New York Daily News

November 9, 2002

Enraged police rip judge

They chant 'cop killer' as shoot suspect freed

By MICHELE MCPHEE
DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

As dozens of off-duty police officers hissed "cop killer," an accused cop shooter walked out of a Queens courthouse a free man yesterday for the second time in less than a month.

About 40 off-duty cops packed the courtroom of Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne for a hearing on Blackburne's ruling to dismiss an indictment against suspect William Hodges on the grounds that Hodges had not been granted a speedy trial.

At least 50 more cops gathered outside.

Hodges, 31, is accused of grabbing Officer David Gonzalez's gun during a struggle in a Jamaica hallway in 1999 and shooting the rookie cop, leaving 15 pieces of shrapnel in his hip.

Blackburne initially ruled that Hodges be set free on Oct. 16, a move that angered cops and some police union officials, who charged that her decision was motivated by favoritism. Blackburne and Hodges' mother, Sandra Hodges, belong to the same Queens branch of the NAACP.

Framed, lawyer says

Asked later about the favoritism charges, Sandra Hodge said, "I have nothing to say."

Yesterday in court, Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Weiss argued Hodges' trial was delayed because the defendant filed numerous police brutality complaints against Gonzalez and other officers involved in the incident.

"The defendant has caused all of this," Weiss said. "Put the defendant back where he belongs."

Defense attorney Arthur Friedman suggested that cops planted a loaded .38-caliber handgun on William Hodges after his arrest, then put 10 vials of crack cocaine and $2,000 in Hodges' Jamaica apartment.

With Queens County Administrative Judge Steven Fisher looking on yesterday, Blackburne defended her ruling, saying, "This is not a discretionary call. It is the law." She said she will consider the prosecution's arguments and announce her decision Dec. 6.

Cops - including Gonzalez - attending the hearing were further angered that Blackburne's husband, Elmer Blackburne; her brother, Jeff Diggs; Sandra Hodges, and other members of the Hodges family were seated in the front row of the courtroom, which is usually reserved for police officers.

"This judge has shown extreme prejudice against police officers from the beginning, and her reserving the front row for the suspect's family and her family is outrageous," said Patrolman's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

After the hearing, William Hodges hustled out of the courtroom with his girlfriend and family as angry cops chanted, "Cop killer!" Lynch said members of his union would return for Blackburne's Dec. 6 ruling.