A judge in the case of a man accused of killing a New York Police Department officer in a shootout in East Harlem permitted some very atypical actions in his courtroom during the arraignment for the defendant.
The criminal court judge permitted scores of family members of the deceased cop and many of his fellow officers to get so close to the accused in the crowded courtroom that they were within arm's reach of him.
The injured defendant, who had been shot while being arrested, fell to his knees. His attorney explained to the court that his client was suffering from chest pains.
Those in the courtroom began shouting and cursing. Some expressed their wishes that the defendant die and "burn in Hell."
The judge for his arraignment on murder charges made none of the usual attempts to return order to his court. Later, the court spokesperson said that there would not be any disciplinary action taken against any of the court security officers or the judge.
Earlier this summer, another judge had given the defendant the opportunity to begin drug treatment rather that report to prison. However, he allegedly failed to begin the program. In addition to the recent charges, he will be facing the judge in November for sentencing on his original drug conviction. He could be jailed for as long as a dozen years on that offense.
Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton were critical toward the court for allowing the defendant to enter treatment rather than do time. They noted that he had a history of violence and arrests and was not a good candidate for that type of alternative sentencing.
However, administrators for the court countered that even if the man was not diverted to drug court, he had managed before to post bail and likely would have been free and thus able to return to a criminal lifestyle.
The Manhattan district attorney defended both judges this week, saying, "As a prosecutor, I have also taken chances on defendants I believed would be better served by a nonincarceration sentence."
Working closely with a criminal defense attorney can sometimes open the door to alternative sentencing options that don't involve prison time.
Source: The New York Times, "Judge Says Man Charged With Killing Officer Faces Prison for Violating Plea Deal in Drug Case," James C. McKinley, Jr., Oct. 22, 2015