Bronx DA Declines to Prosecute

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bronx Criminal Court, New York state courts (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

WNYC reporter Ailsa Chang discusses her months-long investigation that reveals that the Bronx DA declines to prosecute far more cases than other borough's DA's.


Ailsa Chang

Comments [21]

Isaiah from Bronx

As a retired Bronx cop (having served 17 years in the (South) Bronx and 5 years in Manhattan (Harlem)) (and as a Bronx resident), I saw first hand the cultural differences between the two counties DA offices and their relationship with the police. Life is worth a whole lot less in the Bronx. The Bronx DA's Office would interpret case law in extremely narrow, self serving, and very often political ways. The police, I had very little confidence that the DA would "bother" to prosecute cases whose victims only crime was that they were poor, any case that required any prosecutorial effort at all was DP'd at ECAB, only slam dunks were written up. I'm also afraid Ailsa's evidence that she is looking for is in the homicide statistics of unprosecuted domestic violence victims who end up dead. A harsh reality for Bronx residents who deserve much better.

Aug. 22 2012 09:10 PM
Ansis Vallens from Manhattan

Bottom line: System is not working. It needs to be fixed. First step: Cut loose Bruce!

Aug. 22 2012 06:47 PM
Eric from Manhattan

What this comes down to is triage. There is no way, with the volume of cases that they handle, that the Bx D.A. can invest time in a case where the victim is uncooperative. Over time, victims generally become less, not more, cooperative. The Bronx D.A. simply has too few resources.
It may be a surprise to WNYC listeners that crime is under-prosecuted in the Bronx, since WNYC usually broadcasts stories with an ACLU bent to them (for instance, one hears a thousand times about any police shooting, but only rarely about civilians shooting each other, even though the ratio is about 100/1 civilian to police shootings. Of course, this is balanced out by what FOX would broadcast). I am not defending the Bx D.A., and their office may have other deficiencies, but there is a rational basis for this unfortunate policy.

Aug. 22 2012 12:23 PM
ROY from Queens

Leo from Queens: Though John may harsh, he has a point as do you. How do you expect to live a good, safe life, if you're not willing to protect yourself, let alone other people, from those willing to do harm to you?

Aug. 22 2012 12:17 PM
The Truth from Becky

Victims know, the justice system has a bad reputation for letting criminals back out on the street. Not saying I condone the behaviour but, imagine how made the perpetrator is when he is let loose again? People are afraid to deal with that reality.

Aug. 22 2012 11:11 AM
William from Manhattan

Terrific, informative, engaging investigative reporting. I've been following Ailsa Chang's reports - as riveting as Law & Order in its prime. I hope this reporting will start some useful discussions. Today's summary and first QA was a good sign, I think. Especially appreciate the respectful tone. Good segment all around.

Aug. 22 2012 10:42 AM
Sandra from The Bronx

Bonfire of the Vanities, Jesse??? You believe all the fiction you read?
In that case Manhattan is filled with sex-crazed women who romp around in high heels all day!
The Bronx is very large and very diverse. I offer all of you with your disparaging comments
a NON-FICTION Grand Tour of The Borough! I am a Caucasian Female who has lived here most of my life in a hard working middle class area.

I only caught the tail end of the segment so can't make full comments, but luckily, I've never experienced violent crime here. I've parked my bike on the street here and nothing has ever happened to it. The one time I locked it up in midtown MANHATTAN near Lincoln Center it was stolen in 5 minutes. Go figure...

Aug. 22 2012 10:41 AM
Chris Garvey from formerly of the Bronx

NYC also has a very effective program of victim disarmament, so that only people willing to break the law are armed. This protects violent assailants. Which is the oriinal purpose of its gun law.
Sullivan Law of 1911 had several things to going for it:
1. Sullivan represented a dock district, and many of his constituents were muggers. Sullivan was leader of a notorious Irish gang. Their criminal work was impeded by the fact that citizens were arming themselves before going to that bad neighborhood, thereby making robbery a dangerous business. Sullivan wanted to protect his criminal constituents from armed victims, and his law has made New York safe for robbers ever since.
2. Tammany wanted to disarm Italians and blacks. The law served the same racist purposes that gun control served in Dixie: to disarm disfavored races. That's why the pistol licensing agent has unbridled discretion to discriminate under the Sullivan Law.
3. Tammany Hall wanted to be able to arrest political opponents.
4. Sullivan was crazy anyway, and soon was committed to an insane asylum. He eventually committed suicide. The law is as insane as he was.

Aug. 22 2012 10:26 AM
Leo from Queens

Ailsa raises some serious questions about the apprehension of victims and jurors to trust the police..
This points to a very complex problem and its unfortunate that none of our elected officials, City council, mayor, DA and also the police department are willing to address these structural problems that will incorporate immigrants and the poor to our larger society.

Minority (Hispanic and Black) city council members have been trying to have a conversation. But the mayor and Kelly refuse to have that conversation.

Aug. 22 2012 10:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Yes, the case of the mother who was slashed is terrible, but it's not an example of what the piece is about. She wasn't going to come forward at all, so the decision not to prosecute wasn't because of the 1-day time limit. It's still a ridiculous policy--there are many reasons people may not be available or initially willing to talk to police. And this is still a good story; I appreciate Ms. Chang's work on this & on stop-&-frisk.

Aug. 22 2012 10:23 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

But is it not EXTREMELY difficult to get a jury to convict without a complaining witness?

Aug. 22 2012 10:20 AM
Tom from Yonkers, NY

In speaking about the relationship between the Bronx D.A.'s office and the NYPD, shouldn't she have mentioned the effect of last year's ticket-fixing scandal? As it seems like a lot of former officers spoke on the record and negatively about the D.A.'s office, it leaves room to wonder about how many have an ax to grind as relations between the two sides have been frayed in recent months.

Aug. 22 2012 10:18 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

When my mom and I had our little shop in Brownsville back in the late '60s and early '70s, which was broken into periodically at night, I wouldn't prosecute when the thieves were caught, because I did fear retaliation. It was a tough neighborhood.

Aug. 22 2012 10:17 AM

Bonfire of the Vanities. The Bronx has been like this for decades. Why is anyone surprised?

Aug. 22 2012 10:17 AM
gary from queens

The Queens DA has a more oppressive policy, in which he will not accept plea agreements following arraignment.

This hampers most people without competent lawyers and resources when it comes to complicated cases, such as shaken baby syndrome (assaulting infant).

The reason it's oppressive is because there is increasing recognition that SBS accusations are the result of iatrogenic causes, for which the hospital is only to happy to deter and disable malpractice lawsuits by preempting them with helping DAs with a criminal assault allegation.

The determination of whether there is an assault takes examination of medical records. and that cannot be done before arraignment

Aug. 22 2012 10:14 AM
Bruce in Bronx

When I heard this report about prosecutions, I immediately linked it to the poll this week to perceptions of police bias in NYC.

Maybe the Bronx DA has similar concerns that many New Yorkers have, and questions the legitimacy of the arrests made. Just because someone is arrested (a decision made by a police officer), doesn't mean that person has committed a crime (determined by the DA and the courts). Maybe Bronx citizens are arrested more often for bogus reasons.

Aug. 22 2012 10:13 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

I worked with a woman who lived in the Bronx and she was called for Grand Jury duty -- She refused to vote for indictment on ANY case because she believed the cops were crooked. I daresay that if she'd been a victim of crime her attitude would have been different. Passing this along only because it shows one small part of the odds stacked against the Bronx DA. However, the situations described in reporting so far are appalling. But, like most of life, it's complicated.

Aug. 22 2012 10:12 AM
Leo from Queens

John from Office: I must say your comments are disgusting. Have you ever met families living in these poor neighborhoods and had conversations with them?

Aug. 22 2012 10:07 AM
Leo from Queens

Though I don't question Ailsa Chang's investigative reporting, there are a couple of questions that should be asked:
(1) did the tip come from Police Officers?
(2) How much of the Police officer's cooperation precipitated by the indictment of the Bronx DA of a police officer for the execution of an unarmed kid in his bathroom in front of his grandmother?
Another concern I have is that this is going on in the other DA's offices in the City since they run unopposed and there is no accountability or oversight of these offices. I know for a fact that the Queens DA does not indict any of the real estate money laundering operations or any of the prostitution houses which operate in the open in residential neighborhoods.

I personally am disgusted by the corruption and lack of accountability that permeates ALL of the public and political offices in the City and which there was more accountability.

Aug. 22 2012 10:05 AM
Marc from NYC

I think Papa Tall said it best in a post on the other page.

"What are you trying to prove? That Johnson is not tough on crime? You are wrong. Johnson is a black prosecutor who does not convict and give young minorities an undeserved record that ruins their life chances forever. Unlike his counterparts in the other boroughs, Johnson is a sensible and sensitive prosecutor who, although he cannot eliminate crime in the "hood", tries at least, to minimize its effects on the future of the minority youth. The lock'em-up all mentality does not work.
You have accustomed me to better work."

Aug. 22 2012 09:52 AM
John from office

Self policing has been going on in NYC and the US since the start of this nation. Mis trust of police also has existed before, it is not a new thing. Be it the Irish in the 1800's, Italians or whomever.

The difference is that we are dealing here with a permanent underclass, that is uneducated, not motivated and idolizes the thug life. These areas of all our cities have to be broken up. There also has to be a change in attitudes in these communities. Sadly this is not going to happen.

Go back to listening to Rap on your Ipod.

Aug. 22 2012 08:33 AM

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