NEW YORK — Claiming "substantial new evidence," Manhattan's district attorney said Tuesday that he will ask a second grand jury next week to indict so-called subway vigilante Bernhard H. Goetz for attempted murder.
Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau declined to describe the new evidence, but he denied that the unusual move to resubmit the case was the result of a public backlash against Goetz, who has admitted shooting four youths in a subway last Dec. 22 after one had accosted him, asking for $5.
"We were looking for it (the evidence) and found it," Morgenthau said at a crowded news conference at his office. "Public pressure had nothing to do with it."
Goetz was indicted for illegal weapons possession on Jan. 25, but the grand jury found that he had acted in self-defense and refused to charge him with attempted murder or lesser assault charges.
Goetz's lawyer, Joseph Kelner, said he had "no reaction" to news that the case will go to a second grand jury. "I have absolutely no idea what the new evidence is," Kelner said. He said he had not spoken to Goetz, who is reportedly out of town.
Lawyers for the shooting victims expressed delight at the news.
"We're happy, very happy," said Ron Kuby, attorney for Darryl Cabey, who suffered significant brain damage in the shooting. "It is a political decision. Now that public opinion about Mr. Goetz has changed drastically from overwhelming approval to condemnation, the district attorney's office has changed with it."
William Kunstler, another of Cabey's lawyers, said that a new witness to the shooting had called a police hot line and was interviewed last week by the district attorney's office.
Morgenthau said he applied last Wednesday to resubmit the case to a new grand jury, but he withdrew the application the next day. Prosecutors submitted the current application Tuesday and won approval from acting Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Crane.
It was unclear whether the new evidence resulted from meetings in the last week between prosecutors and Try Canty, one of the four young men shot on the subway. Canty initially offered to testify before a new grand jury but withdrew the offer Monday after he and his family received anonymous death threats, according to attorney Howard R. Meyer.
None of the four youths testified before the first grand jury.
Fired Second Time
Initial public support for Goetz appeared to weaken after court records made public last month showed that he told police he had fired a second time at Cabey after seeing no blood, saying: "You don't look so bad, here's another."
Goetz, who had been the victim of a previous mugging in the subway, fled from New York after the December incident. He surrendered to police in Concord, N.H., several days later.
The case has drawn international attention and polarized segments of New York, where subway crime is a daily concern. The news late Tuesday afternoon drew both praise and scorn here.
"I'm very, very delighted by the decision," said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a minister who has argued for a second presentment. "I think there is much that warrants this case be heard again. And I'm relatively certain there will be an indictment time."
But Cyril Boynes Jr., spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, called the move "an outrage" and a "dangerous precedent for minorities. It makes us wonder what kind of game Morgenthau is playing."
Mayor Edward I. Koch, who initially denounced Goetz but did not criticize the first grand jury, was noncommittal. "I have implicit faith in Bob Morgenthau's judgment," Koch said.
State court rulings say that a prosecutor may reopen a case if he obtains new evidence, if a grand jury failed to give a complete and impartial investigation or if the grand jury acted in an irregular manner.