Wilmington Star-News

August 5, 2006

St. Albans Man Sentenced To Year In Jail For Biting Officer

by Keach Hagey, Eastern/Southeast Queens Editor

The St. Albans man accused of shooting a police officer and released on a technicality by Supreme Court Judge Laura Blackburne, was sentenced last week to a year in jail for biting another officer in the leg.

William Hodges, 32, was sentenced in Queens Criminal Court by Judge Arthur Cooperman for chomping Officer Benedict Vitale while resisting arrest last July outside Jamaica Hospital’s emergency room.

He got a year for assault, a year for resisting arrest and 15 days for harassment but will serve the sentences concurrently.

According to his lawyer, Warren Silverman, Hodges had drawn cops when he argued with a family member while waiting for his child to be treated for an asthma attack. He had been in an accident earlier, which triggered the child’s asthma, and he later became intoxicated, Silverman said.

According to District Attorney Richard Brown, Hodges shouted threats at Police Officers Vitale and Mohammed Khan, whom he also shoved. Then, as Vitale and the other officers sought to place Hodges in custody, he began punching and kicking and bit Officer Vitale’s right leg, causing him to sustain a puncture wound, swelling and substantial pain.

“The defendant was convicted by a jury of intentionally causing physical injury to a uniformed New York City Police Officer who was lawfully performing his duty after shouting threats and then resisting arrest,” Brown said. “The jail term imposed punishes the defendant for his violent and dangerous conduct.”

In 2002, Judge Blackburne 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. 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 meeting, although they denied knowing each other.

The 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.