New York Daily News

February 6, 2004

Police bitter over biter

By GREG GITTRICH
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

A suspected cop shooter released on a technicality walked out of court a free man again yesterday after his arraignment for allegedly biting another officer.

Queens Criminal Court Judge James Griffin's decision not to raise William Hodges' $10,000 bail infuriated cops who thronged the court session.

"It's disgusting," said Officer Benedict Vitale, whom Hodges allegedly bit during a melee in the emergency room of Jamaica Hospital, Queens, last July. "I'm sure he will hurt someone else."

Vitale sat in the front row of the courtroom yesterday as Hodges, 32, pleaded not guilty to assault and other charges.

Behind him, 25 off-duty cops sat shoulder to shoulder in a wall of solidarity. Among them was Detective David Gonzalez, whom Hodges allegedly shot in 1999 during a drug bust in Jamaica, Queens.

In December 2002, Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne dismissed that case, saying Hodges had been denied his right to a speedy trial. The case was appealed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and is pending. Weeks before his release, the Daily News reported that Blackburne and Hodges' mother were in the same Jamaica branch of the NAACP.

"It's frustrating to know that you go out and put your life on the line and a bullet comes a half inch away from killing you, and you keep seeing the guy walk down the courthouse steps," Gonzalez said.

Prosecutor Jin Kim argued Hodges' bail should be increased to at least $100,000. Kim noted that just two weeks ago, Hodges was arrested on drunken-driving charges.

Earlier in the morning, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association served Hodges with a $1 million judgment based on a civil court decision that found him liable for shooting Gonzalez.

But the judgment and Hodges' newest bust were not enough to convince the court that he would flee before his March 2 court appearance. Griffin concluded there was no "legal basis" to raise the bail.