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Reporter's Notebook: Inside the Courtroom During an Afternoon of Arraignments

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Manhattan Criminal Court Manhattan Criminal Court (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

At 100 Center Street, the famous, infamous and relatively anonymous have all passed through the doors of Manhattan Criminal Court. Most recently, former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn caused a flash-bulb popping spectacle when he was arraigned on charges of sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a maid. But most days at court are far less frenetic.

The court docket on Tuesday afternoon read like a laundry list of defendants who, one by one, stood in the cavernous courtroom outfitted with dark wood panels before the phrase "In God We Trust" embossed above the judge's chair as assistant district attorneys breezed through cases. 

"I didn't slash the tire," one defendant, a middle-aged man, told Judge Jennifer Schecter on Tuesday. "I poked it with a screw driver."

Throughout the afternoon, men of various ages and backgrounds pleaded guilty to crimes such as petty larceny, possession of stolen property, public drinking and possession of a controlled substance.

A very tall man, shaking badly, was accused of stealing a cell phone from a women and then threatening her with scissors. His lawyer said his client told him the woman was addicted to crack and had actually asked the defendant to help sell the cell phone in question.

The assistant attorney general suggests bail be set at $50,000.

"Why they doing this to me?" the man moaned as he was led through a door next to the judge.

The last defendant of the day is a tall man, with a blue shirt tucked into his khakis. He's a computer salesman who has lived in Connecticut for many years, but is in New York now. He is charged with punching a woman in the face, leaving bruises.

The judge issues an order of protection for the woman and warns the man not to visit her at work or at home. No emails, no Tweets and no Facebooking either. He is released on bail.

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