The Staten Island man who took the video showing Eric Garner being taken down by police using a fatal chokehold pleaded not guilty Monday to weapons-possession charges in Staten Island criminal court.
A spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said Ramsey Orta, 22, had bail set at $25,000 cash or $75,000 bond by Judge Mario Mattei. It was unknown if Orta met bail conditions.
Orta, whose video of the July 17 incident in which Garner died became viral on the Internet shortly after, was arrested Sunday after he was observed coming out of a suspected drug location, police said.
Police said that when officers approached Orta, they saw him tuck an unloaded .25-caliber Norton handgun in the waistband of 17-year-old Alba Lekaj.
Orta was charged with criminal possession of weapon in the third degree and criminal possession of a firearm, both felonies. Lekaj faces weapons and marijuana possession charges, police said.
Orta's case is complicated by the fact that he has a previous conviction for third-degree menacing, according to the criminal complaint. Defense attorney Matthew Zuntag didn't return a call for comment.
Last week, the city medical examiner ruled that Garner's death was caused by a chokehold and chest compression, with his obesity, diabetes and heart conditions also contributing factors. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been championing the Garner family's case, said Sunday that Orta's arrest might create a conflict for Donovan if he needed to call the young man as a witness in the investigation into the Staten Island man's death.
But Brooklyn criminal defense attorney James DiPietro, who has no connection to the case, said that prosecutors use defendants they are prosecuting as witnesses in all kinds of cases, including major organized crime cases, without any conflict.
"It is of little or no significance" in the Garner investigation, said DiPietro about Orta's arrest.