data.

It's fewer than 0.3 tickets per precinct per day, even though our own reporters and people on the street spot such altered plates all day.

Restler used the press conference to again push his Council colleagues to pass his bill, Int. 501, which would create a new $175 ticket for drivers who obstruct a bicycle lane, bus lane, sidewalk, crosswalk, or fire hydrant within a radius of 1,320 feet of a school building, and most crucially, allow civilians to get back 25 percent — or almost $44 — of the resulting fine.

Restler said he expects a hearing on the bill early next year.

And similar pending legislation exists up in Albany. State Sen. Andrew Gounardes of Bay Ridge introduced a bill over the summer that would allow members of the public to report motorists with bogus, defaced or obscured license plates — and likewise get 25 percent of the ticket money.

But Gounardes’s bill, which is sponsored in the Assembly by Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan), is stuck in committee.

“Every solution should be on the table. My bill is one effort, one idea, out of a pot of many. We will do whatever it takes to get these cars off the streets,” said Gounardes, who was on hand on Thursday with protesters who carried posters of cheekily covered plates.

Streetsblog editor Gersh Kuntzman will be on NY1 discussing the issue on Friday at 7:30 a.m.

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