NEW YORK — A gun possession charge against City Council member Inna Vernikov is set to be dropped because there was no proof the gun could fire, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office said Friday.
Vernikov, a Republican, was arrested in October the day after she was filmed wearing a gun at her waist while counterprotesting a pro-Palestinean rally outside Brooklyn College. Newly passed state gun laws specify that it is illegal to carry a gun at a protest.
But Gonzalez wouldn’t be able to prove the charge in this case, his office said.
“The firearm recovered by the NYPD in this case was unloaded and missing the recoil spring assembly, rendering it inoperable, according to the NYPD’s lab report,” spokesperson Oren Yaniv said in a statement. “In order to sustain this charge, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the weapon in question was capable of firing bullets. Absent such proof, we have no choice but to dismiss these charges.”
Yaniv said the case will formally be dropped at the next court date, which is currently scheduled for Jan. 24, but may be rescheduled to an earlier date. The decision was first reported Friday by The City.
Vernikov is Jewish and an outspoken advocate of Israel. In a statement provided first to POLITICO, she framed her gun-carrying counterprotest as a response to Hamas’ attack on Israel.
“I’m glad this is behind me and I look forward to the next two years working for my constituents,” she said. “Ever since Hamas has unleashed a massacre on the people of Israel on Oct. 7th, Jewish New Yorkers have been facing an unprecedented rise in hate and violence on our streets and on our college campuses. I will continue to be a fearless fighter against antisemitism and for the public safety of all New Yorkers.”
Vernikov declined to answer whether she had ever fired the gun before, and whether the spring had been removed.
A progressive Democratic colleague, City Council member Chi Ossé, blasted the way “VerniGlock received soft on crime treatment from the NYPD” in a lengthy statement posted to X.
“By failing to hold Council Member Vernikov and the NYPD officers who failed to arrest her on site accountable, we are setting a precedent allowing firearms at protests and college campuses,” he said.
Though she’s a Republican, Vernikov has often found herself aligned with Democratic Mayor Eric Adams’ administration. She met with Adams’ chief advisor, Ingrid Lewis-Martin, just a few days after her arrest — though the meeting had been previously scheduled.
Vernikov posted a photo of the two of them to X, writing, “I can say with unequivocal certainty that we have true friends in this administration.”
Vernikov’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, is also an ally of the mayor and hosted a campaign fundraiser for him in September.
Carrying a gun and counterprotesting against pro-Palestinean students, did not appear to hurt Vernikov politically in her southern Brooklyn district covering neighborhoods including Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach.
She won reelection last week with 67 percent of the vote.