New Manhattan district attorney clarifies policies that led to criticism

MANHATTAN (WABC) — A month into his tenure, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Friday sought to clarify some of his prosecutorial policies that fueled criticism he is soft on crime.

Bragg’s “Day One” memorandum said the district attorney’s office would not prosecute fare beating, resisting arrest and other nonviolent crimes. It also said prosecutors should treat armed robbery in commercial settings as misdemeanor petty larceny if there is no genuine risk of physical harm.

The memo prompted a scathing review from Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell who feared Bragg’s policies “will invite violence against police officers and will have deleterious effects on our relationship with the communities we protect.”

Bragg conceded the memo that outlined his approach “has been a source of confusion, rather than clarity,” according to a letter to staff sent Friday and obtained by ABC News.

“Violence against police officers will not be tolerated. We will prosecute any person who harms or attempts to harm a police officer,” Bragg’s letter said.

Bragg backtracked on how the office will prosecute commercial robbery.

“A commercial robbery with a gun will be charged as a felony, whether or not the gun is operable, loaded, or a realistic imitation. A commercial robbery at knifepoint, or by other weapon that creates a risk of physical harm, will be charged as a felony,” the letter said. “In retail thefts that do not involve a risk of physical harm, the Office will continue to assess the charges based on all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented.”

Bragg also sought to reassure assistant district attorneys they retained discretion in the way they handle cases after his initial memo required them to “obtain the approval” of a supervisor to deviate from his policies.

“You were hired for your keen judgment, and I want you to use that judgment – and experience – in every case,” Bragg said.

The NYPD released the following statement:

“We are aware of the clarification and look forward to working together to ensure safety in our city.”

The PBA also released a statement Friday:

“We hope this updated memo filters down to the streets the way the first one did, because gun-toting criminals definitely believe they have a safe haven in Manhattan. DA Bragg needs to keep sending the message that they won’t get a pass, and his staff needs to back that message up in the courtroom.”

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