Manhattan’s new liberal district attorney on Thursday walked back a memo he sent to staff earlier this month calling for the “decriminalization/non prosecution” of crimes including marijuana possession, turnstile jumping, trespassing, resisting arrest, interfering with an arrest and prostitution.
“I understand why those who read my memo of January 3rd have been left with the wrong impression about how I will enforce New York’s laws,” DA Alvin Bragg said, according to Fox News’s Jacqui Heinrich. “I take full accountability for that confusion caused.”
He continued: “First, the purpose of the memo is to provide prosecutors with a framework for how to approach cases in the best interest of safety and justice. Each case is fact specific.”
Bragg said his office will be prosecuting all robberies with a gun as a felony.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “Any use of a gun to rob a store by definition is and must be and will be treated seriously.”
The memo had called for downgrading felony charges in cases including armed robberies and drug dealing. The earlier guidance said the office will “not seek carceral sentence other than for homicide” or “class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon causes serious injury, domestic violence felonies” with few exceptions.
“This rule may be excepted only in extraordinary circumstances based on a holistic analysis of the facts, criminal history, victim’s input (particularly in cases of violence or trauma), and any other information available,” the memo read.
Bragg suggested in the memo that “reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer” and said the office also does not plan to seek any sentences of life without parole, regardless of how heinous a crime is, and will only recommend pretrial detention in “very serious cases.”
On Thursday, Bragg clarified: “Violence against police officers will not be tolerated. If you push or hit an officer or attempt to do so or attempt to harm an officer in another way, you will be prosecuted, held accountable. Public safety will be paramount and will always have primacy in my office.”
Bragg’s latest comments come after widespread criticism over the memo, including from the New York Police Benevolent Association, which expressed “serious concerns” about the plan.