New York Daily News

December 7, 2002

Shooting suspect walks

By MICHELE McPHEE
DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

An alleged drug dealer accused of shooting a rookie cop in Queens three years ago walked out of court a free man yesterday after a judge refused the prosecution's request to reinstate attempted murder charges.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne stuck to her position that William Hodges, 31, had not been granted a speedy trial - angering dozens of police officers who filled the courtroom.

The shot cop, David Gonzalez, left the courtroom with tears in his eyes, walking with a slight limp from the bullet that pierced his right hip.

"This guy tried to kill me. It's hard on me," said Gonzalez, who was promoted to detective last week. "He tried to kill me and now he's walking the streets. I hope he doesn't kill anybody."

After issuing her ruling, Blackburne ordered that everyone in the courtroom remain seated until Hodges and his family could be escorted out of the building.

"Sometimes these processes cut one way and please some; sometimes they cut another way and please others," she said. "I have no choice but to dismiss this case."

The Daily News reported last month that Blackburne and the suspect's mother, Sandra Hodges, were friends and belonged to the same Jamaica, Queens, chapter of the NAACP. That was confirmed by one of the group's leaders.

Friendship denied

Hodges and Blackburne have since denied knowing each other, and NAACP leaders have said Sandra Hodges never belonged to the Jamaica branch.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch blasted the decision and demanded Blackburne's resignation.

"A person who is a drug dealer by trade walked out a freed man," he said. "It makes every police officer doubt why they go out and do the job they do."

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the judge made serious mistakes when she ruled that prosecutors exceeded the legal limit on when a defendant can be brought to trial by 22 days and vowed to appeal her decision.

"The court ... has made two serious mistakes of judgment in this case. It has dismissed the indictment on the basis of flawed speedy-trial computation, and it has compounded its error by releasing the defendant who is charged with the attempted murder of a police officer," Brown said in a statement.

Hodges was arrested Nov. 12, 1999, after he allegedly grabbed Gonzalez's gun out of its holster during a struggle in a hallway of a Jamaica building. Hodges was accused of carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver in his pants, and he allegedly made a living as a small-time crack dealer at the time of the shooting.

Days after the shooting, the Jamaica branch of the NAACP filed complaints against Gonzalez and other cops involved in the arrest, citing police brutality. Those charges were investigated and dismissed.

"I had to defend myself countless times against charges of brutality, but the guy who shot me will never have to defend himself," Gonzalez said.