Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg wasted no time getting to work after he took his position in January 2022. During his first year, the new DA, a former civil rights attorney, downgraded 52% of the felony cases his office was handling to misdemeanors, according to a New York Post report from November of that year. Even before that, he sent out a “Day One” memo informing his attorneys that they would not be prosecuting a range of crimes unless the offenses were linked to at least one felony count. Major crimes in Manhattan North were up 17% in 2022 over the previous year and up 38% in Manhattan South. However, Bragg had bigger fish to fry – namely, former-President Donald Trump, who is widely expected to be indicted sometime in the next week.
Bragg chose not to prosecute crimes, including marijuana misdemeanors, trespass, traffic violations, resisting arrest, refusing to pay a fine, possession of a “non-firearm weapon,” and prostitution. In his first year as DA, Bragg declined to prosecute 35% more felonies than his predecessor had in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the court system. Bragg is also not a fan of pre-trial detention, which he sees as a last resort. Thus, it can be assumed that the former president, if indicted, will not be going straight to jail.
The Not So Tough on Crime Alvin Bragg
Two cases in particular got Bragg some newspaper column inches, though for all the wrong reasons. On July 1, 2022, ex-con Austin Simon, a 35-year-old black man, entered a Manhattan bodega, ran behind the counter, and attacked the clerk, Jose Alba, 51. During the violent confrontation, Alba grabbed a knife and stabbed Simon, who died. Simon’s girlfriend, who was also in the bodega, then allegedly took a knife out of her purse and stabbed Alba in the shoulder. She was not charged but the clerk, who had no criminal record, soon found himself in Rikers Island jail awaiting trial for murder. He was unable to post $250,000 bail – which was half of what Bragg’s office had demanded.
The case against Alba was dropped after news of the circumstances of his alleged crime caused a backlash against, in this case, the overzealous DA.
The following month, 25-year-old Justin Washington was offered a plea deal after he was charged with raping a teenage relative. He was looking at just 30 days in jail and five years on probation. “That is a sweet deal,” one NYPD officer observed. “He went from rape one and facing 25 years in jail, which is hard time, to 30 days. What a joke.” While awaiting sentencing, Washington violently assaulted four other women and a man.
In Trump’s case, though, it is widely thought that Alvin Bragg will do the opposite of what he prefers and attempt to bump up to a felony what would otherwise be a misdemeanor. House Republicans have demanded that Bragg turn over communications and documents regarding the Trump case, which is based upon an alleged campaign finance law violation, and appear before Judiciary Committee to explain himself.
Bragg’s predecessor at the Manhattan DA’s office, Cyrus Vance Jr., dropped his own investigation into Trump’s alleged transgression. Later, the Federal Election Commission also declined to recommend charges after probing the matter. Bragg himself said last year that he did not believe his office had enough to indict the former president but later reconvened a grand jury to examine the case.
On Solid Ground?
Even most left-leaning pundits believe Bragg is on very shaky ground. CNN political commentator Van Jones clearly agrees. On March 20, Jones said, “I think that the heat is on this DA, I think he’s going to make a very sober decision and I would not be surprised if he doesn’t step back from the brink.”
In the end, it is the Comey factor that might decide things. In 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey was pilloried by Democrats for disclosing that the Bureau was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for government business. At the time, Clinton was a presidential candidate and, to this day, a lot of people on the left complain that Comey should not have revealed the investigation because it may have influenced the election. Bragg must now decide whether he is willing to be seen as the man who interfered in the 2024 election by indicting the candidate who, at this point, is most likely to secure the Republican nomination.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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