December 7, 2002

Judge Upholds Cop Shooting Dismissal

  PBA News Conference (Newday Photo/Alan Raia)

A Queens man won’t have to stand trial on charges he shot a police officer, after a judge ruled Friday that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial.

The decision from Queens State Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne clearing William Hodges enraged police officers, who accused her ignoring the fact the victim was a police officer.

“She has a prejudice against blue,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said at a news conference after the hearing. “Justice should be blind. Obviously, it was not today.”

The PBA also said the judge and Hodges mother are both members of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP.

The decision reaffirmed a ruling the judge had made earlier this year.

William Hodges (Newday Photo/Alan Raia)  

But the judge said her decision was about nothing more than following the law.

She said prosecutors had used 208 days worth of adjournments in the case, well above the legal requirment that they proceed to trial within 182 days.

She painted a picture of a case that had dragged through the judicial system since Hodges, 31, of Jamaica, was accused of shooting Officer David Gonzelez on Nov. 12, 1999 with the officer’s gun after he responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.

The case had been handled by seven different judges, a judicial hearing officer, five different assistant district attorneys, three defense attorneys, and included civil litigation over the criminal proceeding, she said.

The judicial hearing officer conducted a hearing on a defense motion to suppress evidence in proceedings that took place on 16 days over an eight-month period spanning 2000 and 2001, she said.

She said that the law does not allow her to take into consideration the status of the victim, in this case a police officer. She pointedly said that, “not me, but the law says,” that speedy trail rules must be obeyed.

“This court is cognizant that unless set forth by statue or purusant to case law, neither the seriousness of the crimes charged nor the occupation of the victim are grounds upon which the constitutional or statutory rights of the defendant to a speedy trial are waived,” she said.

A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said an appeal has already been filed on the decision, which reaffirmed a ruling the judge had made earlier this year.

Defense attorney Arthur Freidman — standing amid a group of protesting, off-duty police officers outside the courtroom — said that anyone who objected to the ruling should urge the state legislature to change the law.

Lynch said Blackburne should resign from the bench. Officer Gonzalez, standing next to Lynch, said Hodges had tried to kill him, and might try to kill others in the future.

“I wanted to be able to tell my side of the story before a jury,” Gonzalez said.