Channel 11: WCBS News

December 6, 2002

Judge Upholds Cop Shooting Dismissal

By William Murphy
Staff Writer

  View of a news conference organized by the PBA on the steps of state Supreme Court in Queens to criticize a judge's decision to drop charges against a man accused of shooting a police officer.
(Newday Photo/Alan Raia)

A Queens judge refused Friday to change her decision to dismiss charges against a man accused of shooting a police officer.

The Queens district attorney’s office did not meet its legal obligation to conduct a speedy trial of the man, Justice Laura Blackburne said in a decision she read from the bench in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.

A spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said an appeal has already been filed on the decision, which reaffirmed a ruling the judge had made Nov. 8th.

The judge said prosecutors had used 208 days worth of adjournments in the case, well above the legal requirment that they proceed to trial within 182 days.

Nonetheless, she painted a picture of a case that had dragged through the judicial system since William Hodges, 31, was accused of shooting Officer David Gonzelez on Nov. 12, 1999 with the officer’s gun after he responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.

The case had been handled by 7 different judges, 5 different assistant district attorneys and included civil litigation over the criminal proceeding, she said.

Blackburne was criticized by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for not considering that the victim was a police officer, and they pointed out she and the suspect’s mother were both members of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP.

The judge did not address that issue from the bench, but looking toward reporters sitting in the jury box, said: “Today, I would hope, you would be pleased the law will be followed in this instance.”

She said that the law does not allow her to take into consideration the status of the victim, in this case a police officer.

She pointedly said that, “not me, but the law says,” that speedy trail rules must be obeyed.

Defense attorney Arthur Freidman — standing amid a group of protesting, off-duty police officers outside the courtroom — said that anyone who objected to the ruling should urge the state legislature to change the law.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said at a press conference outside the courthouse that Blackburne should resign from the bench.

“She has a prejudice against blue,” Lynch said. “Justice should be blind. Obviously, it was not today.”