New York Post
November 9, 2002

JUNK JUDGE GIVEN HELL ON COP-SHOOTING

By JOE McGURK and ANDY GELLER

  
 
 
OUTRAGE:
Justice Laura Blackburne (top) tossed an attempted murder rap against accused cop-shooter William Hodges (bottom). That prompted a swarm of cops - including wounded Officer David Gonzalez (middle) - to protest at court.
- NYP: D. Alcorn
(middle and bottom)
 

Prosecutors and angry cops demanded yesterday that a controversial Queens judge restore attempted murder charges against a man accused of shooting a police officer.

State Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne - who quit as the city's housing chief in 1992 after coming under fire for buying a $3,100 pink leather couch for her office - said she would issue a ruling on Dec. 6.

Blackburne, 63, triggered a firestorm of outrage on Oct. 16, when she dismissed attempted murder counts against William Hodges, 31, who was accused of shooting police officer David Gonzalez with his own gun on Nov. 12, 1999.

The judge ruled that Hodges, who had been held on $500,000 bail since the shooting, had been denied his right to a speedy trial.

She released Hodges on his own recognizance, but stayed the dismissal of the charges to give the Queens district attorney time to reargue the case.

At a Kew Gardens hearing packed with dozens of cops yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Michell Weiss insisted prosecutors had not violated a law requiring that a trial begin six months after criminal charges are lodged.

"We believe that the court erred in dismissing the indictment and it was unjustified in releasing Hodges," DA Richard Brown said in a statement, adding that if the judge disagrees, he will appeal to higher and higher courts.

Hodges' lawyer, Arthur Friedman, said the prosecution's claim it hasn't used up its six months is "illogical and absurd."

Cops "have a right to be angry and frustrated, but it should be addressed where it belongs - the state Legislature," he said.

As Hodges left the courthouse, he was greeted with chants of "Cop killer! Cop killer!" from dozens of angry police officers.

"We're disappointed to the point of outrage," exclaimed Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. "The judge has released a future cop killer back onto the streets. She is doing everything possible to allow this murderer on the streets."

The PBA and Gonzalez - who was shot in the hip while investigating a domestic dispute - claim that Blackburne freed Hodges because she and his mother both belong to the NAACP's Southeast Queens chapter.

But David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, said the judge "has no knowledge of ever meeting or knowing Mrs. Hodges."

Blackburne resigned under pressure as head of the city's Housing Authority chief after mounting criticism of her spending practices. She shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for trips - including one to South Africa - and office furniture, including the pink leather sofa.