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Goetz Indicted on 4 Attempted Murder Counts

March 28, 1985|JOHN J. GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A second grand jury indicted Bernhard H. Goetz on four counts of attempted murder Wednesday, after an earlier panel had charged him only with illegal gun possession in the shooting of four youths on a New York City subway train last December.

In addition, the new grand jury charged Goetz with assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon, setting the stage for a trial to decide whether the slim electronics engineer was a victim or a villain when he wounded the teen-agers after they demanded $5 from him.

The first grand jury concluded in January that Goetz had acted in self-defense.

Goetz, 37, has been seen as a national hero by many crime-weary Americans, but the issue in the trial will be whether he acted in self-defense or overreacted when one of the youths asked for the money.

Prosecutor Is Pleased

The indictment was issued the day after Goetz, who had asked to tell his story to the grand jury, changed his mind and remained silent after traveling to the courthouse where the jurors were meeting.

"I am pleased that this case will now go to trial," said Manhatttan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau, who, after citing substantial new evidence, had persuaded a judge to allow the case to be heard by the second grand jury. "I think the right thing has been done. Now it will be up to the people."

"If it has to be tried in a courtroom, it will be tried in a courtroom," said Barry I. Slotnick, one of Goetz's lawyers. " . . . Bernie Goetz was a victim on Dec. 22 and, unfortunately, he was a victim again today."

Slotnick said his client is "distressed" but also resigned to the fact that the case will be tried.

"He's saddened by the whole thing. He doesn't look forward to the process that's about to come ahead, but he realizes it's something that has to come . . . . He wishes he would have missed the subway and not been involved."

At the heart of the trial will be the issue of whether Goetz had reason to feel menaced when one of the youths, Troy Canty, approached him and asked for the money. Goetz said he fired after the teen-agers surrounded him in a subway car traveling through Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center. He said that Canty said, "Give me $5," with his hand thrust menacingly in his pocket. Goetz, who had been robbed before, stressed that he was only defending himself against what he believed would be a certain holdup and beating.

But two of the youths, who testified with immunity before the second grand jury, said that Canty approached Goetz and merely asked, "Can I have $5?" Canty's lawyer described it as a panhandler's request. The district attorney's office questioned other passengers on the subway car and some of their testimony was presented to the second grand jury.

Goetz opened fire with an illegally owned .38-caliber revolver, wounding two of his alleged assailants in the back. A videotaped admission of the shooting made after he surrendered in Concord, N.H., on Dec. 31, nine days after the incident, contained Goetz's statement that, when he saw no blood on Darryl Cabey, 19, he stood over him and fired a second shot after saying, "You don't look so bad; here's another."

Three Have Recovered

Three of the youths, Canty, James Ramseur and Barry Allen, have recovered from their gunshot wounds. But Cabey, who was wounded in the spine by a bullet, remains paralyzed from the waist down in a Manhattan hospital. He suffered some brain damage also.

"The new grand jury, listening to new evidence, has clearly sent an alternative message, and that is: If you choose to use deadly force against another, you will have to answer to that in a court of law," said Randolph Scott-McLaughlin, one of Cabey's lawyers.

Ron Kuby, another Cabey attorney, called the indictment "an action long overdue, the first step back to sanity."

In a preview of what will surely be a key courtroom tactic, Slotnick, who said that Goetz will plead not guilty to all charges, lost no time Wednesday in attacking the credibility of Canty and Ramseur, both 19, who testified before the second grand jury.

Lawyer Tells Tactic

"There will be certain witnesses that we're going to show in a proper light--not dressed up in a suit and a tie in a grand jury room, but in a courtroom before a jury," the defense attorney promised.

Slotnick spoke to a crowd of reporters in a courthouse lobby, just across the street from the office where Morgenthau announced the grand jury's action.

The district attorney spoke into a cluster of 17 microphones in a large room packed with reporters and 10 television cameras.

"A New York County grand jury today indicted Bernhard Goetz on four counts of attempted murder in the second degree, four counts of assault in the first degree, one count of reckless endangerment in the first degree and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree," Morgenthau said.

Attempted murder in the second degree carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years in prison; first-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree are punishable by up to 15 years, and reckless endangerment carries a seven-year penalty.

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