NEW YORK (PIX11) — Ramsey Orta, who recorded the arrest of Eric Garner, was released on bail Friday evening after prosecutors’ challenge to the crowdsourced bail payment was withdrawn.
District Attorney Dan Donovan’s office on Friday rescinded its request for the bail source hearing, essentially opening the way for Orta, 23, to walk out of jail.
Donovan’s office pointed out to PIX11 News on Thursday that a bail source hearing is common in criminal cases. But in this one, no judge had been available to hear it until Monday, meaning Orta would have had to remain behind bars through the weekend, even though he’d posted bail.
“This is the right result. I think it is what should have happened from the beginning, I am glad Ramsey doesn’t have to spend another weekend at Rikers,” said Orta’s attorney , William Aronin.
Orta recorded the video of the arrest of Garner last summer, in which the Staten Island father of six died in police custody. The images of Garner, held down by multiple NYPD officers while he faintly uttered, “I can’t breathe,” which became the rallying cry of the movement protesting the deaths of people of color in police cases.
The day after Garner’s death was declared a homicide, Orta was arrested and jailed on an unrelated gun charge. He was later charged with a drug crime. Orta has been at Riker’s Island since.
For more than a week, Orta has been refraining from eating food in jail, out of concern of being poisoned in the wake of an incident of rodenticide being found in some inmates’ meals. No poison has been found in Orta’s food.
Still, when he stopped eating, his family redoubled their efforts to secure his bail. His aunt, Lisa Mercado, started a GoFundMe page , hoping to raise the $16,000 bond and fees needed for a bail bondsman to get him out of Rikers. Orta’s overall bail amount was $100,000. Donations to the GoFundMe site had reached $40,000 and growing strong when on Thursday afternoon, the office of District Attorney Daniel Donovan requested a bail source hearing.
“I’m amazed,” said Orta’s attorney Kenneth Perry on Thursday in response to the request for the hearing that sought to ensure that the bail money — raised from more than 1,600 donors — did not come from illegal sources. “Here the D.A. was given 115 pages of names showing who these donors were,” Perry said in an interview with PIX11 News.
“This is people who care,” said Orta’s other lawyer, William Aronin. “When enough people in a community give five dollars, good things happen.”
The prospect of Orta remaining behind bars even after posting bail was horrifying to his family.
“[I’m] devastated,” said Mercado, his aunt. “I haven’t stopped crying since I learned two hours ago.”
Donovan’s office said that an assistant district attorney requested the bail hearing, but that assistant D.A. works for Donovan, who is running for Congress in a special election to be held next month.
His office told PIX11 News that there is no direct connection between Donovan and this latest development in the case.