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Man accused of robbing armless teen indicted for hate crime

By Arthur Weinreb     Feb 4, 2016 in Crime
Staten Island - A 20-year-old Staten Island man has been indicted for a hate crime after it was alleged he and two juveniles robbed a teen who was born without arms.
The grand jury returned the indictments yesterday. Vincent Popalardo has been charged with one count of robbery as a hate crime and one count of assault as a hate crime.
Under Article 485 of New York Penal Law, a hate crime includes crimes against victims who have a disability. To be guilty of a hate crime, the state must prove the defendant intentionally selected the victim because of one of the factors enumerated under the section.
Initially facing a charge of second degree robbery that has a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail, Popalardo is now facing a maximum sentence of 25 years because of the hate crime component.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said, "All crimes are unacceptable but those committed against an individual because of his or her disability are particularly despicable."
The alleged robbery took place last Nov. 30. Around 8:30 p.m., Carlos Simon, 18, was waiting for a friend outside a Dunkin' Donuts on Staten Island. Simon, who had a phone and used his nose and shoulder to make telephone calls, had placed his phone on a ledge while he waited.
It is alleged Simon was approached by a 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. According to Simon, the girl asked him for money and when he refused, the others surrounded him and threatened to go through his pockets. It is then alleged Popalardo grabbed the cellphone and ran off. The young teens prevented Simon from going after Popalardo and then went through the disabled man's pockets looking for money.
The 15-year-old girl was arrested on Dec. 14 and the 13-year-old boy was arrested two days later. Both face felony robbery charges. Popalardo was arrested in Erie, Pennsylvania on Jan. 6 and later extradited to Staten Island.
Simon does not like to think of himself as being disabled. Huffington Post reports people have been offering to give Simon a new phone. He described taking money as "weird" and does not want his mother, who works hard, to feel she cannot provide for him. Then again, he does not want to make people trying to help others out feel bad.
The two juveniles, whose names cannot be released because of their ages, are being tried in Family Court.
Popalardo, who intends to plead not guilty, remains in custody. In light of the indictments, his bail has been increased from $50,000 to $100,000.
More about armless teen robbed, vincent popalardo, Hate crime, grand jury indictment, Robbery
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