Bodega clerk Jose Alba's self-defense was overkill: NYC lawyers

NEWS: Bodega clerk Jose Alba’s self-defense was overkill: NYC lawyers

City lawyers insist the Harlem bodega clerk who fatally stabbed a violent customer went overboard during the life-and-death struggle – contradicting Mayor Adams’ declaration that he was simply defending himself.

Jose Alba, 61, made international headlines in July 2022 when he was attacked by Austin Simon in a dispute over chips.

During the struggle, Alba grabbed a knife and fatally stabbed Simon, 35.

Jose Alba was attacked by Austin Simon in a dispute over chips.
City lawyers insist in federal court papers Jose Alba went overboard during his life-and-death struggle with an outraged customer and that his arrest was reasonable Paul Martinka

He was arrested and locked up on Rikers on a second-degree murder charge, which was dropped following an outpouring of support across the city.  

In September, Alba filed a wrongful arrest suit against the city seeking unspecified damages.

He has argued in court papers there was zero reason to arrest and prosecute him over Simon’s death because he was acting in self-defense.

“Considering the events that led to plaintiff stabbing Mr. Simon, that is an extreme position,” the city’s lawyers wrote in Manhattan federal court papers filed this month to get the case tossed. “Mr. Simon pushed [Alba] once and grabbed him by the collar to escort him outside for the expressed purpose of having him apologize to” his girlfriend, they continued.

“While the District Attorney’s Office found it would be difficult to disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt, it was not unreasonable to arrest plaintiff in the first place.” 

Days after Alba’s arrest, Adams said the clerk shouldn’t be behind bars.

“My heart goes out to the employee who was in the store doing his job,” Adams said. “I am hoping that we take all of that into consideration, as this hard-working New Yorker was doing his job, and someone aggressively went behind the counter to attack him.”

Alba’s lawyer, Richard Cardinale, ripped the city’s argument for tossing the suit as a clear example that “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” 

Mayor Eric Adams said after Alba’s arrest that the bodega clerk was just doing his job when he was attacked and defended himself. Alec Tabak

“After my client Jose Alba was arrested, Mayor Adams reported to the news media that this was someone acting in self defense and should not be charged with murder,” he told The Post. 

“Now that the city and District Attorney [Alvin] Bragg are being sued … his own corporation counsel is arguing to a federal court that Alba’s case should be dismissed because he was the aggressor.”

Nicholas Paolucci, a Law Department spokesman, said it was reasonable for NYPD officers to arrest Alba based on the 911 calls about a stabbing and what they observed at the scene.

“The DA’s ultimate decision to exercise discretion in whether to prosecute Mr. Alba does not bear on whether it was reasonable to arrest and prosecute him in the first place,” he added.

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