The defense attorneys for the 57-year-old Manhattan man arrested in the hammer attack on a New York City health department employee as she headed into a Queens subway station one night after work claims prosecutors are charging the wrong man with attempted murder.
William Blount’s defense attorney entered a plea of not guilty on Friday in Queens County Criminal Court, adding that his client “is not the person who did this.” Asked after the hearing for Blount’s alibi at the time of the Feb. 24 attack, his attorneys declined to elaborate.
Blount limped into the Queens courtroom on Friday morning, seemingly a result of breaking both of his ankles more than twenty years ago in an attempt to escape a South Carolina prison. Law enforcement officials have said the man has a lengthy criminal record spanning decades and multiple states.
The 57-year-old New York City crimes date back to about 1993 – and the subway attack at Long Island City’s Queens Plaza station marks the most recent allegation against him. Blount allegedly attacked 57-year-old Nina Rothschild, a researcher with the city’s health department, blindsiding her from behind with multiple blows to the head with a cane before kicking her down the stairs and bludgeoning her over the head with a hammer before robbing her. .
He’s accused of stealing her purse before fleeing the scene. Rothschild was hospitalized in critical condition with a skull fracture and brain bleeding. Her brother told News 4 after the attack that she was doing better after emergency surgery to repair the fracture.
The victim, who works as a researcher for New York City’s Department of Health, was critically injured in the attack, a senior NYPD official said. NBC New York’s Myles Miller reports.
Blount’s record includes kidnappings, robberies and drug crimes in New York City and South Carolina dating to the early 1980s.
He was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping, 15 years for burglary and five years (to run concurrently) for committing a crime of violence with a firearm in a case in which he and his brother broke into a Bojangles in South Carolina in 2000 and kidnapped two employees, making one open the safe.
Blount tried to escape while serving that sentence, South Carolina police say. It happened during the murder of a guard by other inmates amid a larger escape plot on Sept. 17, 2000. Blount tried to join the jailbreak, jumping from the prison roof and breaking both his ankles in the process. He was caught, and got hit with a conspiracy to escape charge on top of the other crimes for which he was jailed.
Blount is accused of attempted murder, robbery and assault in the subway hammer case. Queens Supreme Court Judge Toni Cimino continued the remand and set the next hearing date for April 11.
A second person, 57-year-old Denise Alston, was also arrested after police said she made a $ 19 purchase using a credit card with the name of the victim on it. Police also said other credit cards, store cards and a New York City ID card belonging to Rothschild were found in Alston’s wallet.
Both Blount and Alston were charged in the same indictment, District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Friday. Blount faces 25 years in prison and Alston faces four years, if either is convicted.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, the former health commissioner for the city, called the attack “horrific” in a statement and said the agency’s thoughts were with the woman and her family.
“Nina has worked tirelessly in service to her fellow New Yorkers and she is truly a public health hero,” Chokshi said. “The Health Department and I will do everything we can to support her in her recovery — and we ask that all New Yorkers keep her and her family in their thoughts while respecting their privacy during this difficult time.”
The horrifying attack came less than a week after Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul jointly announced a new subway safety initiative – one designed to both mitigate recent spikes in violence in the transit system and intensify homeless outreach as the city looks to encourage a rebound of subway use post-COVID.