LAST WEEK IN COURT

OCTOBER 30 - NOVEMBER 5

Risk Assessments

  • A man with no criminal record, charged with violating an order of protection, was given a high C.J.A. score, which suggested he was a high risk to not appear back to court. The ADA cited the high CJA score when they requested $3,000 bail. However, factors beyond his control seem to have contributed to the high score, including the fact that his existing order of protection prevented his family from attending the arraignment and also rendered him unable to retrieve legal documents from his apartment.

  • $3,000 bail was set for young man accused of assault, based on the strength of a risk assessment which was conducted without an interpreter (accused’s primary language is Russian.) The accused is a long-haul trucker and claims that his truck GPS will show he was out of state at the time of the incident.

Predatory Policing

  • A young Black man was arrested when two undercover police officers came up to him because they claimed they smelled marijuana. Under this pretext the cops felt his bag and arrested him because something in his bag “felt like a gun.” Court watchers reflect that searching a bag because of the smell of pot is a clear pretext stop, especially as low-level marijuana charges are (ostensibly) no-longer prosecuted in Brooklyn. On top of this, the accused has previously been arrested for a marijuana offense by the same cop. The prosecution requested $15,000 bail.

Unreasonable Bail

  • A middle-aged Latinx man was arraigned for burglary in the second degree in Brooklyn on November 1st for allegedly stealing a child’s painting set. The accused said he didn’t enter the complainant’s home and claims he saw the painting set in the trash/recycling bin and picked it up. The prosecutor requests $10,000 bail and an order of protection, citing the man is a flight risk. The public defender contested this request and asked the accused be released on their own recognizance because his last failure to appear was 10 years ago, he’s currently in a drug treatment program, has a part time job and has lived with his mom for over a decade. Judge Ambekar set $5,000 bail and two full orders of protection. A watcher reflected, “The fact that bail was set at all for a man who stole a child’s paint set from the trash is an injustice.”

  • ADA Reno requested $25,000 bail for a 19-year old Black boy with no prior record charged with gun possession in Brooklyn, based on the seriousness of the current charge. The prosecutor alleged the boy placed a loaded revolver in a plastic bag under the seat of a taxi cab that was pulled over for running a stop sign. Court watchers question the validity of the search, wondering why the kid, who was a passenger in the taxi, was searched when it was the driver who ran the stop sign. The public defender explained that the accused was currently working, was not a flight risk, and that his mother was present in the courtroom. Judge Ambekar set $15,000 bond/$10,000 cash bail.

Collateral Consequences

  • An order of protection was requested, preventing a young mother, accused of trespassing, from seeing her baby, who is still breast-feeding, as well as the baby’s father. The defense argued against a full order of protection because her child is breast-feeding and also because if the accused loses her child she will be displaced from her family shelter. Despite this, a full order of protection was set.

Domestic Violence

  • According to court watchers, a judge in Manhattan court consistently sets bail higher in domestic violence cases than in other cases with similar bail arguments. A court watcher also stated, “The purpose of bail is to compel the accused to appear in court so it should never be used punitively. However, in several domestic violence cases the Judge set bail even though in otherwise similar non-domestic violence cases, the accused was released on their own recognizance.”

  • In one domestic violence case, a middle aged woman’s bail was set at $1,500 even though she is the primary caretaker of her daughter (who suffers from M.S.) as well as her mother and three other children.

  • In another D.V. case, the judge granted the prosecution’s request to set bail at $750. The defense argued the accused had community ties and no criminal record and the prosecution offered no counter argument, but the judge still granted the original request.

  • In a third D.V. case, bail was set at $7.5k despite conflicting testimonies, and little evidence. The justification for bail was the accused’s criminal record, however the defense noted his only violent offense was in 1987. The accused makes minimum wage and could in no way afford $7.5k.