Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bronx DA's office declines to prosecute alarming number of cases, probe finds

Tuesday, September 13th 2011, 4:00 AM

Bronx DA Robert Johnson's office threw out 17.3% of the 43,520 arrests between Jan. 1 and July 22 of this year, state Division of Criminal Justice Services records show.
Howard Simmons/News
Bronx DA Robert Johnson's office threw out 17.3% of the 43,520 arrests between Jan. 1 and July 22 of this year, state Division of Criminal Justice Services records show.

The best place to get arrested in the city is the Bronx.

Hands down.

That's because the Bronx district attorney's office declines to prosecute an alarming number of cases, a Daily News probe found.

Prosecutors toss cases at twice the rate of the citywide average - and more than three times the rate of their counterparts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, stats show.

Cops who make the collars are fed up with the trend.

"You can get away with anything in the Bronx," fumed one cop. "They're letting dangerous people back out on the street again and again, instead of making even the slightest effort to build a case against them."

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson's office threw out 17.3% of the 43,520 arrests between Jan. 1 and July 22 of this year, state Division of Criminal Justice Services records show.

His prosecutors have led the city in rejected cases every year since 2006, despite handling fewer arrests than Manhattan and Brooklyn, records show.

The office refused to press charges for 1,195 felony arrests, or about 10% of 11,938 total felony cases. They also rejected 6,315 misdemeanors, or roughly 20% of the 31,582 total.

The overall 17.3% rejection rate is more than twice the citywide average of 8.4%.

Some Bronx prosecutors are sick of giving up on good arrests, blaming the trend on a top-down office policy.

"If your case isn't something close to a slam dunk, you can't hold onto it," one assistant district attorney said. "It makes it a frustrating place to work."

The rate of declined prosecutions is more startling when compared with Manhattan and Brooklyn. Manhattan tallied 49,601 arrests and declined to prosecute just 2,551 of all arrests, for a 5.1% rejection rate.

Brooklyn amassed 50,600 arrests and declined just 2,772 total cases, for a 5.5% rejection rate.

"The Bronx DA handles fewer cases than Manhattan and Brooklyn, but they're rejecting about three times as many," one detective said. "A case that gets made in those boroughs goes into the garbage pile here."

"Our numbers don't make sense when you look what everyone else is doing," another Bronx prosecutor said.

In the past month, the Bronx district attorney's office declined to prosecute a number of disturbing crimes.

Among them:

- A crazed woman slashed a man in his stomach, but dodged attempted murder charges because of an uncooperative victim. A cop source said prosecutors did "less than nothing" to gain his trust.

- Officers found two men sitting on a park bench reeking of pot with a large bag of crack cocaine at their feet. Prosecutors deemed there was not enough evidence to prove the drugs belonged to them, records show.

Steven Reed, a spokesman for Johnson, attributed the office's high case rejection rate to "rigorous screening."

"Charging decisions are based on the facts of the case and the law," he said. "The deprivation of an individual's liberty is something that we take very seriously."

Reed also cited statistics compiled by the state Office of Court Administration, which show the number of Bronx cases tossed out by judges through July was about half the citywide average.

Cops and many prosecutors say that statistic has nothing to do with letting dangerous criminals off the hook.

"They get fewer cases dismissed because they often plea them down to laughable charges or never charge the perps at all," said a lawyer who was once a supervisor in the Bronx DA's office. "It's just bad policy."

kdeutsch@nydailynews.com

Post a Comment