New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – New Yorkers accused of illegally possessing guns are being released at more than double the rate during the coronavirus pandemic than they were in the same period in 2019, the Daily News has learned.
From March 16 to August 17 of this year, nearly half, or 47 percent, of people accused of illegal gun possession across the five boroughs were released without a judge setting bail — 442 defendants out of 945 walked, a review of records obtained from the Office of Court Administration shows.
Over the same period in 2019, 238 people out of 1,060 arraigned on gun possession charges were released without bail — 22 percent — as judges have been less willing to set bail in gun possession cases while the pandemic coursed through Rikers Island and defense attorneys routinely incorporated COVID-19 concerns into their bail applications, legal experts said.
In the week before much of the city shut down, March 6 to March 12, judges released 15 percent of people charged with gun-related crimes in the city, according to OCA records.A gun and pool of blood remain on the pavement as NYPD officers and detectives investigate a double shooting that killed one victim on Ocean Avenue and Woodruff Avenue in East Flatbush on Wednesday – Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News
“The data shows that during the peak of the pandemic bail was set by judges in significantly fewer cases than it was prior to New York’s COVID-19 shutdown,” said Lucy Lang, a former Manhattan prosecutor and director of the Institute For Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“The conditions of the prison system put incarcerated people at risk of COVID-19 exposures so leaders across the city rightly moved to reduce arrests and incarceration to stop the spread of the pandemic,” Lang added.
“It’s very obvious that judges are less likely to send people to Rikers on bail during the pandemic. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” said Brooklyn defense attorney Michael Farkas.