New York Post
June 17, 2004

BITER BEATS RAP

By ERIC LENKOWITZ

Justice Laura Blackburne     
Willam Hodges
Photo by: Luis Ribeiro
 

A man who savagely bit a police officer in the leg walked free yesterday — and tipped his hat to Judge Laura Blackburne.

The embattled jurist had previously cleared William Hodges on a technicality in the attempted murder of another cop in 2002.

"I think [the jury in the cop-biting case] did the same thing the judge did, which was their job — they spared me," Hodges said after jurors convicted him of misdemeanor assault yesterday, but cleared him of felony assault, for sinking his teeth into cop's leg in July 2003.

Hodges, who remains free on bail, faces up to a year in jail for third-degree assault when Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman sentences him July 30 — but he also could get as little as probation.

The latest verdict angered the police union, which has been calling for Blackburne to step down from the bench.

"Had Judge Blackburne not released this dangerous felon onto the streets two years ago, we would have been spared the burden of arresting him for . . . assaulting a police officer because he would have been in jail," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Hodges' assault case stems from a July 26 scuffle with a cop outside Jamaica Hospital, where his son was being treated after a car accident. The cop called for backup and Hodges was arrested after biting a police officer in the leg.

Hodges' weeklong trial was half-over last Thursday when Blackburne made headlines for ordering a court officer to escort an assault suspect through a back door of her courtroom to avoid arrest.

Hodges was at the center of Blackburne's last fiasco, when she set him free on attempted-murder charges in December 2002 because she believed he did not receive a speedy trial.

District Attorney Richard Brown is appealing Blackburne's ruling.

Hodges had been arrested for shooting rookie cop David Gonzalez in the leg with the cop's gun during a drug bust in Jamaica.

It was later revealed Hodges' mother and Blackburne attended the same NAACP chapter, although they denied knowing each other.

When asked his opinion on Blackburne's current situation, Hodges said, "I have no comments on that."

But Hodges and his lawyer, Warren Silverman, said the jury in the assault case must have been swayed to some extent by the extensive media coverage.

Silverman said that on Monday the jury forewoman mentioned that three of the jurors reported seeing or hearing accounts of Blackburne's escapades.

When asked by the judge, only one juror mentioned hearing a radio report.

"How could you avoid it?" Silverman said.