#Judge denies release of NYC protesters whose arraignments are overdue

Judge denies release of NYC protesters whose arraignments are overdue

June 4, 2020 | 6:10pm | Updated June 4, 2020 | 6:40pm

A Manhattan judge has denied the release of protesters, whose arraignments are overdue, as the city is experiencing “a crisis within a crisis” during protests and the coronavirus pandemic.

The Legal Aid Society filed a petition Tuesday seeking the release of all defendants who had been arrested and were awaiting arraignment longer than 24 hours, since legally arraignments must take place within this time frame barring necessary delays.

During a hearing held by video Thursday, Legal Aid’s Marlen Bodden asked a judge to immediately release hundreds of protesters arrested as the city takes to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“The NYPD is responsible for holding 400 New Yorkers, mainly protesters, who were arrested for opposing police brutality … That is their right,” Bodden said. “This detention of these presumed innocent New Yorkers is a violation.”

Bodden added that the people have been packed in pens that don’t allow for social distancing, without water, masks and hand sanitizer.

Mary O’Flynn, a lawyer representing the city, countered, “There are situations that would justify a delay of over 24 hours. If there was ever a reason for a delay it would be this.”

“There are a vast number of people who have protested in the city. People who have been arrested for burglary and for looting,” O’Flynn said. “Right now we are in a crisis within a crisis, and there are a lot of mitigating factors that go into this puzzle.”

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George Floyd protests  in Brooklyn

Demonstrators clash with NYPD during a protest last night.

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George Floyd protests  in Brooklyn

George Floyd protests  in Brooklyn

George Floyd protests  in Brooklyn

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NYPD Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Equity & Inclusion Janine Gilbert told the judge that cops are doing the best they can to process all of the new arrests quickly but acknowledged social distancing is a challenge as holding facilities have become flooded with defendants.

“At times, the streets have been chaos and downright scary,” Gilbert said. “For this reason, we have had to take extreme measures in order to maintain the order.”

She explained that the whole police department is working 12-hour shifts with no days off.

And while cops have been making many arrests they are opting to issue summonses and desk appearance tickets wherever possible rather than holding people for arraignments, Gilbert said.

Gilbert also acknowledged that there are delays since the courts now hold arraignments virtually, which comes with technological and logistical problems.

But, Gilbert denied Bodden’s assertion that the defendants weren’t being given masks — and said they have drinking water dispensers and a sink with soap and water for hand washing. She said they stopped supplying hand sanitizer in the pens after dispensers were broken and used as weapons.

Gilbert also said the amount of people still awaiting to go before a judge was now down to around 200.

Of the people who had been held longer than 24 hours, the most common charge against defendants was burglary, according to a spokesman with the Law Department.

Bodden fired back after Gilbert’s lengthy explanation of challenges the police were facing, saying it was all still not an excuse for the arraignment delays.

“The NYPD has no excuses with its 38,000 police officers and the best technology in the world, with all the money they are being given, they have no excuse to not process them in a timely manner,” Bodden said.

Manhattan Acting Supreme Court Justice James Burke Thursday sided with the city and denied the request to release the defendants before they went before a judge.

“I do find that there is a crisis within a crisis specifically a civil unrest crisis within the overarching COVID-19 crisis,” Burke said. “To that end, the entire police department has been deployed and the entire Manhattan DA’s office is ‘all hands on deck’ and working to relieve the system.”

Burke said the arraignment delays are necessary, “because we are in a crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which prevents live arraignments, which in turn causes virtual arraignments, which causes delays.”


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