New York Daily News

February 4, 2004

Daily News Exclusive

Suspect gnaws at cops

Say he's police shooter, biter

By MICHELE McPHEE
DAILY NEWS POLICE BUREAU CHIEF

William Hodges
William Hodges

A suspected cop shooter set free on a technicality allegedly has assaulted another police officer just months after his release, the Daily News has learned.

William Hodges, 32, will be arraigned Thursday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of biting 102nd Precinct cop Benedict Vitale during a melee in the emergency room at Jamaica Hospital last July.

"I'll kick your f-----g ass," Hodges yelled as he shoved Vitale before kicking and biting the cop's left thigh, according to a criminal complaint filed by Queens prosecutors.

Prosecutors said they conducted an exhaustive investigation before drafting an indictment this week. Hodges was an alleged drug dealer when he shot David Gonzalez - then a rookie cop - during a struggle in a Jamaica, Queens, hallway in 1999.

But Hodges walked out of court a free man on Dec. 6, 2002, as Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne dismissed the case, ruling he had not been granted his right to a speedy trial.

The ruling was appealed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The case is pending.

Blackburne's decision came weeks after The News reported that the judge and the suspect's mother, Sandra Hodges, belonged to the same chapter of the NAACP. The women denied knowing each another.

Hodges' latest troubles began when he was arrested with his mother last July 26. They began fighting with cops in the emergency room because they felt they waited too long for medical care, prosecutors said. Sandra Hodges later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Two weeks ago, William Hodges was arrested again on drunken- driving charges in Queens.

"He's proven that he is not a changed person. Unless someone holds him accountable, I'm afraid he might kill the next guy," Gonzalez said yesterday.

"He shot me, left me permanently scarred. Now he's been arrested twice in the last year," he said. "What does that tell you?"

Blackburne's law clerk hung up twice yesterday when asked for comment on the case. "The judge felt it was the correct legal decision to release him, and not to violate his rights to prevent any future criminal activity," Office of Court Administration spokesman David Bookstaver said.

Before Hodges' arraignment, a Patrolmen's Benevolent Association lawyer will serve him with a $1 million judgment based on a civil court decision that found him responsible for shooting Gonzalez.

PBA attorney Gregory Longworth said even if Hodges never goes to prison for shooting Gonzalez, he will pay.

"If you shoot a New York City cop, there will be far-reaching ramifications," Longworth said. "Hodges is clearly a menace and will be reminded of that every time he hands over a portion of his pay to Detective Gonzalez."