NYC pot case vs. 1980s subway shooter Bernie Goetz dismissed; judge says case moved too slowly

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FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2013 file photo, Bernard Goetz is arraigned in Manhattan criminal court, in New York. The low-level marijuana case against Goetz, the subway vigilant, who was charged with selling $30 worth of marijuana to an undercover officer he'd been flirting with in Union Square park, was dismissed on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, after a judge concluded the clock ran out for trying it. (AP Photo/New York Post, Steven Hirsch, Pool, File)


NEW YORK — A low-level marijuana case against 1980s subway shooter Bernie Goetz has been dismissed after a judge concluded the clock ran out for trying it.

Goetz was busted in December on charges he sold $30 worth of marijuana to an undercover officer he'd been flirting with in Union Square park.

He was offered a plea deal involving 10 days of community service. Goetz rejected it for a host of reasons, saying he felt coerced into taking the money from the undercover officer and that police are too aggressive nowadays.

"If I had accepted the prosecutor's offer, it would have meant I was a convicted drug seller," he said Wednesday. "If I were to get arrested after a year or two on some other baloney offense, then I'm a repeat offender."

His lawyer, Danielle Iredale, had asked a judge to dismiss the case for lack of a speedy trial. Under New York law, his type of misdemeanor case can be tossed out if prosecutors aren't ready for trial within 90 days after the case starts. But the rules surrounding allowable delays are complicated and often disputed between prosecutors and defense lawyers.

On Wednesday, Judge Laurie Peterson concluded that prosecutors missed the window by 14 days.

The district attorney's office had no comment.

Goetz, 65, said he repeatedly offered simply to give the pot to a woman he didn't realize was an undercover officer, but she insisted on paying. Then, another officer plainclothes approached and "tried to get me to punch him," speaking aggressively and coming within two feet of him before backing off, Goetz said, adding that he hadn't initially realized the man was an officer.

He said the case was a waste of government resources, arguing that prosecutors in general shouldn't pursue low-level marijuana cases.

"I think an individual in this instance is under an obligation to throw as much sand in the mechanism as they can," he said.

In 1984, Goetz was branded the "subway vigilante" when he shot four black teens with an illegal handgun on a No. 2 train in Manhattan. At least one had a screwdriver, and they were asking him for $5. Goetz said it was self-defense and the youths intended to mug him. One of the teens was paralyzed.

The shooting brought to the surface long-smoldering urban issues of race, crime and quality of life. It also thrust Goetz, a white self-employed electronics expert, into the role of spokesman for what some considered a justified form of vigilantism.

Goetz was cleared of attempted murder charges and spent 250 days in jail in 1987 for a weapons conviction in the case.

Returning to the headlines didn't seem to bother Goetz. Speaking with reporters after his various court dates, the onetime mayoral candidate aired his views on instant runoff voting, vegetarianism, an ongoing debate over the future of the city's carriage horses, and the policing of New York today, compared to the high-crime era when he first became a household name.

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