Legal loophole left accused Robert De Niro burglar free to strike again
The serial burglar accused of breaking into Robert De Niro’s Manhattan townhouse was allegedly free to strike again thanks in part to a loophole in New York law that let her blow off a monitoring ankle bracelet, The Post has learned.
Shanice Aviles — who was charged with trying to steal De Niro’s Christmas gifts late last year — was meant to report to the New York City Sheriff’s Office for electronic monitoring after she was busted again in June for allegedly ripping off a TJ Maxx store in Chelsea.
But Aviles, 30, never made an appointment, allowing her to fall back under the radar and allegedly commit another break-in at Columbia University the following month.
That’s because the process for defendants to be placed under electronic monitoring is based on the honor system, legal experts said.
“It’s obviously absurd that someone is released pursuant to the understanding they will get fitted for an ankle bracelet and nobody shows up and nobody knows,” former Manhattan prosecutor Mark Bederow said Thursday about the botched attempt to keep tabs on the career criminal.
“The expectation becomes, ‘Well, we will find out when that person gets arrested,’” Bederow noted. “That’s ridiculous.”
Aviles was released from Rikers Island on $40,000 bail in May, six months after the break-in at De Niro’s rented Upper East Side townhouse — only to wind up back in cuffs June 5 for allegedly snatching $416 worth of merchandise from the TJ Maxx on Sixth Avenue near West 19th Street.
The judge in the De Niro case, Laura Ward, hauled Aviles back in court following her new arrest, giving the repeat offender a stern warning.
Ward, however, denied a request by Manhattan prosecutors to increase her bail in the De Niro case, and instead said Aviles should be placed on electronic monitoring.
“I’m going to have her interviewed for an ankle monitor and she’s going to have house arrest until that ankle monitor is done,” Ward said during the June 26 court appearance, according to a transcript of the hearing.
“But if she leaves her house, all bets are off,” Ward told Aviles’ public defender.
But under state procedures it’s up to defendants to report to the city sheriff’s office and be interviewed to see if they qualify for court-sanctioned electronic monitoring — and there is no record that Aviles ever showed up, according to court records and legal experts.
Less than a month later on July 8, Aviles not only left her home but allegedly broke into Columbia Teachers College, tried to steal electronics and slugged a security guard, prosecutors said.
Only then was she finally sent to Rikers Island without bail.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration defended Ward’s decision not to increase Aviles’ bail after her June arrest, saying that bail is meant to ensure a defendant returns to court — and Aviles had shown up for the hearing that day.
But he noted it is “a bit unusual” for a defendant to be fitted with an ankle monitor, and added that a judge “can make a request to the sheriff on an ankle monitor — but not an order.”
“The sheriff makes the ultimate determination based on their factors,” Chalfen said.
Michael Bachner, a former Manhattan prosecutor, also said that ankle monitors aren’t commonly deployed in state criminal cases, though they are more common in federal cases.
“Under New York State law, it is not routine,” he told The Post. “Judges don’t generally order it.”
Nonetheless, Bachner said someone appears to have dropped the ball in Aviles’ case.
“Under those circumstances, it should have been reported immediately to the district attorney’s office,” he said.
“If the sheriff’s office was aware, then the sheriff’s office should have immediately contacted the district attorney’s office and said they were supposed to be here and they didn’t appear.”
Bederow agreed that Aviles’ case “sounds like a fiasco.”
“It’s a condition of being released and certainly the defendant is obligated to comply,” he said.
According to a transcript of the June 26 court appearance, Ward had instructed Aviles’ public defender, Jeremiah Rygus, to fill out the required application for the monitoring device before leaving the courtroom.
“I was going to ask you,” Rygus said. “I’ve never actually done an out-ankle monitoring screening.”
Ward answered, “She has to go meet the sheriff.”
Aviles on July 8 was charged with burglary and criminal mischief for allegedly breaking into Columbia Teachers College, and ordered held without bail in that case.
Ward then called her back to court on July 14, and finally forfeited Aviles’ bail in the De Niro case, which was posted by a non-profit organization, according to Aviles’ attorney.
“You know, at this point, because we have offered her so much help and there has been so much here — but, okay. I don’t know what to do with her,” Ward said.
Aviles first made headlines over the Dec. 18, 2022 break-in at De Niro’s pad, where prosecutors alleged Aviles used a knife and “crowbar-like tool” to force her way into the basement.
She already had at least 26 arrests on her rap sheet — including 16 over the prior year — when she was arrested inside the star’s $69,000-a-month rented townhouse.
Officers from the NYPD’s 19th Precinct Public Safety team had been tailing Aviles after recognizing her as a “known burglar” as she allegedly tried several doors before reaching De Niro’s home at around 2 a.m.
Cops allegedly found her inside, fumbling with the actor’s iPad.
She was charged with burglary and possession of burglar tools.
Neighborhood Defender Services, which represents Aviles, did not respond to a request for comment.
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