The Chief
November 26, 2004

PBA: Blackburne Isn’t Fit to Judge

Cop-Shooter Faces Trial

By Mark Daly and Richard Steier

A day after Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne’s dismissal of charges against a man accused of shooting a cop was overturned on appeal, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch Nov. 17 called for her removal from the bench.

Mr. Lynch who was joined in that demand by the wounded officer, David Gonzalez, said Ms. Blackburne’s decision to throw out the charges against William Hodges for failure to try him in a timely manner was part of “a consistent pattern of bad decisions…throughout her public career. Judge Blackburne should be removed from the bench and never be permitted to sit in judgment of serious cases again.”

A spokeswoman for Justice Blackburne said she would have no comment on Mr. Lynch’s statements.

DEA: She’s Biased

The Detectives’ Endowment Association also called for Ms. Blackburne’s ouster last week. “This will help show she is just a biased judge who doesn’t belong on the bench,” said DEA Vice President Victor Cipullo.

Mr. Hodges is accused of the 1999 shooting of Mr. Gonzalez, who has since been promoted to Detective, after he grabbed his gun during a struggle in the hallway of a building in Jamaica. Two years ago, Justice Blackburne dismissed the charges on the grounds that the Queens District Attorney’s Office failed to go to trial against him within 182 days of its having brought the attempted murder charges.

The DA’s Office quarreled with the timetable she used and appealed the case. A four-person panel from the Appellate Division, Second Department last week ruled that in fact there was no violation of the speedy trial doctrine.

Delays Defense’s Fault

Three of the justices – Nancy E. Smith, Howard Miller and Daniel F. Luciano – stated in a joint opinion that the judicial clock should have been stopped for the period in which city attorneys on behalf of the Queens DA appealed an early ruling by Justice Blackburne allowing Mr. Hodges to obtain the files of the NYPD and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. He claimed those records would bolster his defense that Officer Gonzalez shot himself during the struggle.

The fourth judge, Sondra Miller, said that this proceeding should not have prevented the city from going to trial while its appeal was being considered. But she also found Justice Blackburne had improperly faulted the city for 48 days worth of delays out of a 226-day period, including lengthy stretches in which either the defense consented to an adjournment or the adjournment was granted to accommodate the defense.

The appellate panel overturned Justice Blackburne’s order and remanded the case back to her for trial. The judge, however, has been stripped of her normal trial duties pending an investigation of her conduct five months ago in allowing a criminal defendant in another case to exit the courthouse using her private chambers to avoid questioning by a Detective probing an unrelated incident. She is currently assigned to Civil Court pending the findings of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Queens DA Richard A. Brown said in a statement that the appeals court ruling “corrects what would have otherwise been a gross miscarriage of justice.”

Mr. Hodges is in jail, serving the final eight months of a one-year sentence for assaulting another officer. He bit the leg of a police officer.

Detective Gonzalez still walks with a limp as a result of the gunshot wound. In February, he won a $1 million civil judgment against Mr. Hodges after his accused assailant failed to appear for a bench trial.