LAST WEEK IN COURT

OCTOBER 9 - OCTOBER 15

Brooklyn | Judge Freier | ADA Langsam

  • Watchers heard stated on the record that the NYPD used riding a bike on the sidewalk with cash on hand in a “drug area” as probable cause for the search of a Latino man. He was subsequently found to have a substantial amount of drugs on his person and the ADA charged him with Possession in the 3rd, arguing for $7,500 bail. The man had no priors and Judge Freier released him under supervision.

  • ADA Langsam argued that $3,500 bail was necessary for a black man charged with Possession in the 3rd degree. The defense disputed the weight of heroin and argued that the drugs were for personal use, further pointing out that no cash was recovered and that he had not been arrested since 1993. It was also stated that he was currently receiving outpatient treatment through VOCAL-NY. The Judge requested a psychological evaluation and set bail at $2,500.

  • A Watcher noted that Judge Freier “really took time to discuss treatment, Orders of Protection, Supervised Release and offer ‘words of wisdom’. Most cases were poverty based and highlight the crucial need for mental health services, housing and drug court.”

Brooklyn | Judge Yavinsky | ADA Needle

  • A man was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance for having been in possession cannabis oil. The Legal Aid attorney representing him rejected the offer to plea to a violation, and asked Watchers to note the important distinction that Marijuana oils are being prosecuted differently and more severely than Marijuana itself, highlighting a major inconsistency in DA Gonzalez’s new policy.

  • ADA Needles asked for $25,000 bail in the case of a young black man being charged with gun possession, claiming the defendant is a member of the Bloods. The Defense claimed that the gun was not the defendant’s and claimed he was body slammed and beaten by the arresting officers, pointing to the defendant's wounds. The Defense then asked for bail to be no higher than $7,500. Judge Yavinsky set bail at $10,000.

Manhattan | Judge Clynes

  • An ADA requested $10,000 bail for a black male high school student charged with Robbery and Grand Larceny, citing that although he had no prior convictions, the defendant had one open robbery case and that the severity of the current charge justified the high bail. The defense clarified that the defendant remained unindicted in the 5-month-old old open Robbery case, which would likely be dropped in one month and further alleged that there was weak evidence and their client was being overcharged. His father was also present in the courtroom. Judge Clynes set bail at $2,000 bail/$2,000 bond and rejected the request for a credit card option.

  • $10,000 bail was requested in a DV case for a man charged with Assault in the 2nd. The prosecution’s argument relied on the man’s criminal history from the 80’s and 90’s, when he had served time for manslaughter and kidnapping respectively. The ADA also went on to disclose that the victim (the defendant's daughter), disputed the charges and had specifically told police that her father did not hit her. The defense stated that while the man did have many problems years ago, this was not representative of who he is today. Not only was victim’s mother was present in the courtroom to vouch for the defendant, her ex-husband, but it was also revealed that the young woman was struggling with mental health issues and was recently off of her medication. She had reportedly been drinking the night of the incident and had got into an altercation at a party. She recanted the allegations against her father the next morning, which she stated she had made to detectives while under the influence. Despite these facts, Judge Clynes set bail at $2,000 cash/$2,000 bond.

    • A Watcher noted that the victim’s mother in the audience was confused and distraught, and asked fellow spectators, “why did he get bail?” The Watcher further opined that it seemed the Accused was being judged on the basis of his past crimes, not on the current charge or on who he had become, and questioned if there is any room for redemption available to those whom the criminal legal system is supposedly working to rehabilitate.

  • The ADA requested $25k bail with 72-hour surety for a young female charged with Grand Larceny in the 3rd, who was already remanded on two cases and being held on $50k bail for a third case. The defense asked for $1 bail, noting the futility of the ADA’s request. The Judge granted the prosecution’s request.

  • A man who was caught smoking marijuana was subsequently arrested based on a 2007 warrant that had already been expunged. While the three other people he was with had all received DAT’s, the ADA charged him with Unlawful Possession of Marijuana and Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 7th, offering him time served with a plea to the charge. The offer was rejected.

  • The ADA argued that $50k bail was necessary for a man charged with Assault in the 2nd and Fraudulent Accosting, citing that he had 30 criminal contempt convictions and an assault charge in 1991. The defense pointed out that his last contempt conviction in 2012 had involved him declining to put out a lit cigarette when asked to by a police officer. Detectives acknowledged that the complaining witness had been intoxicated and had made contradictory statements. The defense asked that all Brady Material be disclosed and also pointed out that he had no FTA’s despite his many priors. Bail was set at $15k cash/$15k bond.

  • Two young black men were each separately charged with Petit Larceny and Fraudulent Accosting for being members of an allegedly prolific ring of “CD Scammers” in midtown Manhattan that “preyed on tourists.” The defense in both cases asked, “how does selling mixtapes constitute criminal activity?” The prosecution asked for $3,000 bail in both cases, neither defendant had any prior convictions. Both were released under supervision.

  • The ADA requested $50k bail for a young black man charged with Possession in the 3rd degree and Criminal Sale in the 3rd degree. He had been a target of a search warrant and was on camera selling $450 worth of cocaine to an undercover officer. No drugs were recovered from the home search and the police alleged that the defendant had flushed them down the toilet beforehand. This was his second arrest, he had no prior convictions, was recently in college and his mother was present in the courtroom. She alleged to a Watcher that the police had been upset they didn’t find anything during the search, and had poured mouthwash all over his belongings. She also stated that her toilets had been swabbed for drugs. The Watcher noted that the ADA made no mention of any test results, which if positive, would have made for a more persuasive argument. Their exclusion brought to question whether there were any results yet or at all, further complicating the grounds for the allegations used by the ADA during the bail argument. His mother stated that “I don’t know what happens outside of my house, but I know everything that happens in it.” $25k bail was set.

Manhattan | Judge Martinez | ADA Deossa

  • Watchers witnessed a young man, visibly injured in a fight that resulted in his hospitalization, charged with weapons possession. ADA Deossa requested $100k bail. The public defender called it borderline ridiculous, cites the young man's ties to the community, lack of prior convictions, and notes the young man was the victim of a crime. Judge grants $15k bail. Watchers were unclear as to why such high bail was requested and set.

  • A man on parole was stopped for making an illegal lane change, searched, and charged with weapon possession. Prosecutor asks for $5k bail and judge granted $2k. Watchers were unclear what justified this search?

  • A woman was charged with gun possession and menacing of her son, who she had an order of protection against. Prosecution suggested placing an order of protection on her son, which the defense vigorously opposed. The woman cried when describing her son and the issues her family faces. Watchers reflect that it doesn’t seem like criminal court is an appropriate venue for dealing with these complex family issues. How does this family, or society at large, benefit from the mom needing to pay $5K cash bail, let alone the $20k the prosecutor was asking for initially?

Manhattan | Judge Paek | ADA Crozier

  • $70,000 bail requested by ADA Crozier in the case of a woman charged with possession of stolen property. She was 8-months pregnant and on methadone. How do we expect an expectant mom dealing with a drug addiction to afford that? Judge Paek ROR'ed


Reflection from a Watcher

There is a low hum, almost like a sacred hush, as a ritual involving 20-30 people repeats itself many times. Each defendant requires defense and prosecution, a judge, many many people who record things, sometimes witnesses, translators, protectors, representatives of agencies, and so on. And even though it is supposed to be a public process, it felt overwhelmingly private, intimate even, as if we were peering into the living room of close friends or the back room of experienced collaborators. Most of the players spoke to each other quietly in a language that was barely understandable, numbers and codes signifying important things.

What really stunned me was that the vast majority of cases we heard seemed to be tragically inappropriate for this process. A bent metrocard? Possession of a drug? In one case an Asian man with no criminal record who apparently stole a windbreaker had been held for 3 months because Connecticut wanted to “extradite” him. It seemed like a good outcome when they expedited something and the situation could be resolved in three days. I don't know what I would do if I had to spend one night in jail. Another man who lived in a shelter was given an order of protection to stay away from a guy in the same shelter. How is that possible? Did anyone consider mediation, conflict resolution?

The defendants—I kept thinking of them as prisoners, approached the bench either in handcuffs or in a posture that looked like they were. I had the impression that many of the defendants, mostly men, had very few resources and this system was doing nothing to help them, or ‘the people.’

We the people think there has got to be a better way.