After only two weeks on the job as Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg’s progressive project to transform the criminal justice system into one vast social experiment in the name of compassion for those hapless criminals caught up in the system seems about ready to implode.
As have noted here, when the Bragg plan first became public, unsurprisingly the pushback was swift and serious. After all, it features wholesale downgrading of criminal charges, sharply reduced sentences, non-prosecution of many crimes not accompanied by violence, de-emphasis on incarceration in favor of programmatic alternatives, and no sentences of more than twenty years.
To be sure, a near desperate Bragg is planning to deliver a major speech within the next few days in defense of his initiative, and he is reportedly consulting with his old boss, former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and public relations guru, Risa Heller for help.
But comments a judge made at the arraignment of an alleged career criminal other day expressing his frustration with the new Bragg policies soon went viral and will likely mean that the embattled DA will be unable to turn things around.
According to Law Enforcement Today, this individual is a convicted violent felon who twice served prison terms for robbery. He has also been convicted in 16 different misdemeanors cases. He was arrested for robbery with a knife and accused of threatening the manager of drug store when she confronted him for stealing over $2,000 worth of cold medicine and other items.
When he appeared for arraignment before Judge Jay Wiener, prosecutors had already lowered the first-degree robbery charge to a petit theft in accordance with the Bragg initiative, which directed s follows:
Armed robbers who use guns or other deadly weapons to stick up stores and other businesses will be prosecuted only for petit larceny, a misdemeanor, provided no victims were seriously injured and there’s no “genuine risk of physical harm” to anyone.
Judge Wiener told him that he was “lucky that the new Bragg rules were in effect and the charges were downgraded by prosecutors because with his record, if ultimately convicted of armed robbery again, he would normally have been sentenced to prison for a long time and accordingly would have been subject to high bail and pretrial detention.
However, under the circumstances, he was released to supervised release.
Most commentators predict that the case is just the first of many examples to come of allegedly violent criminals being released and going on to allegedly commit further crimes.
It is noteworthy that the Legal Aid Society continues to insist that there are many people caught up in the criminal justice system who do not need to be arrested but rather are people are in need of treatment and resources.
Maybe, but their needs cannot be allowed to drive the criminal justice system. First and foremost it must be about protecting the ordinary citizen and that requires a process in place that provides for punishment in terms of deterrence and removing the threat of crime. The need to accommodate even the legitimate needs of those committing crimes must be secondary.
At the very least, we hope Bragg has gotten the message and will reboot.