Progressive Manhattan DA Bragg was clear during campaign about refusal to prosecute most crimes

 April 23, 2023

Following his shocking criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump, Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has faced renewed scrutiny for his otherwise soft-on-crime policies as a leftist progressive prosecutor, and there is plenty of evidence in that regard that was known before he was even first elected.

During his campaign for office in 2021, Bragg vowed to focus on things like racial inequity and disparities and to not prosecute certain "crimes of poverty" like theft, Fox News reported.

He also promised to take a more hostile and oppositional stance toward the police department and deliberately distance the DA's office from the NYPD.

Racial equity and "crimes of poverty"

In a May 2021 forum, with regard to his vow to focus on racial equity and not prosecute crimes like theft and instead make use of diversion programs, Bragg said, "I grew up with friends disappearing over charges like (theft) and even if there is an alternative consequence of disruption for the family. We need to ask, 'Does something make us safer?' And prosecuting a young person, even if it doesn't end in incarceration, in my view does not make us safer."

He added, "I think we need to move away from what I would call a crime of poverty."

During that meeting Bragg also said, "In Manhattan, every single step in the way a case is processed from what someone is charged with, to the plea they are offered, to the sentence they are given, is rife with racial disparities."

As for working cooperatively with the police, the then-candidate suggested that would change as, in his view, "For too long the DA's office has been an adjunct of the NYPD, reflexively processing what they do."

Bragg's campaign website promises

Fox News noted that in a now-scrubbed campaign website, Bragg had said that it was "morally indefensible" to prosecute crimes that disproportionately incarcerated black minorities. He asserted at that time, "These cases do not belong in criminal court. The punishments are disproportionately harsh, and fall disproportionately on the backs of people of color. This makes them morally indefensible."

"This is why I will not prosecute most petty offenses through the traditional criminal court system," he added. "I will either dismiss these charges outright or offer the accused person the opportunity to complete a program without ever setting foot in a courtroom."

The prior contents of that website were also referenced in a February 2021 article by New York's Gothamist about which crimes would not be prosecuted by the field of mostly progressive candidates to be the next Manhattan district attorney, and the outlet noted that Bragg's website listed offenses like "trespassing, larceny under $250, minor driving offenses, disorderly conduct, drug possession, and prostitution."

Candidate forum and "Day One" memo

Bloomberg News reported in March 2021 on a candidate forum in which Bragg vowed to not prosecute crimes like turnstile jumping or gang conspiracy against juveniles but would go after domestic violence and police misconduct. "I will work to reshape and repurpose the D.A.’s office to end racial disparities," he said and added that he would "refuse to criminalize poverty."

In October 2021, just prior to the election, the Associated Press reported that presumptive victor Bragg had said that he wanted to completely eliminate the cash bail system and rejected the notion that released offenders were responsible for the surge in crime, and also asserted that there was a two-tiered justice system that disproportionately punished poor people.

Finally, in January 2022, just after he was sworn into office, the New York Post reported on a "Day One" memo he sent to everyone in the Manhattan DA's office that essentially ordered his prosecutors to stop seeking incarceration for most crimes and limited sentences for crimes that required imprisonment, as well as to downgrade most felonies to misdemeanors, including some violent crimes like armed robbery.

"ADAs should use their judgment and experience to evaluate the person arrested, and identify people: who suffer from mental illness; who are unhoused; who commit crimes of poverty; or who suffer from substance use disorders," Bragg wrote in the memo. "Charges should be brought consistent with the goal of providing services to such individuals, and leverage during plea negotiations should not be a factor in this decision."

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