Volume 17 • Issue 20 | October 08 - 14, 2004

Lopez foe arrested for ‘menacing’ former ally

By Lincoln Anderson

Foes of Councilmember Margarita Lopez may not have inflicted any damage on the East Side councilmember’s campaign for borough president yet, but they may be doing so to themselves. A leader of the Committee to Defeat Margarita Lopez 2005 is accusing a former member of recently attacking him with a cane and a switchblade.

Former Democratic District Leader Roberto Caballero claims Israel Perez, a former ally, confronted him and Roberto Napoleon, Baruch Houses’ tenants association president, on Sept. 22, shortly before 10 a.m. in front of 100 Columbia St. in the Baruch Houses. Allegedly angry that Napoleon had rejected Perez’s written request to rescind Perez’s resignation as vice president of the Baruch tenants association, and demanding that Caballero resign as an executive member of the T.A., Perez, according to Caballero, struck Caballero on the shoulder with his cane. Caballero claims he then grabbed Perez’s cane, flinging it aside, at which Perez pulled a 5-inch switchblade out of his pocket and slashed Caballero three times, on his wrist, shoulder and stomach.

According to a police complaint filed by Caballero, Perez, “while pointing a knife” at Caballero, “stated in substance”— “I’m going to kill you.”

The police report, however, classifies the incident as a misdemeanor and does not mention anything about assault. The charges in the police report are menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and harassment. Napoleon said it was a “sloppy” police report taken by a civilian at the Housing Police station house on Avenue C.

Last Friday, Caballero showed a small, fine scar on the inside of his wrist where he said Perez cut him. He has obtained an order of protection against Perez. Caballero said the charges may possibly be upgraded to higher charges.

Perez denies the incident occurred.

“It’s a joke. I did not see Caballero that day,” Perez said. “I did not assault him. I think this is nothing but a lie. This is a very serious charge and they gonna pay for it. I did not see Roberto Caballero since Sept. 18 and I was 50 feet away.” Baruch House tenants celebrated the complex’s 50th anniversary on Sept. 18.

Perez was arrested Sept. 22 and held 15 hours at the P.S.A. 4 stationhouse on Avenue C and at Central Booking.

Perez claims he has eight witnesses who can place him elsewhere in the complex — talking with friends at 90 Baruch Drive — from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the day of the alleged incident.

Caballero says he has eight witnesses, as well.

Perez says he’s never wielded a cane or knife against anybody — “even to combat crime.”

But Napoleon said, “[Perez] started striking him with the cane, Roberto grabbed it away, and then he came back with something shiny in his hand. He hit Roberto with it three times. I asked Roberto, ‘Are you O.K.?’ He said, ‘I got a few scratches.’ ”

Perez says Caballero — and T.A. president Napoleon — are out to get him because he blew the whistle on Caballero’s alleged plans to convert the public housing complex’s community center into an after-hours social club. Caballero chairs the advisory committee that oversees the community center. In the past, Perez fought a similar battle with Napoleon over the use of the community center.

“I won that war before and they are trying again,” Perez said.

But Napoleon said the center in the past was only used by seniors to play dominos and drink coffee. If there was any alcohol there in the past, Napoleon said, “I don’t see [that].”

Perez was a co-founder with Caballero of the Committee to Defeat Margarita Lopez. However, Perez recently indicated he may support Lopez for borough president, not Caballero’s candidate, Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat from Washington Heights.


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