Last October, Reverend Billy (AKA Billy Talen) made his second appearance at JP Morgan. The first time the Reverend showed up at the House of Morgan, he protested the banks practices by putting a “holy hex” on the building. This time, he was there to draw attention to the House of Morgan’s financing of “mountain top removal, dirty coal, fracking, and other types of fossil fuel extraction,” which he did by entering 270 Park, along with members of his Stop Shopping choir who were dressed as frogs, heading up to the third floor (where wealth management offices are located), and belting out a tune on the subject. The Reverend delivered a sermon about JP Morgan’s role in climate change (via its investments), and his flock passed out informational pamphlets to clients and employees. Shortly thereafter, while waiting for the F train, Billy and his choir director Nehemiah Luckett were arrested and charged with riot in the second degree and menacing in the third degree, facing up to one year in prison a piece.* But earlier this week, God intervened:
According to prosecutors, several bank employees somehow mistook people singing in toad hats for bank robbers, and at least one of them reported a robbery to police, prompting the cops to arrest Talen and Luckett as they were waiting for the F train. Talen was cast as the “ringleader using violent tactics,” and the toads, prosecutors claimed, had approached customers with the ominous refrain, “We are coming for you.” […] However, at a court hearing on Monday, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office sharply reduced the charges. Assistant D.A. David Bornstein told the judge that after re-interviewing witnesses and reviewing the bank’s surveillance footage, he concluded that the group’s actions were “more in line with what we consider actual protest.” Bornstein dropped the more serious charges and reduced the remaining offenses to Class B misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. Talen was offered a plea deal of one day of community service, while Nehemiah was offered an A.C.D. — Adjournment Contemplating Dismissal — meaning that if he does not get arrested again in six months, all charges will be dismissed and the record sealed.
That’s a big shift from how the case was presented at their arraignment in October. Then, a prosecutor accused Talen of engaging in a “violent and terrifying masked criminal stunt, which demonstrates his utter disregard for the law.” On Monday, the prosecutor termed the action a “musical presentation.”