Bronx Teen Pedro Hernandez Spent a Year in Rikers Because He Couldn’t Afford Bail

Lead Photo: A view of the entrance to the Rikers Island prison complex. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News
A view of the entrance to the Rikers Island prison complex. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images News
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In his year in jail, Pedro Hernández missed out on graduating with his classmates, spending time with his friends and family, and the other milestones typical for high school seniors. After earning his GED while languishing in a cell in Rikers Island, the Bronx honors student was also on the verge of losing the college scholarship awarded to him by the Posse Foundation because his family could not afford his bail. Charged with firing a gun into a crowd, he was arrested in July 2016 and jailed on flimsy evidence. But after increased media coverage – including New York Daily News‘ Shaun King driving his followers to the crowdfunding campaign that Pedro’s mother, Jessica Pérez, began – Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights stepped in and got the $250,000 bail lowered to $100,000. The org then posted the money. Hernández walked free on Thursday night.

According to Pix11, at a court appearance last week, a judge ruled that the bond should be paid in full, which is a departure from the common practice of paying 10 percent of the amount. Hernández ended up jailed based on evidence from David Terrell, a detective who had his badge and gun taken away amid investigations. Manuel Gómez, who’s worked on the case, says he has video evidence that places Hernández at his mother’s house at the time of the shooting, In Justice Today reports.

Several eyewitnesses, including the victim, have already stated that Hernández, who is also accused of robbery, didn’t commit the crime. In the past seven months, Gómez has attempted to pass on additional proof of Pedro’s innocence to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark with little success. “There was no robbery and we have eight witnesses who say he wasn’t there at the shooting, including the victim,” Gómez told In Justice. “But not matter how much evidence I have, [Clark] won’t give me the time of day.”

As the New York Daily News reports, Clark recently offered Hernández a plea deal. Though he could have walked away sooner, but it’d mean admitting guilt and five years of probation. Hernández chose to prove his innocence.

In the meantime, his mother worked to raise money for his bail. After the crowdfunding campaign raised $105,000, prosecutors made strict demands. “We had to show where every donor had their money come from,” Jessica told Pix11.

This week, the story caught the attention of RFK Human Rights, and Kerry Kennedy, RFK’s daughter who runs the org, had dinner with Hernández’s mother on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Kerry sent a lawyer to court to provide some justice to Hernández and his family.

On Friday morning, the teen released a statement thanking those who supported him. “I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who stood up and spoke out for me over the past year,” he wrote. “I found so much strength in the support of people I have never met. Their support gave me the courage to continue defending my innocence. Incarceration at Rikers has been incredibly difficult for me, but it was my family who truly suffered. Being back with them is the greatest gift. There are too many more like me who are still inside Rikers just because they can’t afford to pay bill.”

As for the money that Pedro’s supporters raised, the YouCaring page says it will now go toward funding legal help for the teen as the case is still ongoing. It will also go toward school and to help others in similar situations. Donate here.