New Manhattan DA won’t pursue some misdemeanors without accompanying felony charges

Some police union leaders criticized the move, saying it "emboldens the criminal element"

By Rocco Parascandola, Molly Crane-Newman and Noah Goldberg
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Manhattan’s new district attorney told his staff Tuesday that the office will no longer prosecute fare beating, resisting arrest and other crimes he considers minor — a move toward fulfilling his campaign promise of criminal justice reform.

Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor who took office Jan. 1, also told assistant DAs not to seek bail except in the most egregious and violent cases.

District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a rally in Harlem on Nov. 1, 2021, in New York City.
District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a rally in Harlem on Nov. 1, 2021, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago)

“I have dedicated my career to the inextricably linked goals of safety and fairness,” Bragg wrote in the memo.

Other crimes Bragg does not wish to pursue include misdemeanor cases of trespassing, obstructing governmental administration, and prostitution — though his instructions to his staff come with caveats.

In prostitution cases, sex traffickers and pimps can still be charged, Bragg said.

And any of the misdemeanor charges on Bragg’s list can be prosecuted if they are part of an indictment that includes a felony charge, he wrote.

The new DA cited his own experience and proximity to violence to explain his outlook on how he hoped to change the criminal justice system.

“Before I was 21 years old, I had a gun pointed at me six times: three by police officers and three by people who were not police officers. I had a knife to my neck, a semi-automatic gun to my head, and a homicide victim on my doorstep,” he wrote of his life growing up in Harlem in the 1980s.

The memorandum angered some law enforcement unions.

“He’s emboldening the criminal element to resist arrest and put New York City police officers and detectives in harm’s way,” said Paul DiGiacomo, head of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, which represents NYPD detectives. “Why are cops making arrests when virtually nothing’s going to be prosecuted?”

On bail, Bragg said that “pre-trial non-incarceration” should be presumed the norm “for every case except those with charges of homicide or the death of a victim,” or in cases in which a deadly weapon causes serious injury as well as certain sex crimes, domestic violence crimes and crimes of public corruption.

He noted that exceptions could be granted to his bail rules in “extraordinary circumstances” and that any defendant’s criminal history would be taken into account.

Bragg also set out a new policy on sentencing requests, saying that the office would request a maximum of 20 years in prison for all crimes that do not have a life-in-prison option. He also noted the office would never seek life without parole in any case.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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