Clifton Park

Saratoga BLM activist pleads not guilty to criminal mischief in Clifton Park

Chandler Hickenbottom of Saratoga Springs, left, speaks to the media next to her attorney Mark Mishler after her court appearance Wednesday at Clifton Park Town Court.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Chandler Hickenbottom of Saratoga Springs, left, speaks to the media next to her attorney Mark Mishler after her court appearance Wednesday at Clifton Park Town Court.

CLIFTON PARK — A Saratoga Black Lives Matter activist called the case against her “ridiculous” after pleading not guilty Wednesday to a criminal mischief charge that alleges she damaged a car during an April protest.

Chandler Hickenbottom, 26, was arraigned on a fourth degree criminal mischief charge in Clifton Park Town Court in front of Town Justice James Hughes Wednesday. After the arraignment, Hickenbottom, and about a dozen Black Lives Matter activists there in support, called for the charge to be dropped. They say the case, which was brought more than a month after the April 29 protest in question, has similarities to the case brought against Hickenbottom’s brother, Lexis Figuereo, leader of Saratoga Black Lives Matter, following a protest in July 2021 in which he allegedly blocked traffic. The three charges against Figuereo stemming from that protest were dropped in April.

“It’s clear as day that it’s targeting,” Figuereo said Wednesday, following his sister’s arraignment. “This is another ploy from [District Attorney] Karen Heggen to continue targeting my sister and my family with these BS charges that everybody knows are false.”

Heggen dismissed any similarities between cases, saying every case is handled based on its own unique set of facts and circumstances.

“Each case stands on its own,” Heggen said Wednesday. The case against Figuereo was ultimately dropped after Heggen’s office determined a judge would likely side with the defendant based on prior decisions, according to an April letter by the DA.

Hickenbottom turned herself into New York State Police in Clifton Park on July 6 and was arrested on a fourth degree criminal mischief charge, according to a New York State Police spokesperson. Troopers said an investigation determined Hickenbottom caused damage to a vehicle parked in the lot of the Target store located on Crossing Boulevard by striking it multiple times with her fists during an April 29 protest at the Clifton Park Target. Court papers say the damage was worth $787.86.

The protest followed an April 18 incident at the store, during which a Saratoga County sheriff’s deputy tackled a 14-year-old Black teen who was accused of shoplifting but has not been criminally charged. Bystander video of the scene shows the boy’s sister screaming that her brother has autism. The video also shows the boy holding a small yellow bag that looks like candy and saying he has money.

Hickenbottom said she turned herself into state police to avoid being pursued by law enforcement.

“At the end of the day, I just wanted to get it over and done with because I don’t need you to be continuously coming to my home to harass [my family] and make them feel scared,” Hickenbottom said. “At the end of the day, I don’t need my mother calling me in a panic trying to figure out what’s going on and not knowing. It’s not right. So I figured I might as well just get this over with.”

The delay in the charge being brought against Hickenbottom concerns attorney Mark Mishler, who represents Hickenbottom and has represented Figuereo.

“It raises flags because it is very unusual. If an event happened as is described, what would logically make it take two months for that to be pursued?” Mishler said Wednesday. “Legally, a two-month delay doesn’t mean the charges are no good, but it certainly raises questions about the process and about the credibility of the accusation.”

Heggen said the time between the incident and the charge had to do with fact finding.

“I think there were a variety of reasons involving the gathering of information to substantiate the alleged value of the damage that was done,” Heggen said.

Hickenbottom said she could not have damaged a vehicle as alleged because she has several medical conditions that would have made pounding on a car difficult and painful. She said she has Raynaud’s phenomenon, which limits blood flow to the fingers, and Rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation of the joints.

“If I would have done exactly what they are saying, that I pounded my fist on somebody’s car 10 times, I definitely would be hurting, definitely would have gone to the doctor. There would be some paper trail to prove that. There is nothing,” Hickenbottom said.

Hickenbottom also says the complaint against her came from the relative of a state trooper. Troopers would not confirm the information Wednesday.

“The owner of the damaged vehicle provided a sworn deposition about the incident that resulted in the charges against Hickenbottom. The vehicle owner is not a state trooper, and no state troopers provided a sworn deposition in this case,” the trooper spokesperson said via email Wednesday.

When asked if the owner of the vehicle is related to a trooper, the spokesperson wrote: “This is all the information I am going to provide you at this time.”

Hickenbottom is next due in court Sept. 14.

Black Lives Matter activists said the criminal mischief case against Hickenbottom echoes the charges levied against Black Lives Matter activists, including Figuereo, following a July 14, 2021, protest,

In an April 2022 letter addressed to Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Francine Vero, Heggen said the disorderly conduct charge against Figuereo “is supported by considerable video, photographic and eyewitness evidence,” but said her office would not pursue the case after the court dismissed the same charge against activist and Schenectady school board member Jamaica Miles earlier this year.

“This court recently dismissed the case against another participant in the July 14, 2021, incident in the interest of justice,” the letter reads. “Given the court’s reasoning and decision in that case, we anticipate similar relief is likely in this case. Therefore, my office has determined that the continued prosecution of this disorderly conduct charge does not serve the interest of justice and by this letter we are requesting that the courts dismiss that charge in the interest of justice.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

2 Comments
William Marincic July 29, 2022
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She says she is innocent but every time her and the rest of her crowd protest some made up racial indignation cars and property get destroyed but they never have anything to do with it. When we grew up in the 70s we never cared about any of this crap we were all friends, Black, White, Italian, Polish, Irish, it didn’t matter we made fun of each other and we all laughed about it. Go find a safe space and stay there.

Ignatious P. Reilly July 28, 2022
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“at the end of the day”, the entire country needs a whole lot less of you, Ms. Hickenbottom. As expected, she makes herself the victim. How surprising.