Christmas Eve in Brooklyn

  • In more than one case on Christmas Eve, Judge Perlmutter first told people that they were free to go then recanted, “You know what, I change my mind.”

  • A middle-aged Russian man was arrested while walking to the train after a holiday party. He was charged with 2nd degree aggravated assault on an elderly cab driver. The accused man denied the charge and claimed it was a misidentification. The cab driver claimed that the man broke his mirror to steal a phone but the accused’s hand was uninjured. The accused person has a clean record and long work history. Judge Perlmutter set $3,500 unsecured bond with the requirement of 2 signatures (co-signers). Without access to his phone, the accused man could not reach anyone and requested credit card bail. Judge allowed it but increased the amount to $7,500 which surpassed the accused’s credit limit. The man must spend next three days, including Christmas, in custody.

  • A Latinx man in his 20s was charged with theft of service and 3rd degree trespassing for turnstile jumping. It was difficult to hear anyone in the courtroom and it was unclear why the minor charge was being brought. The accused pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct violation with a sentence of time served.

December 18, Manhattan

  • A middle-aged White man was accused of possession of stolen property for allegedly stealing a juice from Duane Reade. The accused’s hands and feet were cuffed during the arraignment and a court watcher noticed visible swelling of the man’s hands, noting the accused was in distress and asked for the cuffs to be removed. The man’s public defender was unable to verify family ties because the accused man had his cell phone taken and couldn't remember a family member's cell phone number. ADA Brown offered a plea to the charge with a sentence of 30 days in jail. The accused took the guilty plea.

  • Another middle-aged man appeared before Judge Statsinger in handcuffs, which a court watcher noted seemed unnecessary. The man was arrested on a felony charge of identity theft in the 2nd degree for allegedly possessing a fake ID. ADA Brown requested $20,000 bail. The public defender requested supervised release, arguing that the man has ties to the community and his last case was over 10 years ago. Judge Statsinger approved the man for supervised release. During this arraignment, a court watcher noticed that the accused had a sandwich in his pocket, which made them question if/how often people are fed while they’re waiting for their arraignment.

  • A 22-year-old Black man was charged with possession of a forged instrument (for allegedly selling a subway swipe), possession of marijuana, criminal mischief in the 2nd degree, among other charges. The ADA offered a plea to the charge and 15 days jail time on one of the charges, and 25 days jail or $1000 bail on the possession of a forged instrument charge. The public defender cited that the accused person was living in a shelter, but currently has a more stable address and requested supervised release for their client. The accused also had no prior record. Judge Statsinger did not agree to supervised release and set bail.

  • A middle-aged Black man was arraigned on a robbery in the 2nd degree charge for allegedly stealing wine. ADA Brown requested $25,000 bail, citing the man’s prior record from 1990 (DWI charge). The public defender requested the man be released on his own recognizance and explains that he was recommended for release by the Criminal Justice Agency (CJA). Further, his client denied the allegations as they were presented and works full-time. Judge Statsinger set $20,000 cash bail or $20,000 bail bond.

  • ADA Brown requested $50,000 bond and Judge Statsinger set $25,000 bail for a man charged with criminal possession of a weapon who surrendered himself to the police and had four family members present in the courtroom.

2018 in Review: Reflection from a Court Watcher

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…

The Good: it seems there are less high bails or bails at all and more people being released (RORed). Also Court Watch is known, at least at the Manhattan Court I go to. While waiting for someone near the security check-in (in my yellow Court Watch shirt) a Court Officer came up to me and asked "You're not watching me are you?" I also had a few Legal Aid lawyers tell me they support what we are doing. I think being there has an effect.

The Bad: I would estimate 70 percent of the cases I have seen are nonsense arrests, a waste of time and money all around... a lot of drug residue cases, and shoplifting. Also, why are there a dozen police officers in the court? They have to cost a lot of money to staff like this, I am not an expert… but do they really need that many? Also, there are a ton of assault cases, but really more domestic disputes cases. I am not sure how serious they all are, but they take up a sizable amount of the arraignments and TROs are issued like candy. I have seen the judges become completely mindless of their effects, one time a man who disputed the charges received one that left him literally homeless. The defense argued this point and his objection was dismissed. Finally, I have yet to see a judge ask or consider if the bail ordered was affordable to the accused person. I thought that was supposed to be a consideration.

The Ugly: Shackles and Handcuffs. One homeless man who needed a cane to walk. He was old, overweight and harmless. His hands were handcuffed so he could not use his cane to walk which he needed. He was forced to hobble right through court while everyone waited and sat in a bench and sat for over 3 hours. His crime shoplifting and he was released. Was it really necessary to make him hobble like this and sit handcuffed for 3 hours for shoplifting? It's mindless and cruel.

The worst one I saw was this month. A Black women in her 30s was brought in in shackles and handcuffs. Besides the obvious optic of this, it was completely unnecessary. She happen to sit in front of me. Her crime, she had an outstanding Bench Warrant that was issued when she was homeless (she is now working and has an apartment) and never knew about it. Whatever crime it was for, she was released so how bad could it be? She had to sit in court with shackles and handcuffs until she was called, her leg was bruised from the shackles.

Happy New Year to all...