The 65-year-old was arraigned Saturday in Manhattan Criminal Court on three misdemeanor drug charges for sale and possession of marijuana. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court next month. He declined to discuss the case with reporters outside the courthouse.
Goetz became a household name as the skinny, bespectacled white man who, on Dec. 22, 1984, rose from his seat on the No. 2 train in Manhattan and shot four black teens inside a subway car with an illegal handgun. The teens had sharpened screwdrivers and were asking him for $5. Goetz said it was self-defense and the youths intended to rob him.
The shooting brought to the surface long-smoldering urban issues of race, crime and quality of life. It also thrust Goetz, a self-employed electronics expert, into the role of spokesman for what some New Yorkers considered a justified form of vigilantism.
It was a vastly different era. Subway cars were spray-painted with graffiti tags and inhabited by muggers, panhandlers, junkies and the homeless. And crime was out of control there were about 40 felonies per day in the nation's largest mass transit system. Last year, there were about eight per day, and the figure is declining.
Goetz was cleared of attempted murder charges in 1987 and spent 250 days in jail the same year for a weapons conviction in the case.
In 1996, a Bronx jury awarded one of the teens, Darrell Cabey, $43 million in his lawsuit against Goetz. Cabey's attorney, Ron Kuby, said Saturday his client remains paralyzed in a wheelchair and has never received a penny from Goetz, who had declared bankruptcy.
He had since slipped into relative obscurity, surfacing infrequently, like in his 2001 failed bid for mayor.