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Cyclist arrest leads to call for change

June 4, 2009 9:08:18 PM PDT
A Brooklyn man who rode his bike on the sidewalk was forced to sit in a jail cell for more than a day due to a law that only allows for local calls when a person is arrested. Now, some lawmakers are calling for a change in legislation to prevent this situation from ever happening again. While Miguel Pardo was sitting in a Brooklyn jail cell, his family thought he was dead. They were searching city hospitals and parks for him. A simple phone call could have spared his family the agony.

"It wasn't weird, it was absurd," Pardo said. "When they cuffed me, I said you're arresting me for this?"

Now, the 32-year-old Pardo is careful to walk his bike on the sidewalk. But two months ago, he was riding his bike on the sidewalk on his way to work when he was stopped by police. Miguel had left his wallet at home, so with no ID, he was arrested.

"You realize the system really makes you completely powerless," he said. "Once your inside it, you're just behind bars."

According to state law, Miguel was entitled to one free local phone call from jail. Trouble is, Miguel and his wife Rebecca recently moved from Philadelphia, and she has an out-of-state cell phone. And it doesn't accept collect calls.

With no local numbers memorized, Miguel sat in a cell for 28 hours. Meanwhile, back at home, Miguel's family and friends were mounting a frantic search.

"I thought he was dead," Rebecca Pardo said.

Rebecca reported Miguel missing to officers at the 71st Precinct, but no one there bothered to check the arrest records. It wasn't until the next day that Rebecca learned the truth from an officer at another station house.

"You've never been so happy to hear someone had been arrested," she said.

State lawmakers want to change the law, to allow people who have been arrested one free phone call to any number in the country.

"What Miguel and his wife went through here was such a travesty," Assemblyman Rory Lancman said. "Hopefully, this common sense piece of legislation will pass and land on the governor's desk in the next few weeks."

Meanwhile, Miguel and Rebecca are moving out of their Brooklyn apartment to another precinct.

"I still have a lot of anger about what me and his family were put through," Rebecca said.

The NYPD had no comment. Until the law is changed, it's probably worth memorizing a few local numbers, just in case you ever wind up in this situation. Miguel asked to check his cell phone for contact numbers and was told he wasn't allowed to do that either.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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