DOJ refusing to prosecute man for arson of NYPD car during BLM riots, congressman says

The alleged arson was caught on surveillance video, according to an NYPD detective.

Published: June 15, 2022 6:35pm

Updated: June 15, 2022 10:50pm

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) is demanding to know why the Justice Department dropped a charge of arson against a man who attempted to ignite a New York Police Department vehicle on fire during the George Floyd riots in 2020.

In June 2020, Victor Sanchez-Santa, then a 19-year-old resident of Queens, was arrested and charged by the DOJ for one count of arson after allegedly lighting a cloth glove on fire and placing it under an NYPD vehicle before leaving the scene. According to an NYPD detective's affidavit, the crime was caught on surveillance video.

Sanchez-Santa made national headlines regarding the alleged arson, including in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Associated Press, NBC New York, New York Post, and New York Daily News.

Three months later, Sanchez-Santa was indicted for arson by a grand jury. Arson carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

But in February last year, the then-acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York deferred prosecution of Sanchez-Santa for nine months during the term of his "good behavior and satisfactory compliance with the terms of this agreement."

After his nine-month probation and completing mandatory anger-management classes, the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a nolle prosequi with the court for the Southern District of New York, dropping its case against Sanchez-Santa. The reason for dropping the charges, according to the filing, was based on "a review of the evidence in the case and information pertaining to this defendant acquired subsequent to the filing of the Indictment, the Government has concluded that further prosecution of Victor Sanchez-Santa would not be in the interests of justice."

Banks sent a letter to the DOJ comparing its treatment of Sanchez-Santa and other left-wing rioters to that of Jan. 6 Capitol rioters.

The congressman noted, "The Justice Department's decision to drop charges against Mr. Sanchez fits its pattern of lenient treatment of left-wing rioters."

He then mentioned two Manhattan attorneys who allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at an NYPD car in May 2020 that recently received a lighter plea agreement than was originally given them by the DOJ.

On the other hand, Banks noted that, regarding at least 862 of Jan. 6 Capitol rioters who have been charged, only "a handful of those charges" were dropped. He added that "multiple defendants are being charged with 'trespassing on restricted grounds' but are not accused of entering the Capitol or committing violence."

"Under your leadership, the Department of Justice is operating under a two-tiered system of justice," Banks wrote. "Violent rioters who are likely to vote Democrat are often released with a slap on the wrist, or less, while January 6th defendants are prosecuted to the harshest extent possible. The unequal application of justice is an injustice, and your politicization of federal law-enforcement is an attack on the basic American principle of equal justice before the law."

Banks requested the department provide "'all evidence in the case and information pertaining to this defendant acquired subsequent to the filing of the indictment that informed the Justice Department's decision not to prosecute Mr. Sanchez-Santa for setting a police car on fire."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment on Wednesday beyond its public filings regarding the matter and sent an attachment of the nolle prosequi that was filed by the office and later ordered by the court.

The DOJ told Just the News on Wednesday that it had received the letter from Banks but declined further comment.

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