Twenty-year-old Vincent Popalardo has been indicted by a grand jury for robbing and assaulting an 18-year-old boy born with no arms. He and five teenagers attacked Carlos Simon in November, stealing his cellphone and attempting to push him to the ground.
According to the New York Daily News, the New York man was arrested on January 6 and arraigned on Wednesday by the Richmond County State Supreme Court. He’s facing charges of robbery and assault, both classified as a hate crime because he mugged a disabled individual. District Attorney Michael McMahon claims Vincent Popalardo specifically chose to rob Carlos Simon because he has no arms, making him an easy target.
“This defendant targeted the victim because of his disability, which shows that these actions were in fact hate crimes under the state’s statute,” said District Attorney Michael McMahon. “All crimes are unacceptable, but those committed against an individual because of his or her disability are particularly despicable.”
While Carlos may not have stood much of a chance against Vincent Popalardo and five others, he did manage to put up a good fight.
“I kind of maneuvered and pushed them off me as much as I could,” Simon told Staten Island Live.“They tried to drop me on my back, but it’s a good thing I have strong legs. I weighed my options because if I fought back and possibly hurt one, there was already three kids surrounding me and then another three waiting. I couldn’t take on six.”
Simon told the news outlet that Vincent Popalardo’s robbery was part of an elaborate setup. After the teenagers asked Carlos for money, Vincent Popalardo reached into his pocket and stole his phone, which Carlos uses by holding it on his shoulder and dialing it with his nose.
The teens appeared to be helping Simon by chasing after the thief, but it was clear that they were in on the mugging.
“The other kids tried to pretend they helped chase him down, but I knew it was a set up. They asked for more money, still, and I refused.”
Carlos Simon chased Vincent Popalardo but was intentionally led away to an isolated street where the teenagers were able to corner him. Three of the teens shoved Carlos and tried to get money from his pockets.
“There was no cameras or nothing there, so I was like, ‘Oh, I know what’s going to happen right now,'” said the 18-year-old.
Thankfully, Carlos was able to yell until a pedestrian noticed the mugging, which prompted the teens to stop. Simon then fled to a nearby shopping center.
“I guess they just saw me as an easy target,” Carlos said.
According to the Huffington Post, two of the underage teens who helped Vincent Popalardo with the hate crime were charged separately and will be tried in a family court.
Despite the fact that Vincent Popalardo has been charged with a hate crime, Carlos says he doesn’t think of the fact that he has no arms as a disability.
“I don’t like to look at myself as a disabled person. I just like to look at myself like a normal guy, as normal as I possibly can be.”
After the story of the mugging broke out, many people tried to buy Carlos a new phone, but he doesn’t want their charity.
“I feel weird taking money,” Carlos said. “My mom works hard and I don’t want her to feel like these donations signify that she can’t provide for me. [But] I also don’t want to stop them from feeling good about helping someone out.”
[Photos via the Supreme Court of New York and the Staten Island Advance]