Judge says no to releasing ‘Soho wild man’

BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  Richard Pearson, a k a the “Soho Wild Man,” a mentally ill man accused of terrorizing residents and merchants of Soho and Nolita by verbally and physically harassing them, pleaded not guilty in State Supreme Court on Wed., Sept. 4 for possession of cocaine.

Pearson, 48, was charged with second-degree assault, a felony, for allegedly throwing a brick at a person’s head on May 17. However, the charge was dropped after two grand juries failed to indict Pearson for the assault — though they have both indicted him for possession of a narcotic, a misdemeanor.

Last week, Alex Grosshtern, Pearson’s attorney, asked Judge Charles Solomon for his client’s release. With a felony charge no longer pending, Grosshtern said the case belongs in Criminal Court not State Supreme Court. The sole charge is now a misdemeanor, and Grosshtern feels Pearson’s time served, four months, has been more than appropriate.

“Under ordinary circumstances, it would not warrant time served,” he said. But Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta countered by referring to Pearson’s previous history of six arrests, all in Soho, and various other crimes he has committed over the years. The A.D.A. also argued that Pearson’s admission that he had drugs when arrested — when Pearson said, “You’re not going to take my drugs away?” — warrants the maximum jail sentence of a year.

Zaleta presented Pearson with an option in return for a guilty plea. “Our office is not opposed to alternative incarceration that would benefit the community and Mr. Pearson,” Zaleta said.

The judge noted Pearson has substance abuse problems and mental health issues, and he deemed the A.D.A.’s offer of an alternative or treatment reasonable. Pearson refused the deal, and Solomon acknowledged the defendant was the only person who could make that decision.

Solomon also said if Pearson entered a guilty plea, he would lessen his sentence, but didn’t immediately say by how much. Pearson became vocal and grew frustrated with the situation.

“I don’t want to go back there,” he said. Five court officers surrounded Pearson as he continued to mutter how the situation was “petty,” and that he thought he had done his time by now.

Solomon informed Pearson he had already reduced his bail, and asked Grosshtern to explain to his client why the case is going to trial.

The case is adjourned to Oct. 7 for a hearing and trial.