News & Politics

Innocent New York City Man's Life Is Ruined When Neighbors Report Him for Going to Jan 6 Trump Speech

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Joseph Bolanos doesn’t wear horns, isn’t a crackpot, and isn’t a terrorist. He has been a neighborhood watch leader in New York City’s Upper West Side for 23 years. In 2012, as president of the West 76th Street Block Association, Bolanos put up signs reading “rat xing” to shame the city into cleaning up the garbage. The neighbors loved him. Now the 69 year old is a neighborhood pariah. One neighbor who brought him Thanksgiving dinner recently wrote him a nasty-gram wishing him death. “I hope Antifa gets you,” the note read.

What changed? Bolanos attended the Trump speech on January 6. He did nothing wrong. He didn’t breach the U.S. Capitol. He never even went inside. He watched the former president deliver a “boring” speech, left early, went back to his friend’s hotel (where he has geotagged photos to prove it), and later went to the Capitol building, where he stood outside with friends after it was all over.

His Leftist neighbors, shocked that he went to see Trump and “had those views,” called the FBI January 6th tip line to report him.

“I opened the door and there’s about 10 tactical police soldiers and one is pointing a rifle at my head. [They had] a battering ram and a crowbar.”

It could have been worse. He could have been raided and then rounded up and imprisoned in solitary confinement for little to no reason as hundreds of other people have following the Capitol riot on January 6.

The New York Post reported that Bolanos did nothing wrong.

They arrived at the rear of the Capitol at about 2:45 p.m. Unbeknownst to Bolanos, inside the building, Ashli Babbitt has just been shot. He and his friends stood on a patch of muddy lawn about 400 feet from the wall of the Capitol taking photos. The riot was all over.

“There was no hint of violence … If you were shooting a movie at that location, you would never know anything had happened.”

No police were there. The only disorder he remembers seeing was a pile of overturned bike racks.

In the distance he could see people climbing a wall of the Capitol. “But I couldn’t process it. I thought why they are climbing it.”

NBC, tipped off about the raid in advance, was there when the FBI Terrorism Task Force raided the apartments with battering rams and carried out box after box of items taken from the homes. The NYC affiliate reported in February:

Several neighbors claimed the man boasted of being at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots and took video of the event. Some said he called it a great day on the street, at a local cafe and on social media.

“I was walking down the street and I overheard him bragging about having been there and having taken video,” said neighbor Dennis Regan.

[…] One neighbor said that Bolanos had been “a great leader of the block and helped us in all kinds of ways,” but also said he didn’t know Bolanos “had those views.” Some some said the man who had become a face of the block had changed from the man they once knew.

“I used to talk with him a lot, but lately he never said anything,” said Luis Aguilar, a superintendent in the area. “He would walk by, he wouldn’t say hello like he used to do before.”

Although he has not been charged, sources familiar with the investigation say charges could come in the coming days. Sources told NBC New York the FBI wants to look at his electronics as prosecutors in D.C. decide on specific counts.

It has been four months and Bolanos hasn’t gotten back his devices, nor have any charges been filed against him.

He suffered two strokes in the aftermath of the raid and interrogation.

The Post’s Miranda Devine reported that the FBI reached out in the days after the January 6th Capitol riot and he called them, but they never called him back.

Nonetheless, he was raided in February by the FBI anti-terrorism task force, handcuffed, paraded and detained for three hours while his apartment was ransacked and all his devices confiscated. Four months later, he hasn’t been charged and doesn’t have his devices back, but his neighbors are shunning him, and he’s had two strokes from the stress.

[…]

[H]e was awakened in his mother’s apartment by loud banging. “I opened the door and there’s about 10 tactical police soldiers and one is pointing a rifle at my head. [They had] a battering ram and a crowbar.”

They also had a search warrant, issued by District Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, which named Bolanos as the “target subject.” The front door of his empty apartment was being broken down in a simultaneous raid.

The warrant authorized the federal agents to seize his property as evidence relating to crimes including “obstruction of Congress,” “civil disorders,” “conspiracy to impede/assault federal agents,” “interstate travel to participate in riot,” and “unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds.”

The FBI ransacked both apartments, upending drawers, trashing his mother’s bedroom.

Bolanos was staying with his elderly mother because he was assessing whether she should go into a care facility.

Interestingly, during his interrogation, he was asked if he was a member of antifa, BLM, or Proud Boys. He said no.

But his innocence makes no difference to his neighbors, who have shunned him.

“It’s destroyed my reputation,” he says. “I’m not a violent invader … I do not condone the criminality and violence on [Jan. 6] whatsoever.”

His neighbors are shocked there would be a person with a different political viewpoint in their midst. For those people, anyone going to a Trump speech is a domestic terrorist deserving of an antifa attack.