2010-06-18 / Top Stories

DA Dismisses Case Against ATM Grabber

By Howard Schwach

John Mooney at The Wave on Tuesday morning, shortly after his case was dismissed by a Queens Criminal Court judge. John Mooney at The Wave on Tuesday morning, shortly after his case was dismissed by a Queens Criminal Court judge. John Mooney walked out of Queens Criminal Court a free man on Tuesday.

He and his attorney, Thomas Monaghan of Broad Channel, say that it’s about time.

“Justice delayed is not justice denied this time,” said Monaghan, who most Broad Channel residents know better as “Butchy.”

Rockaway resident Mooney was busted on December 14 of last year on charges of breaking the window of the Western Union Check Cashing store at 114-17 Rockaway Beach Boulevard and stealing the store’s ATM machine.

According to court documents from the time of his arrest, Police Officer Charles Feldman, on patrol in the 100 Precinct, reportedly saw Mooney placing the machine in a U-Haul truck.

When Feldman tried to stop Mooney, records show, the man fled in the truck with the ATM in the cargo bay.

When Feldman finally found the truck a few blocks away, it was empty.

Police officers watched the truck, however, and Mooney returned about two hours later. He was arrested on the scene.

Court records say that a security camera inside the Western Union store shows Mooney breaking in and stealing the ATM.

Police say the ATM contained about $8,300 when it was stolen.

Officials later found that the U-Haul had been stolen from a local dealer.

According to a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, John Mooney was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on December 15, charged with burglary, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

He was held on bail of $10,000 for his next court date, which was set for later this month.

That was then. This is now.

Mooney spent three months at Rikers Island, working with a public defender who constantly told him to plead guilty and get a lesser sentence, perhaps even a few year’s probation.

Mooney refused.

“How could I plead guilty when I didn’t do it,” Mooney asked the young attorney.

“There are a lot of innocent people in Rikers,” the attorney reportedly told him.

At the end of February, Mooney’s family convinced Monaghan to talk to the convict.

He did, and was convinced that he was not guilty.

“The version the police gave the court was not entirely correct,” the attorney told The Wave on Tuesday, shortly after he and his freed client left the Queens Boulevard courthouse.

“The DA had a videotape of the crime, and I took a look at it,” Monaghan said. “It was immediately clear to me that the man on the tape was not Mooney. The man on the tape was at least 50 pounds heavier and taller than my client. The guy was wearing a ski mask, but you could tell that he was wearing glasses. My client does not wear glasses.”

Monaghan told The Wave his version of the story, which is much different from that of the police.

“The cops saw the guy jump in the van and pull away,” he said. “They followed him east on Rockaway Beach Boulevard until Beach 108 Street, and then lost him, because he made a right and they made a left. The crook then made a right and then another right, where he ditched the van.

“Police found the van about an hour later and were searching it when my client, who was walking home from RBI’s, happened to walk by. The cops pushed him against the van and arrested him.”

The cops told the attorney that they had evidence other than the videotape. They had a ski mask, found in the van, with traces of DNA evidence.

They had tricked Mooney into smoking a cigarette and then giving them the butt during his interrogation. They told the attorney, however, that they never tested the butt for DNA to see if it matched the material found on the ski mask.

Monaghan had them take new DNA from Mooney and then had it tested privately against the ski mask. The DNA did not match.

On Tuesday, his case was dropped, but the situation continues for the close-knit family.

On January 9, police say, Mooney’s brother, Michael, was arrested for threatening to burn down the store if the owners continued to press charges against his older brother.

Those charges were subsequently dropped, but another brother, James Mooney, was arrested for the crime instead. His charges are still pending.

Monaghan says that he may take the city to task for mistakenly placing Mooney in prison.

“We are pursuing civil remedies,” he said. “We came to The Wave for vindication. Your front page story in January painted Mooney as a criminal. He clearly was not.”

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