‘Soho Wild Man’ gets jail time but could be out within weeks

BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  Richard Pearson, a mentally ill man who has been accused of “terrorizing” merchants and residents in Soho by physically and verbally harassing them, was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Tuesday, but he could be back on the streets by Christmas.

Pearson, 48, has been in jail since May 17, when he was charged with second-degree felony assault for allegedly throwing a brick at someone’s head. Two grand juries failed to indict him on the assault charge, but Pearson was indicted by both grand juries for possession of a narcotic, a misdemeanor.

On Oct. 30, Pearson pleaded guilty for possession of cocaine in State Supreme Court in front of Judge Charles Solomon. Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta, who had previously handled the case, requested the maximum jail sentence of one year, citing Pearson’s long criminal history, including six arrests in Soho.

At his Nov. 12 sentencing, Pearson opted to make a statement to Judge Solomon.

“I ask the court for leniency, and a just and proper sentence,” he said.

A.D.A. Zaleta was not in the courtroom, and in his absence, A.D.A. Maria Strohbehn represented the people. She requested the judge wait for Zaleta to appear.

Solomon declined, and rendered Pearson’s sentence, taking into consideration that he pleaded guilty, and has credit for almost six months already served.

Pearson looked confused, and asked Solomon, “I have to do the whole 10 months?”

“He took it well when I explained he’ll be out in three to four weeks,” Alex Grosshtern, Pearson’s attorney, said afterward.

The same could not be said for the handful of Soho residents present.

“I’m scared for the day he gets out,” said Christina Nenov, who lives on Spring St. “He’s been terrorizing the community. There are a lot of frightened people on the street.”

Minerva Durham, owner of Spring Studio, a figurative drawing studio, also expressed concern.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s the duty of our government to protect us and find a way to protect us from him, and to help him, too.”

Another Soho resident, who wished to remain anonymous, finds Pearson dangerous, declaring he should be put away in an asylum for a long time.

Grosshtern was pleased with the case’s outcome, and calculated that Pearson will probably be released in a month. He said he will not advise Pearson to avoid Soho, stating, “He never pleaded guilty to anything that had to do with that area.”

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One Response to ‘Soho Wild Man’ gets jail time but could be out within weeks

  1. Sadly, this is another example of the fact that due to a lack of public mental health services, people living with severe mental illnesses are not getting the treatment they need and wind up in jail. This guy needs intensive case management to help him to exist in the world and manage his mental illness. It would be great if the Villager and the people quoted in this article took on this issue and advocated for services for people living with severe mental illnesses.

    In the past three years, $4.35 billion in funding for mental health services has been cut from state budgets across the nation, according to a recent report. Because of the cuts, treatment centers have had to trim services and turn away patients.

    State hospitals have also been forced to reduce services. A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center even found that there are more people with severe mental illness in prisons and jails than in hospitals.

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