Prosecutors have dropped the case against a South Beach man who claimed self-defense against COVID-19 when he pushed another resident out of a condo elevator.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office on Friday declined to file any formal charges against 72-year-old Nachem Gross, who'd been charged with aggravated battery against an elderly person for pushing 86-year-old Gerald Steiglitz at the Portofino Tower on June 22.
"I'm just happy to see prosecutors properly apply the law when police refuse to. My client's arrest was short-sighted and law enforcement needs to think long and hard these days before risking people's health and stuffing them in jail," said his defense lawyer, Michael Grieco.
Gross and his wife were inside an elevator at the condo building, which had mandated only two people per ride to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States.
Surveillance video shows that Steiglitz tried getting into the elevator, but Gross held up two fingers to signal the ride limit. Steiglitz put his forearm up and tried to walk in, but was met by Gross, who held his forearm up and extended it forward.
The man stumbled backward and bruised his thigh on a hallway table, Miami Beach police said.
Gross' defense attorney had insisted that Gross acted in self-defense because he was worried that he and his wife, both of whom have health issues, could be susceptible to catching the coronavirus.
"This is a straight-up Stand Your Ground self-defense case," Grieco told the Miami Herald earlier this month.
Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law states that a person has no duty to retreat before using force to meet a threat.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, however, wouldn't say the case was one of self-defense.
Instead, in a final memo on the case, prosecutor Joni Caldwell said she could not "prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to cause harm to the victim."
"Upon further review, we have concluded reasonable minds could differ as to the reason for either party's actions," Caldwell wrote.