Felony assault charges filed against two women accused in a November slashing case are being dropped as the credibility of the main witnesses against them has crumbled, the prosecutor in the case said.
Prosecutor Laurie Cummings signaled in court Monday that new information obtained days ago meant the cases should be dropped in the interests of justice.
The revelation came on the day that the first-degree assault trial of Zoraida Hernandez and Veverlyn Martinez was scheduled to start.
Cummings said later that new information centered on lies key witnesses were found to have told concerning the lead-up to the November slashing and who was present during the incident.
The defense had contended two men were present, one the father of Hernandez’ child. The witnesses contended they weren’t. After being pressed on the eve of trial by prosecutors, the witnesses admitted they had lied about those aspects of the case, Cummings said.
Those admissions, she said, impacted their credibility regarding the attack itself to the point that the case could not go forward.
“Our ultimate goal is the truth,” Cummings said. “While I’m glad that this came about prior to trial, looking at our ethical obligations ... it would be wrong for us to give this case to a jury.”
Martinez, 40, of McClellan Street, and Hernandez, 31, of Albany Street, were each indicted on charges of first-degree group assault, first-degree assault and second-degree assault.
They were accused of using a sharp instrument to cut a member of the other group in the face and head and using an object to hit another member of that group Nov. 17 at the corner of O’Dell Street and Kelton Avenue.
Charges, Cummings said, were largely based on the testimony of the victims and their documented injuries. She said police interviewed members of both sides of the incident and canvassed the area around the incident before filing charges against Martinez and Hernandez.
Had they been convicted of the top counts against them, the two women would have faced up to 25 years in state prison.
As it stands, they each spent more than two months in jail before they could post bond, records show. Martinez was released in early February on $15,000 bond, Hernandez in early March on $45,000 bond.
Attorneys for both women said they welcomed the result.
Martinez was represented by attorney Leah Walker-Casey, who said after Monday morning’s appearance that Martinez was pleased.
“She prayed for this result,” Walker-Casey said. “She thanks God that justice will be served.
The cases won’t formally be dropped until the end of the month.
Jeffrey Lapham, attorney for Hernandez, commended Cummings for halting the prosecution but also questioned the police investigation into the matter, calling it “shoddy.”
He said he believes the incident could be traced back to an ongoing Family Court dispute between Hernandez and the father of her child.