By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The first motorcyclist to be charged for his alleged role in last Sunday's attack on an SUV driver who was chased for miles along a Manhattan highway by dozens of bikers was released on bail on Wednesday.
Christopher Cruz, 28, of New Jersey, was freed on $1,500 cash bail on Wednesday after being formally charged with unlawful imprisonment and reckless driving, authorities said.
A second biker who was arrested on Tuesday by New York police and charged in the attack went free on Wednesday, after Manhattan prosecutors declined to pursue a case against him.
Allen Edwards, 43, of the New York City borough of Queens, was charged on Tuesday with criminal mischief, menacing and reckless endangerment after he surrendered himself to the NYPD, authorities said.
On Wednesday, a top prosecutor in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office called the charges against Edwards "premature," and said the D.A's office would not prosecute him.
Last Sunday, dozens of motorcycles riding north on Manhattan's Henry Hudson Parkway halted traffic after a man driving in an SUV with his wife and young child got into a fender bender with one of the bikers.
As the bikers swarmed around the SUV, the driver accelerated suddenly, sending motorcycles flying and reportedly crushing the spine of one biker who was run over.
Dozens of bikers gave chase in a high-speed pursuit into upper Manhattan, where the driver was caught, dragged from the car and viciously beaten in front his wife and child, according to New York police.
Most of the incident was captured on one biker's helmet-camera video, which was posted to YouTube and went viral.
Authorities believe the motorcyclists who chased the SUV were in town for an unauthorized rally in New York, following a similar gathering last autumn where riders organized online and arrived in large groups in Times Square without permits.
Tensions between law enforcement officials under growing pressure to crack the case spilled into public view on Wednesday with Vance's refusal to pursue charges brought by the NYPD against Edwards.
Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, Vance's chief trial prosecutor, said in a statement that the "low-level" charges against Edwards could undermine the more serious case Vance is trying to build against other bikers who remain at large.
Prosecutors want to make a case against the most violent among the bikers, including one man who authorities say attacked the driver, and another who smashed the SUV's window with his helmet, said a source in Vance's office.
The source, who requested anonymity in return for speaking, said prosecutors faced different pressures from police.
"This is not 'Law & Order,' said the source. "We can't solve this case in 24 hours."
An NYPD source defended the decision to charge Edwards as basic to building a case.
"This is not rocket science," the police source said. "Let's keep this (case) moving. This is national news."
(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Peter Cooney)