Outrage mounts over prosecution of NYC bodega clerk

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation) — The New York City district attorney refuses to drop murder charges against a bodega worker who some say was filmed defending himself from a career criminal.

Jose Alba, 61, is charged with murder in connection to the death of 35-year-old Austin Simon.

On July 1, a criminal complaint says a woman and her 10-year-old daughter went into a bodega at around 11 p.m. for some snacks, but the woman’s electronic benefits card was denied. Officials say this sparked an argument between her and Alba, who was working as the bodega’s cashier at the time.

The woman told authorities Alba snatched the snacks away from her 10-year-old girl, so she left the store and told her boyfriend, Simon, about Alba.

That’s when police say Simon confronted Alba, pushed him and tried to steer Alba away from behind the counter. According to investigators, Alba picked up a knife and stabbed Simon in the neck and chest until the woman pulled her own knife.

Alba’s attorney says video evidence of the incident “speaks for itself.” Surveillance footage obtained by PIX11 News shows Simon shoving Alba into a chair behind the bodega counter and standing over him while appearing to shout. Video shows Alba grab the knife and stab Simon.

Alba’s family and attorney have maintained his innocence, insisting he acted in self-defense.

“Mr. Alba was simply doing his job when he was aggressively cornered by a much younger and bigger man,” Neighborhood Defender Service wrote in a statement.

Outrage has mounted in New York City following news of Alba’s arrest, presenting the question: Does the concept of self-defense still exist?

While appearing Tuesday on NewsNation’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert,’ former Assistant District Attorney of New York City Michael Discioarro weighed in on the case.

“This is textbook self-defense. The aggressor came to Mr. Alba, the aggressor attacked him. Mr. Alba was older, smaller. He had no idea what the aggressor had on him,” Discioarro said. “He defended himself.”

Discioarro called Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s decision to prosecute Alba “really shocking,” adding that New York City’s mayor and Staten Island’s DA have spoken out against the action.

“I don’t understand the thinking that Mr. Bragg had. If he didn’t see the video in the beginning, he is not doing his job and he’s asleep at the wheel. If he saw the video at the beginning, then he simply chose to prosecute the innocent party and he should not be in that job,” Discioarro said.

“Imagine if there was no video. Mr. Alba would be in jail. The girlfriend would be testifying against Mr. Alba, probably perjuring herself, and we would never know the truth.”

Bodega owners and those with United Bodegas of America had a conversation with DA Bragg about the murder charge. Following the meeting, the group believes the murder charge against Alba will ultimately be dropped.

“We have faith that he’s going to get it right,” spokesperson Fernando Mateo said of Bragg.

Still, Mateo encouraged bodega owners to apply for gun licenses.

“Every bodega owner in New York City that is law abiding, that feels the necessity to carry a licensed gun, go and apply for it. Why? Because you need to be able to defend yourself,” Mateo said.

Discioarro tells NewsNation he heard Bragg is convening a grand jury in the case, something he classifies as a cover for the moves Bragg is making.

“He’s open for the grand jury to dismiss the case against Mr. Alba, but he should be dismissing the case himself.” Discioarro said.

Alba is scheduled for court July 20.

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