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New Manhattan DA says he won’t put most criminals in prison

A file photo of an NYPD police vehicle. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS)
January 05, 2022

Alvin Bragg, the new Manhattan District Attorney, will not seek prison for nearly all crimes, except for murder, some violent crimes and white-collar offenses. Bragg also said when prosecuting those more severe crimes, his office will not seek the maximum sentences possible.

Bragg announced his new prosecutorial guidance in an office-wide memo on Monday. In his memo, Bragg states “reserving incarceration for
matters involving significant harm will make us safer.”

The memo states, “The Office will not seek a carceral sentence other than for homicide or other cases involving the death of a victim, a class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury, domestic violence felonies, sex offenses in Article 130 of the Penal Law, public corruption, rackets, or major economic crimes, including any attempt to commit any such offense under Article 110 of the Penal Law.”

When prosecuting charges where there is an attempt to cause serious physical injury with a dangerous instrument, the memo states assistant t district attorneys “must obtain the approval of an [Early Case Assessment Bureau] supervisor to seek a carceral sentence.”

In cases where prosecutors do seek incarceration, they are advised to seek no more than 20 years for a determinate sentence, a sentence not subject to review or reduction by a parole board.

For cases with indeterminate sentences, sentences that can be reviewed by a parole board, Bragg’s memo states that in cases where charges don’t amount to a maximum possible sentence of life in prison, his office will seek no more than 20 years of prison time, “absent exceptional circumstances.”

For indeterminate sentences for crimes that do carry a maximum sentence of life, Bragg said his office will seek no more than a minimum of 20 years of prison time “unless required by law.”

Bragg added that his office “shall not seek a sentence of life without parole.” According to the New York Post, under state laws, a sentence of life without parole is only used for murderous terrorists, serial killers, cop killers, and those who kill children younger than 14 in connection with sex crimes or torture.

Bragg also said in cases, such as homicides, where lengthy periods of
incarceration is justified, prosecutors “shall consider the use of restorative justice as a mitigating factor in determining the length of the sentence” if the families of the victim’s consent.

Bragg’s memo also calls for reducing charges for several offenses charged by police officers. For instance, in cases of armed robbery where the robber uses a gun or other deadly weapon “but does not create a genuine risk of physical harm,” Bragg’s office will reduce the charge to misdemeanor petty larceny.

Those charged with possessing a weapon other than a firearm will not be charged at all for the offense, unless as a lesser included offense.

Residential burglaries will be automatically reduced down to third-degree burglary, a Class D felony offense that only covers the act of breaking in, rather than more serious second or first-degree burglary charges involving armed break-ins or injuries to innocent bystanders.

Bragg also called for reductions in pretrial incarceration except for cases involving homicide, other violent offenses, sex offenses, public corruption,
rackets, or major economic crimes. Bragg wrote, “The data show that the overwhelming majority of those released pretrial do not commit a violent crime while at liberty. Studies show that even three days in jail can lead to a loss of housing, employment, and strain family connections and increase the likelihood failure to appear in court. Studies also indicate that incarceration, in and of itself, can create public safety risks.”

The memo further provides a list of crimes Bragg’s office won’t prosecute resisting arrest, interfering with an arrest, marijuana possession, turnstile jumping, trespassing and prostitution.

Following the release of Bragg’s memo, the New York Police Benevolent Association released on Twitter, expressing their concerns about Bragg’s plans, including his plans not to prosecute resisting and interfering with arrests.

“We continue to have serious concerns about the message these types of policies send to both police officers and criminals on the street,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in the tweeted statement. “Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute. And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences.”

“We look forward to discussing these issues District Attorney Bragg, so that our members can do their job safely and effectively,” the PBA statement adds. “We must pull together towards one goal: a safer New York City.”

Democrat New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who was sworn in this week, was asked about Bragg’s policies during a Tuesday press conference. Adams, who is a former police officer, said he had not seen Bragg’s memo.

As a candidate, Adams said he agreed with Bragg and said his fellow Democrat candidate’s views on addressing crime are “no different than mine.” At the same time, Adams has criticized New York’s existing bail standards as too lenient, according to the New York Post. In December, an offender with a lengthy rap sheet for low-level crimes was released from jail and was arrested for setting the Fox News Christmas tree on fire.

Reacting to the arrest of the Fox News tree arson suspect, Adams said, “Arson is a serious crime and judges should be able to look at the person in front of them on those violent actions and make a determination [on whether to hold him]. That is the missing piece.”

“That’s probably a picture perfect example — not having the discretion to do a profile of the person that’s in front of you,” Adams added. “Judges need to do a better job and where they can give bail they should do so but in cases like that, that is where the tweak needs to be