June 17, 2004

Different judge, new result

By Herbert Lowe Staff Writer

The Queens man whose attempted murder case Justice Laura Blackburne dismissed in 2002 was found guilty yesterday of three misdemeanor charges stemming from him biting a police officer 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 7 years in prison, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

"I think they [jurors] did the same thing the judge did, which was their job," said Hodges, 32, of Jamaica, who was convicted of third-degree assault, resisting arrest and second-degree harassment.

Hodges said his comment was in reference to Blackburne's actions in his case rather than an incident last week in which the judge allowed a convicted drug dealer and robbery suspect appearing before her to update her on his drug treatment to initially dodge arrest by leaving her courtroom via her elevator.

Justice Arthur Cooperman will sentence Hodges to up to a year in prison on July 30 for an altercation with police outside Jamaica Hospital Medical Center on July 26, 2003.

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 and Blackburne.

The media 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. Prosecutors are appealing that decision.

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.

"I'm very happy that they did not convict him of a felony," Silverman said.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch disagreed.

"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," Lynch said in a statement.