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Queens Chronicle

June 24, 2004

Jamaica Man Blackburne Let Go Found Guilty Of Biting Officer

by Keach Hagey, Eastern/Southeast Queens Editor

The Jamaica man whose attempted murder case was dismissed by Judge Laura Blackburne in 2002, was found guilty last week of three misdemeanor charges stemming from him biting a police officer in the leg last year.

William Hodges, his family and attorney were elated that a jury in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens found him not guilty of a felony assault charge, punishable by up to seven years in prison, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Hodges, 32, was convicted of third-degree assault, resisting arrest and second-degree harassment.

Judge Arthur Cooperman will sentence Hodges to as much as a year in prison—or as little as probation—on July 30th for an altercation with police on July 26, 2003 outside Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where Hodges’ son was being treated after a car accident.

Hodges, who remains free on $10,000 bail, and his attorney, Warren Silverman, had feared that the jury might convict on all charges because of recent media reports linking Hodges to Blackburne.

Hodges’ week-long trial was half-over last week when Blackburne made headlines for ordering a court officer to escort an assault suspect through a back door of her courtroom to avoid arrest.

The reports pointed out that Blackburne, in December 2002, dismissed charges accusing Hodges of shooting a detective who responded to a domestic disturbance call in 1999. Blackburne ruled that Hodges had been denied his right to a speedy trial.

In announcing her decision two years ago, Blackburne said that prosecutors used 208 days worth of adjournments in Hodges’ case, far above the 182 days allowed under law. She noted that the case had been handled by seven judges and five prosecutors, adding that she could not reconsider the case. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is appealing that decision.

Hodges had been arrested for shooting rookie cop David Gonzalez in the leg with the cop’s gun during a drug bust at Hodges’ apartment building at 114-05 170th Street Jamaica, where Gonzalez and his partner, Patrick Levy, responded to a call for a domestic disturbance.

It was later revealed that Hodges’ mother and Blackburne attended the same NAACP chapter, although they denied knowing each other.

In the biting trial before Cooperman, police officers testified that Hodges shoved one of them and bit Officer Benedict Vitale in the leg. Silverman sought to show that police had roughed up Hodges because they felt he had insulted one of them.

The latest verdict angered the police union, which has been calling for Blackburne to step down from the bench.

“Had Judge Blackburne not released this dangerous felon onto the streets two years ago, we would have been spared the burden of arresting him for … assaulting a police officer because he would have been in jail,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.

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