Hundreds of New York City prosecutors have left their jobs because of low pay and high workloads in recent years, putting more stress on an already overburdened justice system as crime continues to skyrocket in the Big Apple.
Assistant district attorneys are burned out because of two laws that took effect in January 2020, right as the pandemic was about to send crimes soaring.
The laws require prosecutors to share evidence with defense attorneys and to do it quickly in order to ensure a speedy trial.
But the high volumes of paperwork – sometimes hundreds of pages per case – combined with a caseload of up to 100 cases at once and low starting pays have sent prosecutors fleeing for the private sector, the New York Times reports.
So far this year, 36 prosecutors in Brooklyn have quit, along with 44 in Manhattan, at least 28 in the Bronx and nine in Staten Island.
The low morale and dwindling workforce adds to the soft-on-crime approach of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who recently walked statements promising that armed robbery would be treated as a misdemeanor if the firearm didn’t ‘create a genuine risk of physical harm.’
Meanwhile, a 2020 law that ended cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies has returned more criminals to the street. The law, meant to stop people from languishing in jails just because they can’t pay, is now meeting pushback from high-level city officials, including Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Crime in New York City is up 44.57 percent from last year, according to the latest figures released on March 27. Felony assault is up 19.1 percent and robberies are up 46.1 percent from last year. Both of those offenses are eligible for bail.
Prosecutors in New York City are quitting in droves, citing low pay and burnout stemming from two laws that require them to gather and share mountains of paperwork with defendants and their attorneys
Dwindling numbers of prosecutors and the elimination of cash bail could mean more criminals on the street. Bail reform, meant to stop people from languishing at Rikers Island (above), applies to most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies
Manhattan Da Albin Bragg has been criticized for his ‘soft-on-crime’ approach. Forty-four prosecutors have quit his office this year alone
The exodus comes as New York City continues to battle a rise in crime, which is up 44 percent from this time last year. Felony assault is up 19.1 percent
Prosecutors in NYC are citing burnout during the pandemic and recent laws that require them to share evidence with defendants as reasons for their departures.
The laws were meant to make sure that defendants, most of them people of color, don’t take plea deals just because they don’t know what the evidence against them looks like.
They’ve led to prosecutors spending countless hours gathering and uploading documents on the dozens of cases they handle at a time.
Prosecutors are also complaining of low pay.
The starting salary for an assistant DA is $72,000 in Manhattan and $75,000 in the Bronx.
‘They just simply can’t do it anymore,’ Bronx DA Darcel Clark told the New York Times. ‘The money is not where it should be, and the work-life balance is just unmanageable.’
In the past year, Manhattan and Brooklyn – which have about 500 prosecutors each – have lost about a fifth of their prosecutorial workforce. Queens says it’s on track to double last year’s resignations.
‘When they have all this pressure on them, they’d rather go somewhere else where their quality of life is better,’ she said. ‘They don’t have to work nights, weekends, holidays and do all this discovery.’
Caitlin Nola spent over 11 years as a prosecutor in Manhattan. She left in January and is now an attorney at the private firm Porzio Bromberg & Newman, P.C, according to her LinkedIn. She said she was frustrated with the evidence-sharing laws.
So far this year, 36 prosecutors in Brooklyn have quit, along with 44 in Manhattan, at least 28 in the Bronx and nine in Staten Island. Above, the New York State Supreme Court Building
Caitlin Nola spent over 11 years as a prosecutor in Manhattan. She left in January, citing the burdensome evidence-sharing discovery laws, and is now an attorney at a private law firm
Public safety was a huge campaign issue for Mayor Eric Adams, who is now dealing with fewer prosecutors and more crime. Above, Adams at the opening of the Paradise Square musical on Sunday
‘It was difficult to comply with because there was so much we were expected to produce,’ she said.
She added that having to share information about witnesses who were scared that defendants would know their identities was a cause for concern.
Last month, Gov. Hochul proposed changes to the discovery law that would prevent a judge from dismissing a case if prosecutors are in ‘substantial compliance’ with it.
Public safety, a huge campaign issue for Mayor Eric Adams, has also been affected by the city’s new laws that make most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies ineligible for bail, meaning that the judge is required to set the least restrictive conditions to ensure that defendants return to court.
The law took effect in January 2020 but was quickly amended a few months later to include misdemeanors involving harm to a person or property, felonies committed while on probation or supervised release and other crimes.
Democrats say the current rise in crime has nothing to do with the bail polices, but instead reflects growing national trends of rising homicide and gun crimes during the pandemic.
‘Bail reform is working,’ said New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents parts of Manhattan, in a statement released in February. ‘Current data show that the vast majority of people released were not rearrested. In fact, only 2 percent of those released without bail were re-arrested for violent felonies. This number is slightly lower than those re-arrested for violent felonies after posting bail.’
Last month, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewel spoke out against the bail reform laws.
Speaking to WABC Radio’s John Catsimatidis, she said: ‘The criminal justice reform law that took effect in 2020, I think, that is definitely part of the thinking that needs to change.
‘We can keep most of the important elements of the reform, but there are absolutely some things that need to be adjusted,’ she explained of the 2019 bail reform laws – which were rolled back in 2020 to add to the list of crimes for which bail can be set.
Sewell also seemed to decry the decriminalization of quality of life crimes, like turnstile jumping at the subway stations, marijuana use and drinking in public.
‘There are entire categories of serious crimes that we can no longer make an arrest for,’ Sewell told Catsimatidis. ‘We can only issue a summons.
‘We have used discretion in the past. Now we don’t even have that,’ she said.
Elaborating further, she added: ‘There are entire categories of crimes where we can make an arrest , but the judges are prohibited from ever setting bail – even if the same burglar or car thief commits the same crime every day and ends up in front of the same judge.
‘They used to have that discretion, and in many cases we don’t anymore.’
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is set to propose reforms to the city’s bail laws.
Her 10-point plan will make more crimes bail eligible and give judges greater discretion to lock up criminals based on whether or not they’re repeat offenders, the New York Post reported.
New York City Police Commissioner has called for an end to New York’s woke bail reform laws
Governor of New York Kathy Hochul and Attorney General of New York Letitia James march on the parade route at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City
Hochul, who faces election in 2022 after replacing the disgraced Andrew Cuomo last August, is going to attempt to include the plan in the state’s budget, which is due April 1.
Perpetrators of gun crimes, as well as subway and transit crimes, would become eligible to be detained and held for bail if the plan is enacted.
The laws would allow cops and judges to bypass Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, who has been widely criticized for his soft-on-crime stance, which involves only applying cash bonds in the most serious cases.
Meanwhile, crime continues to go up in a trend that began during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
On Friday, a 72-year-old tourist was tripped after she left a lunch with her daughters in Manhattan.
Cyndi Gradwell of Ocean City, Maryland, arrived in NYC with her two daughters on Friday.
Cyndi Gradwell, 72, of Ocean City, Maryland, was left with a black eye, a chipped tooth, and bruises after criminal Kelvin Winfield intentionally tripped her as she and her daughters walked down Ninth Avenue in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen district on Friday
Her daughters gifted her a trip to New York City as a Christmas present and the ladies were walking down the street with their suitcases after enjoying a nice lunch together when Winfield started yelling at Gradwell’s daughters before cutting her off and tripping her
As the trio was walking down Ninth Avenue between 35th and 36th streets in Hell’s Kitchen with their suitcases after enjoying a nice lunch, Kelvin Winfield started yelling at Gradwell’s daughters.
He said: ‘Where are you going? Where are you going?’ as he walked closely behind the two women, with Gradwell behind them, according to ABC 7.
Surveillance footage, obtained by the New York Post, shows Gradwell trying to move to go around him when he sticks his foot out and trips her, causing her to fall flat on her face, hitting her teeth.
Gradwell suffered a black eye and bruises, and said she had several of her teeth ‘knocked [loose],’ causing her to only to be able to eat mashed potatoes, eggs, and ‘spaghetti strands one at a time.’
Another tourist was shot multiple times in the leg and groin on March 18.
French-born Pierrick Jamaux, who is visiting from Hong Kong, was getting out of an Uber with his Australian model wife, Sarah Watts, 26, and another person at their hotel in Midtown when a man approached them and demanded Jamaux hand over his Richard Mille watch, the New York Post reported.
Jamaux, 33, is a French-born cryptocurrency expert visiting from Hong Kong with his wife, Watts, an Australian born model
Pierrick Jamaux, 33, (pictured inside the ambulance) was shot multiple times in the legs and groin during an attempted robbery outside his hotel in NYC
The attacked occurred on March 18 as the couple and another woman got out of an Uber outside the Fifty Hotel and Suites in Manhattan
Jamaux told police the man then opened fire before he could react, striking his legs and groin and causing him to fall to the ground as the man tried to rob him.
Police said the other person with the couple, a 25-year-old woman, jumped on the gunman’s back to try and stop him before the shooter pushed her off and fled.
New York Police Department officials said five shell casing were recovered from the scene and that Jamaux had multiple entry and exit wounds on both legs. He was taken to the nearby Bellevue Hospital where he was reported in stable condition.