Former NY Gov. Cuomo slams DA Bragg in op-ed for not prosecuting antisemitic protesters at Columbia University

 July 10, 2024

Last month, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revealed that he had decided to drop criminal charges against dozens of antisemitic protesters who illegally occupied a building at Columbia University during April's wave of anti-Israel, pro-Hamas protests and encampments on college and university campuses nationwide.

Bragg is now facing sharp criticism for that choice to not do his job as a prosecutor from a somewhat surprising source -- former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in an op-ed for Jewish media outlet Forward.

Cuomo, himself a former prosecutor, asked why those protesters are not being "brought to justice" and condemned the decision to drop criminal charges against them as a "disgrace."

Bragg has "done a disservice" to New Yorkers

The New York Post reported in June that DA Bragg's office announced that criminal charges had been dropped against 31 of the 46 leftist anti-Israel protesters arrested for illegally occupying and barricading themselves within Columbia University's Hamilton Hall in late April -- an occupation that was ended by a raid by dozens of NYPD officers.

The reason given for the dropped charges was a supposed "lack of evidence" of criminal wrongdoing, in that the occupying protesters had covered up or disabled surveillance cameras and wore masks to hide their identities.

According to former Gov. Cuomo, however, "By dismissing 31 of the 46 cases against protesters who briefly occupied Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall in April, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has done a disservice to the residents of New York City, who deserve a justice system that is willing to pursue cases even when they are difficult -- and, dare I say it, may not align with the ideology of the prosecutor."

Cuomo also wasn't buying the "excuse" offered up by the DA's office about the supposed difficulty in identifying the masked protesters, given that masks are "not a particularly sophisticated anti-detection device" -- as evidenced by the fact that masked criminals from the Old West to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot have previously been successfully identified and prosecuted.

Bragg not doing the job he was elected to do

In his op-ed, Cuomo wrote, "The primary job of a district attorney -- their obligation, imposed by the law -- is to prosecute violations of the law."

"Although a district attorney is permitted to exercise discretion -- meaning, they are allowed to employ their own judgment and wisdom in pursuing justice -- they are not authorized to pick and choose which laws they enforce. Their political interests cannot supersede the laws of the state," he continued.

The former governor pointed to a memo DA Bragg released when he first took office in January 2022 that announced a variety of crimes he would not prosecute, and suggested that while there was room for debate about not prosecuting subway fare jumpers or marijuana possession, "the targeting of Jewish New Yorkers after the brutality of Oct. 7 must be taken seriously."

Though Cuomo acknowledged that not every case would have resulted in a conviction, "the residents of this city deserved to have the cases prosecuted, because the failure to do so suggests that the justice system that represents them is far from impartial."

This is why people distrust the politicized justice system

By not prosecuting the openly antisemitic Columbia occupiers, Cuomo wrote, "Bragg’s office has sent the message at this time of increased antisemitic activity that those looking to instill fear in Jews by creating chaos and destruction can do so with reckless abandon. They have given the impression that certain crimes are not worthy of prosecuting and that certain groups are not worthy of protecting."

That is why, at least in part, a recent Siena College poll showed that majorities of New Yorkers in every demographic group believe that the U.S. justice system has been inappropriately "influenced by politics." The former governor said, "If our leaders give people a reason to mistrust our institutions, they will do just that. Is there any wonder that so many of our Jewish brothers and sisters are concerned? We all should be concerned. Equal justice under the law is not just some slogan. It is the cornerstone principle of the criminal justice system."

Cuomo suggested that his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, could intervene in the matter and appoint a special prosecutor to "investigate hate crimes and enforce these laws as written," which would alleviate Bragg of the "responsibility" of worrying about prosecuting these "difficult cases," and concluded, "It’s past time to hold those engaged in these egregious acts accountable."

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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