By Ivan Pereira
(Editor’s note: The misdemeanor charges against Ruben Wills include petit larcency and criminal trespass in the Sept. 19. 1996 complaint.)
City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) went on the defensive this week after he moved to correct several misdemeanor charges outside the borough that he had been avoiding for more than a decade.
Wills, 39, who was elected to office in November, made an appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court Monday to respond to an outstanding warrant in a 14-year-old misdemeanor case involving charges of criminal trespass and the theft of property from a Manhattan business where he did contracting work.
The councilman added that he has been in contact with the Nassau County district attorney about an outstanding warrant that dates back to 2000 on misdemeanor charges for allegedly operating an unlicensed contracting business and doing work on a Long Island home.
“These matters are unfortunate events that happened in my early 20s and have nothing to do with my campaign and election,” he said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Nevertheless, I am regretful that I did not properly address these matters when they occurred and I take full responsibility for my inaction. I am taking steps to remedy the situation.”
The councilman turned himself in to prosecutors after a published report Sunday exposed his warrants and charges.
Manhattan prosecutors contend Wills, who owned the contracting firm from 1992 until the early part of last decade, broke into Inner Circle Communications in Chinatown Aug. 16, 1996, and removed a fan and track lighting.
The store owners had fired Wills over a project his company was working on and he allegedly retaliated against the owners by swiping some of their goods, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.
He was charged with petit larceny, criminal mischief and criminal trespass charges in September 1996. Three bench warrants for the charges were issued, but the councilman did not return to court.
During the court hearing Monday, Criminal Court Judge Lynn Kotler put his case back on the calendar but did not hold Wills on bail, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.
The judge said Wills owes the owner some restitution but could not determine the exact amount, the DA’s office said.
Wills was ordered to return to Manhattan Criminal Court April 21, where his attorney and prosecutors aim to work out a disposition, the Manhattan DA’s office said.
The Nassau County DA’s office did not return phone calls for comment on his case in that court.
This is not the first time that Wills has had a run-in with the law.
During his primary campaign for the Council in 2009, he got into an argument with Democratic opponent Allan Jennings over a signature petition, police said.
Wills allegedly took a swing at Jennings, missed and struck a Jennings volunteer, Frank Perero, who was knocked to the ground, according to police.
Officers were called in and issued a report of harassment against Wills, but he was not criminally charged in the incident, police said.
Both candidates went on to lose the primary that fall.
Wills was elected to the seat during a special election in November that was held to fill the vacancy created by the death of Councilman Thomas White.
During the campaign, which included six other candidates, another one of Wills’ past skeletons was uncovered.
The councilman owes nearly $27,500 in child support to the teenage daughter he had with a former girlfriend, according to state Department of Taxation and Finance, an issue that came up during his recent Council campaign.
There are five warrants issued for those payments that go back to 2004, a spokesman for the department said. The latest warrant was issued a day after he won the election, according to the spokesman.
Campaign literature circulated about the issue and labeled Wills a deadbeat father. The councilman has repeatedly said he has not neglected his daughter financially.
“I pay approximately $346 a month in child support, and I voluntarily pay another $350 a month,” he said in his statement.
Wills is up for re-election this November. He urged his constituents not to judge him by his past but by the work he has done in the 100 days he has been in office.
“I ask you to join me in my continued effort to bring much-needed resources to the 28th Council District,” he concluded in his statement.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.