A Manhattan grand jury yesterday cleared Rayon McIntosh of all charges in his dramatic, caught-on-tape self-defense against two irate drunken female customers who had attacked McIntosh at his place of employment, the West Village McDonalds.
Rayon McIntosh had faced serious felony assault charges in the October incident, which was captured on a cell phone video that went viral online. In the video, customers shriek “Stop! Stop!” as the two women in a coordinated manner jumped the counter and continued their assault on McIntosh, after repeated attempts by customers and employees to call off the assault failed, Rayon reportedly slams one of the women to the floor and fought off the other with the handle of a metal grill scraper. The blows left one of the women with a depressed skull fracture and a fractured humerus.
But McIntosh spent three afternoons this week testifying before the grand jury, telling them that when one woman vaulted the counter — screaming she was going to “f*ck you up!” — and her lesbian girlfriend rushed around the counter to help, he sincerely believed his life was in danger. After hearing a total 11 afternoons of evidence, grand jurors believed McIntosh’s insistence that he swung the metal rod in justifiable self defense. “The grand jury had a lot of sympathy for him,” said defense lawyer Theodore Herlich, who was present for McIntosh’s testimony.
“They know he was at work — he wasn’t looking for trouble.’ A group of McIntosh’s family members and relatives shouted in jubilation as they left court after hearing the good news. McIntosh, in jail since the night of the incident, will likely be freed from Rikers Island today. Burglary charges were still pending against the two women, Denise Darbeau, 24, of Queens, and Rachel Edwards, 24, of Brooklyn, for going behind the counter.
“I’m shocked and dismayed at the grand jury’s decision,” said their lawyer, Harold Baker. “The grand jury did not have the benefit of my clients’ testimony because the DA refused to give immunity to my clients,” he said. “Because they didn’t do that, a violent man is going free.”
The fast food fracas was prompted when the manager decided to check a $50 bill that Darbeau used to pay for her chicken sandwich. “That’s what got her upset, and it wasn’t even Rayon who checked the bill,” McIntosh’s lawyer explained. “All he did was bring the meal to the counter. ”
A co-worker testified that Rayon said, ‘Here’s your food,’ and because [Darbeau] apparently detected his Caribbean accent, she started shouting ‘You should be deported,’ and ‘Banana boat,’ and ‘Your mother’s a bitch’ and ‘I’m going to f*ck you up,’ ” Herlich said. “Then she slaps him in the face, and he swings back — and either misses or hits her on the arm, it’s hard to see in the video. Then Darbeau’s lesbian girlfriend says something to the effect of, ‘If my husband gets in to a fight, I got her back.'”
The second woman, Edwards, is then seen in the video striding around to the back of the counter. McIntosh swings the pole repeatedly, but only five blows actually strike the women, Herlich said both sides agreed. McIntosh first hits Darbeau in the head, giving her the most serious injury in the fight. But McIntosh testified that Darbeau began to get up again, screaming, “I’m going to cut you,” and so he struck her once more, a blow that fractures her humerus, the bone between the shoulder and elbow.
He strikes Edwards three times — once to the face, which knocks her down into a sitting position on a box. Then twice more as she stands up again and he tells her to stay down, Herlich said. In cross examining McIntosh this week, prosecutors tried to make him accountable for each swing, almost stopping the video frame by frame in the process. “He just kept saying, ‘I wasn’t looking at how much force,’ ” Herlich said. “He told them, ‘I was just trying to keep them away from me. I really didn’t intend to do anything but keep these two women away from me because I didn’t know what they were going to do to me.”
McIntosh had just been hired in March, almost immediately after being freed after 11-years in prison. He was trying to get his life back on track after the unfortunate incident that lead to his incarceration. Herlich said — an incident that he still feels deep regret for.