Larry Celona, New York Post, January 4, 2022
Manhattan’s new DA has ordered his prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences for hordes of criminals and to downgrade felony charges in cases including armed robberies and drug dealing, according to a set of progressive policies made public Tuesday.
In his first memo to staff on Monday, Alvin Bragg said his office “will not seek a carceral sentence” except with homicides and a handful of other cases, including domestic violence felonies, some sex crimes and public corruption.
Assistant district attorneys must also now keep in mind the “impacts of incarceration,” including whether it really does increase public safety, potential future barriers to convicts involving housing and employment, the financial cost of prison and the racial disparities over who gets time, Bragg instructed.
In cases where prosecutors do seek to put a convict behind bars, the request can be for no more than 20 years for a determinate sentence, meaning one that can’t be reviewed or changed by a parole board.
Under state law, that punishment is reserved for the most heinous of murderers, including terrorists, serial killers, cop killers and fiends who kill children younger than 14 during in connection with sex crimes or torture.
Bragg’s memo also detailed the following instructions for prosecutors to reduce charges filed by cops in various cases:
- Armed robbers who use guns or other deadly weapons to stick up stores and other businesses will be prosecuted only for petty larceny, a misdemeanor, provided no victims were seriously injured and there’s no “genuine risk of physical harm” to anyone.
- Convicted criminals caught with weapons other than guns will have those felony charges downgraded to misdemeanors unless they’re also charged with more serious offenses.
- Burglars who steal from residential storage areas, parts of homes that aren’t “accessible to a living area” and businesses located in mixed-use buildings will be prosecuted for a low-level, class D felony that only covers break-ins instead of for more serious crimes.
- Drug dealers believed to be “acting as a low-level agent of a seller” will be prosecuted only for misdemeanor possession. Also, suspected dealers will only be prosecuted on felony charges if they’re also accused of more serious crimes or are actually caught in the act of selling drugs.
“ADAs should use their judgment and experience to evaluate the person arrested, and identify people: who suffer from mental illness; who are unhoused; who commit crimes of poverty; or who suffer from substance use disorders,” Bragg added.
In an accompanying “Day One” letter to his staff, Bragg claimed, “These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime.”
He also pledged that “new initiatives and policies on guns, sex crimes, hate crimes, and other matters will be announced in the coming weeks.”
The moves sparked immediate outrage from cops who said the policies will lead to more crime and shootings.
“Bragg gives criminals the roadmap to freedom from prosecution and control of our streets,” said the head of the NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Association.