Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg yesterday kicked off his charm offensive with New York City business leaders who are up in arms over a memo from his office that suggested criminals in a borough that is epicenter of banking, real estate and the arts can commit a plethora of crimes without facing jail time, Fox Business has learned.
On Wednesday, Bragg met with about 30 officials who represent Manhattan Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs, which are formal organizations that represent large property owners and business-related tenants. The Zoom call featured complaints from BID officials about his office’s new progressive criminal justice reforms since taking the job in January. On Friday, Bragg is scheduled to meet with member of the Partnership for New York City, the Big Apple’s largest trade group, to discuss his controversial new policies.
In a memo that leaked earlier in the month, Bragg directed his staff not to “seek a carceral sentence” except for murders and other extremely violent cases. The memo added that Bragg’s new rule “may be excepted only in extraordinary circumstances based on a holistic analysis of the facts, criminal history, victim’s input (particularly in cases of violence or trauma), and any other information available.”
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The move sparked outrage from city business leaders who began seeking meetings with Bragg to clarify his policies. Other business leaders have called on New York Gov. Hochul to remove Bragg from office since the policy directive, as written, would be a get-out-of-jail free card for all but the most heinous of crimes.
In his meeting with BID officials, which lasted about an hour, Bragg was described as affable and was said to have admitted poor judgement in the way his policy was released. He also said he’s been taken out of context on many of the underlying issues.
He described himself as a tough prosecutor and cited his days working in the prestigious US Attorney’s office for the Southern District, and aid the memo was not a rigid set of guidelines and that prosecutors will use their own discretion in seeking jail time based on facts and circumstances.
But business leaders who attended said Bragg never addressed real specifics as to what cases his office would seek jail terms on other than to point out he is mandated according to law to prosecute certain cases such as felonies with a deadly weapon. He was said to have dissembled when people on the call asked about whether repeat shop lifters or people who commit assaults without a weapon would be prosecuted and face jail terms.
“In the end, he never really backed off his memo,” one participant said. “I guess the best thing he said was that he wants to keep hearing our concerns.
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A spokesman for Bragg had no immediate comment.
As the outrage over Bragg’s policies became public, he has hired an outside public relations staff and sought advice from his old boss, former southern District US Attorney Preet Bharara. A spokesman for Bharara had no immediate comment.
He has also begun to spin his policies in more public settings. Earlier Thursday, he told an audience at New York University that he “will prosecute crime and I will make our system of justice fairer. I understand why those who have read my first-day memo have been left with the wrong impression about how I will enforce New York’s laws. I take full responsibility for the confusion caused by my memo – it was unclear and left many New Yorkers justifiably concerned for how we will keep them safe.”
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He said the Manhattan DA’s office “will be prosecuting all robberies with a gun as a felony” and “use gun possession cases as an opportunity to trace the sources of illegal guns and build cases against gun traffickers.” He added that “violence against police officers will not be tolerated. If you push or hit an officer, or attempt to do so or seek to do harm in any other way, you will be prosecuted.”