New York Prison Guards Union Backs Plan to Change District Attorney for Rikers Island

George Lavender

The New York Assembly passed a bill that would transfer responsibility for prosecuting crimes committed on Rikers Island from the Bronx district attorney to Queens.

Judge Shopping,” trying to have a case heard in a court deemed most likely to give a favorable hearing, is relatively well known. According to the New York Post, legislators in New York, may be guilty of a more unusual activity: DA Shopping.”

In an extraordinary development, lawmakers have quietly passed a bill that would transfer prosecution of alleged crimes committed in Rikers Island prison from Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson to Queens DA Richard Brown.

Rikers, technically part of The Bronx, sits in the East River ­between the two boroughs and is reached via a Queens bridge.

The measure breezed through the Assembly and the Senate last month after the correction- ­officers union complained that the Bronx DA zealously pursues criminal cases against officers, but not inmates.

New York City’s main jail has been rocked by a series of allegations of abuse and corruption including cases investigated by the Bronx DA. If Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the measure into law, Johnson would lose the right to prosecute crimes committed in the jail. The legislation has the backing of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

We believe we will be treated a little bit differently in Queens, in Richard Brown’s county. Johnson doesn’t give the correction officers the benefit of the doubt,” said Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President ­Norman Seabrook.

He said Johnson is indicting every officer accused of roughing up an inmate because the DA fears being second-guessed. Continue reading…

Both Johnson and Brown opposed the legislation. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the bill’s supporters claim it will save the state money.

A bill memo attached to the legislation says its purpose is to provide cost savings and management efficiencies for New York City” by eliminating the need to drive inmates to the Bronx for prosecution which is considerably farther from Rikers.” Continue reading…

Assemblymember Joe Lentol, chief sponsor of the bill says the legislation should not be seen as a criticism of Johnson. According to the Post, Lentol said the transfer makes sense because Bronx courts are more backlogged than those in Queens.” The act would take effect in January 2016

George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.
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