2002-12-11 / Political Page

Judge Throws Out Case Of Accused Cop Shooter

By John Toscano

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, is a gentlemanly, soft-spoken prosecutor who doesn’t often become involved in controversial cases or do battle in the press. But he wasted no time in announcing an appeal would be made by his office in a case in which a Queens judge dismissed a charge of attempted murder of a police office because the judge felt the defendant did not receive a speedy trial.

The decision riled the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and Officer David Gonzalez who nearly became a homicide statistic. Gonzalez has always maintained that the defendant, William Hodges, 31, had shot him. PBA President Patrick Lynch demanded the resignation of Queens Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne.

At issue is Blackburne’s ruling that the prosecution was required to bring Hodges to trial within six months of his being arrested in 1999. But Brown’s office maintained that Hodges’ attorneys caused the long delay.

Following the dismissal last Friday, Brown issued a statement averring that the judge made serious errors in ruling that the prosecutor exceeded the time limit.

Brown said in the statement, "The court has made two serious mistakes of judgement in this case. It has dismissed the indictment on the basis of flawed speedy-trial computation, and it has compounded its error by releasing the defendant, who is charged with the attempted murder of a police officer."

Brown’s press spokesman announced that the District Attorney will immediately appeal the ruling.

MAYOR BERATED, BOOSTED: Polls are showing that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s popularity has plummeted following the 18.5 percent real estate tax increase, a development to be expected, but no resentment was evident from the favorable reception he received in a Queens church last Sunday, including his first endorsement for re-election in 2005.

The mayor was visiting the Allen A.M.E. Church in Jamaica, where former Congressmember Floyd Flake is the pastor. Some 400 congregants greeted the mayor with warm applause, despite his mention of the huge property tax hike.

As the mayor stated "We are in a difficult time; raising taxes is necessary," Flake interrupted from the audience with a word of support. The mayor then noted jokingly that Flake hadn’t endorsed him during his successful mayoral campaign. Flake said he would do just that next time.

"If the press is here, please get that down," the mayor responded with a smile. "This is my first endorsement for re-election."

Flake, a Democrat, served the southeast Queens area in Congress for about 10 years before resigning about six years ago. Bloomberg is a Democrat turned Republican.

‘WHISTLEBLOWER’ BILL PASSES COMMITTEE: A strengthened whistleblower bill sponsored by City Councilmember Helen Sears (D–Jackson Heights) passed the Committee on Standards and Ethics, which she chairs, by nine unanimous votes last week. It now goes to the full council for consideration and is expected to be approved there.

The bill would provide protection for whistleblowers who expose gross mismanagement and waste of public funds, Sears said in a statement. The current law, she noted, provides protection only for whistleblowers in city government who expose criminal acts, corruption and conflicts of interest.

Sears described her bill as "an excellent opportunity to bring a level of accountability never before seen in New York City municipal government," and said that extending greater protection to whistleblowers was a necessary step.

"Whistleblowers serve an important role for our city and for taxpayers, often at great personal risk to themselves," Sears declared. "We need to support these courageous individuals and maintain the integrity of our government and the trust of our citizenry. Passing greater protection for whistleblowers goes a long way toward achieving these objectives."

OPPOSE BRIDGE TOLLS: Not much has been heard of Mayor Bloomberg’s idea to impose East River bridge tolls to raise revenue for the deficit-ridden city, but two Queens lawmakers, John Liu (D-Flushing) and Eric Gioia (D-Woodside) recently went on record against the proposal.

Liu, chairman of the council Transportation Committee, stated, "people don’t want them all over Brooklyn and Queens and I’m dead set against it. Tolling these bridges would have a disproportionate impact on low-income people."

In a similar vein, Gioia said thousands of low-income workers drive over the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queensborough Bridges every day who wouldn’t cope well with the toll fee, whatever it might be.

RAPPING SAUDI OFFICIAL: New York lawmakers assailed a Saudi official last week for his assertion that Zionists were responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. They also scolded the George W. Bush Presidential Administration for its gentle treatment of the oil-rich Middle Eastern country, 15 of whose citizens were among the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks.

United States Senator Charles Schumer (D) called on the administration to stop being tough on other states while letting the Saudis off the hook. U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) called the blame-the-Jews charge "absolutely outrageous," and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said it was "the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard." Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/ Brooklyn) has also had sharp criticism for the Bush Administration and its soft treatment of the Saudis.

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