Newsday
November 17, 2004

JUDGE'S RULING REVERSED

Charges reinstated in shooting of cop

BY HERBERT LOWE STAFF WRITER

A state appeals panel unanimously has ordered the reinstatement of attempted murder charges against a Queens man that embattled State Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne dismissed three years ago.

In a ruling dated Monday but announced yesterday, a four-judge Appellate Division panel ruled that Blackburne was wrong when she ruled that Queens prosecutors had denied the defendant's right to a speedy trial.

On Oct. 16, 2002, Blackburne dismissed charges alleging William Hodges of St. Albans had shot police Officer David Gonzalez on Nov. 12, 1999, with the officer's gun after he responded to a domestic disturbance call in Jamaica.

The judge ruled that prosecutors had used 208 days of adjournments, well above the legal requirement of bringing a defendant to trial within 182 days. But the appeals panel said she "erroneously calculated the time," with one member arguing it was only 178 days.

Blackburne's decision to set Hodges free outraged the Queens district attorney's office and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. Union officials said she had a personal interest in the case because she and Hodges' mother are members of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP.

"We are gratified by the judges' recognition of the serious miscarriage of justice that almost occurred in this case," PBA president Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "The PBA has been working with David Gonzalez for more than two years now to see that justice was done. And we won't rest until this would-be cop-killer gets all that he deserves."

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement that the appellate decision "confirms that which we have said from the outset - that the trial court made two serious mistakes in judgment by dismissing the charges based upon flawed speedy trial computations and ... releasing an allegedly dangerous defendant from custody."

A spokesman for Brown said the reinstated case against Hodges, 32, would proceed as soon as it is reassigned to a new judge.

In June, Blackburne was reassigned from criminal to civil court pending a state judicial conduct investigation related to her telling a court officer to lead a robbery suspect out a rear entrance to avoid arrest by a detective outside her courtroom.

That suspect has since been cleared of the robbery charges.

Hodges is serving a 12-month jail term after being convicted in June of unrelated crimes, including assaulting another police officer.