This week, Cully Stimson, deputy director of Heritage’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, explains why crime is up in New York City. Read his op-ed.
Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero. And this is Heritage Explains.
Cordero: Today's episode is based on a commentary by Cully Stimson and Zack Smith titled “Meet Alvin Bragg, Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Manhattan.”
Cordero: We all know Batman's backstory. A young Bruce Wayne watches in horror as muggers murder his parents. Lawlessness ran rampant in Gotham City, because police and prosecutors couldn't or wouldn't hold criminals accountable. Today's residents of the real life Gotham, New York City, face the same thing.
Police: [inaudible 00:00:55]
Speaker 2: The streets of New York City turned blue today as New York's finest turned out massive numbers to honor one of its brothers; 22 year old officer Jason Rivera, who was murdered in a Harlem ambush just one week ago. His partner, 27 year old Wilbert Mora, was also shot and he died three days later.
Speaker 3: It's quiet here at the West 96th and Broadway Subway Station, but it was a wild scene just a few hours ago. Police say at around 2:00 AM, a man in his forties slashed two women in their early twenties on board a northbound two train. Both women were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Police say they have a man in custody, but this is just the latest case of violence underground. In fact, just last night, there was an eerily similar case not too far from here.
Speaker 4: This was a senseless ... absolutely senseless act of violence.
Speaker 5: Reaction tonight to another violent incident underground. The timing was deadly, right as a southbound R train pulled into the station here in Times Square. Police say that's when a homeless man pushed a woman in front of the train to her death. The incident sent fear and shockwaves through the station.
Speaker 6: It feels scary. The only time I feel safe on the subway on train track is when I see the cops.
Cordero: According to the New York Post, nearly every category of serious crime in the city is on the rise so far this year, with police data showing an increase of 35.2% compared to the same time in 2021.
Cordero: Against this background, a new mayor, police commissioner, and district attorney have all taken office within the past several weeks. The mayor ran on tackling the crime problem, and he appointed a police commissioner who pledged to do the same. Yet Manhattan's new district attorney has implemented pro-criminal policies that undercut the mayor's and police commissioner's mandate. That DA is Alvin Bragg, and his policies are taken directly from the rogue prosecutor movement's playbook. Today, Heritage is Cully Stimson, a widely recognized expert in crime control and co-author of the commentary that inspired today's episode, will explain to us what a rogue prosecutor is, and how Alvin Bragg's policies are turning New York City into Gotham City.
Cordero: Our conversation after this short break.
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Cordero: Cully, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for your work on this.
Cully Stimson: Always a pleasure.
Cordero: Can you explain to us what a rogue prosecutor is?
Stimson: Sure. Our use of the word "rogue prosecutor," or what the Left calls progressive prosecutors, are people who are elected to the office of the district attorney, but who do not perform the duties of the elected district attorney by abusing their office, usurping the constitutional role of the legislative branch, ignoring huge swaths of law, and enact pro-criminal anti-victim policies. And for our definition, Michelle, there has to be a connection to the progressive prosecutor movement financially, directly, or indirectly.
Stimson: And that's our definition of rogue prosecutors.
Cordero: What are the goals of the rogue prosecutor movement? Why are they doing this?
Stimson: They're not shy about their goals. They write about them. They have their surrogates write law review articles about them, all of which we've chronicled in our legal memorandum and other papers. Twofold. One, they want to fundamentally reverse engineer the criminal justice system. That is their goal. They think the entire criminal justice system is systemically racist. And so they have to blow it up, and recreate it, and "reimagine" what it looks like, which is honestly a nightmare for most people who are suffering under the policies of these rogue prosecutors.
Cordero: Have there been consequences of this movement that we've seen?
Stimson: Sure. Yeah. Direct and dire consequences. First off, when the Left, or Jen Psaki, or the rest say that, "Oh, crime's rising all the way across the country." Well, that's just not true. Secondly, they say, "Oh, it's because of the pandemic and COVID." That's not true. This rogue prosecutor movement started in 2014. And in cities that have elected rogue prosecutors, crime has exploded to historic levels.
Stimson: And bear in mind it's because of independent, liberal, conservative, democratic, or republican law and order prosecutors like me ... like my co-author, Zack, like a lot of our friends, who have been working in the trenches for the last 30 years who created or worked in domestic violence courts. Drug courts, family justice centers, teen courts, peer courts, veterans courts ... that violent crime has been going down for last 25 years across the country. And incarceration has been going down across the country for the last 25 years, except for this recent spike in the rogue prosecutor city where crime has exploded. When you combine the toxic trio of defund the police, demoralize the police, and rogue prosecutor, you have a recipe for murder in mayhem, and that's what's happening.
Cordero: You and your colleague, Zack Smith, that you just mentioned, have a series of articles that you've been writing about rogue prosecutors. And this week you highlighted Manhattan's newly elected district attorney, Alvin Bragg. How do we know that Bragg is a rogue prosecutor?
Stimson: Well, he fits the definition that I gave at the top of the show. George Soros gave a million dollars to Color of Change Pac, which is one of these many Soros-inspired packs. And Color of Change Pac gave Alvin Bragg ... guess what? A million dollars. And the moment he was elected and sworn in, he issued a memo to all of his staff. And I can go through the memo, which we wrote about in our blog, because it's mind blowing. And all of his policies are pro-criminal and nothing is for victims' benefits. And so he is a model rogue prosecutor, and New Yorkers are going to be suffering and already are suffering because of his policies.
Cordero: You wrote about all of those things in that memo. And you wrote that Bragg announced the crimes that he won't be prosecuting, even though they remain criminal offenses in the state of New York. Can you go through what some of those crimes are? Just because it's crazy when I read this.
Stimson: Yeah. And by the way, he's just a copycat. He's way behind the curve here, because Rachel Rollins in Boston did the same thing. George Gascon in LA did the same thing. Chesa Boudin in San Francisco did the same thing. Marilyn Mosby just up the road here in Baltimore does the same thing. Larry Krasner in Philadelphia does the same thing.
Stimson: They're all rogues, and they all issue memos with crimes they will not enforce. Crimes you can get away with. Crimes you can commit in the city. Now, under Bragg's policy ... because remember, Michelle, he is the gatekeeper to the criminal justice system. It's not the cops. It's not the mayor. It's certainly not the governor. It's the DA. And so in New York, these are the crimes you can now commit, just in case you're interested, and you're going to New York for shopping or whatever, or see friends.
Stimson: You can possess marijuana, you can refuse to pay fair for any public transportation. You can trespass, just in case you're interested. You can refuse to pay any fine for an unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. You can commit any traffic infraction you want. Go to town. Have a good time. You can resist arrest. How's that for demoralizing police? You can obstruct government administrations. You can engage in prostitution. And most other misdemeanors are off the table. Honestly, that's not the worst compared to some of the other rogue prosecutors. And that's not the worst part of his policies, because he waters down felonies to misdemeanors. He doesn't allow people to be incarcerated after they've been arrested for serious crimes, which we can go into. And the list goes on and on. It's disaster.
Cordero: I wanted to talk to you about some of those things. By watering down felonies to misdemeanors, what do you mean by that? What are some of those felonies?
Stimson: Sure. I'm sure most of our listeners watch Law & Order, or cop shows. Well, in New York now under Alvin Bragg's policy memo, first degree robbery ... that's when you used armed force to take something from somebody else with the intent to deprive them permanently of it. Usually a gun, knife, whatever. It's going to be watered down to petty larceny. That means that if somebody walks up to you ... let's say I'm the criminal, and I walk up to you and I point a shotgun, a gun, a knife at you. And I say, "Give me your purse. Give me your car. Give me something." And you give it over, and I get caught later on.
Stimson: Instead of looking at a max of 25 years, it's a misdemeanor and subject to probation. So, first degree robbery down to petty larceny. Burglary. Burglary's when you break and enter a house or commercial dwelling for the purpose of taking something or committing a felony therein. Commercial burglary and residential burglary are watered down to mere misdemeanors. So, drug dealers, if you're dealing drugs and you're caught ... as long as you're a so-called "low level agent," which is not defined in the penal code, so he can make it up. Then you're just convicted of simple possession if you're even convicted, and that's a probation eligible offense. Instead of looking at a class D felony, a serious time in jail as a distributor, you're going to get a slap on the wrist and walk out the door.
Stimson: And so guess what? When you don't prosecute crimes, you get more of those crimes. Try a thought experiment. You're a parent. There are a lot of parents who are listening. And you say to your kids, "Hey, guys. This week, no rules in the house. Have a good time." What's going to happen? They're going to eat sugar, and as much cereal as they want. They're going to watch TV all night, and they're going to be on social media the whole time. They're not going to take the trash out. They're not going to do the laundry. They're not going to do any of their homework. It's going to be-
Stimson: ... a kid's paradise and a parent's nightmare. Well, take that to a city where they say, "You know what? You can commit these crimes." The rogue prosecutor movement says that data and science backs up their approach. Here's the little sleight of hand on the data. The DA says, "I'm not going to prosecute these 15, these 20, these 50 crimes." The police are demoralized by that, so they stop arresting people for those crimes. The crime statistics go down. And the rogue prosecutors say, "See? Fewer arrests for that. There's your data." But the dead bodies pile up, and that's the problem.
Stimson: For example, up the road in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner ... George Soros backed, bought, and paid for a prosecutor. Last year, 550 murders. Same size city across the country, San Diego. A normal, independent ... I think she's a democrat. Law and order prosecutor, Summer Stephan. 50 murders. 10 times more dead bodies in Philadelphia as a direct result of a rogue prosecutor approach.
Cordero: So, the proponents of this ... do they just turn a blind eye to that data?
Stimson: They're having a hard time doing that now, because more and more mainstream media are starting to cover it. And local media is definitely covering it. It's the Achilles' heel of this movement. Rapes exploded in San Francisco when George Gascon was the DA there before he was handpicked to run for DA in LA. The same in Baltimore. Armed carjackings, armed robberies. This is their Achilles heel. And ultimately, the voters in those cities are going to have to decide whether they want to live under that kind of chaos, or whether they want to have law and order established.
Stimson: By the way, a lot of these cities haven't taken the proven track record efforts to reduce crime the way other cities have. There's not a lot of drug courts. There's not a lot of domestic violence courts. There's not a lot of teen or peer courts. There's very few family justice centers. In the cities that have them like San Diego and other places ... I used to be a prosecutor in San Diego, as you know. Crime has remained steady or gone down every year, because these alternatives to incarceration work. We believe, as conservatives, that every person is capable of being rehabilitated. And we believe in the human spirit.
Stimson: And we believe in the First Step Act. We stood behind the First Step Act here at Heritage. We believe in reforming the criminal justice system, because it's capable of always being reformed and bettered. They don't. They dress up their movement with happy language like a "reimagined" prosecution, and decarceration, and things like that. They're just pro-criminal and they're anti-victim.
Cordero: Right. Right. Well, going back to Alvin Bragg a little bit. How do New Yorkers feel about his policies?
Stimson: Well, the newly elected police commissioner, black female, the newly elected mayor, black guy, former cop ... they are outraged. They are against what he's doing. They have called him publicly. The police are demoralized and very much against what he's doing. And prosecutors in his office, long-term career prosecutors, are leaving by the droves. And by the way, these rogue prosecutors count on that. They want the traditional, independent career prosecutors in offices to leave-
Cordero: Yeah, they want out.
Stimson: ... so they can bring in Stooges who will carry out their dictates. The funny little twist on that is in California in the San Francisco DA's office, those prosecutors were not civil service protected. When George Gascon moves as the DA from San Francisco to be elected as the DA in Los Angeles ... with a lot of source money, by the way. He thought he could just willy-nilly fire all his deputy DAs. By the way, it's a thousand person DA office. They're all civil service protected. So, there were very few political appointees.
Stimson: And so the DA's association in that office has sued their own boss in state court to force him to retract his policies, because they believe it's a violation of their oath and their ethics under the state bar rules. When Larry Krasner, on the other hand, was elected to the DA's office in Philadelphia, they're not civil service protected people. He fired 35 top homicide, hardcore gang prosecutors day one. And he wasn't even man enough to do himself. He had his deputy do it. Right over here in Loudoun County there's a rogue prosecutor. Half of that office has left, because they are not going to violate their honor by refusing to enforce the law as this female prosecutor.
Cordero: That's my county.
Stimson: Yeah. And it's sad. And she's just going to hire Stooges to come in and carry out her ill designs.
Cordero: All right. In conclusion, what can we do about this? Other than your amazing work on this so far?
Stimson: Well, it's a team effort, and we have to shed light and heat onto this movement, and tell the stories of the victims, and show the carnage that these policies result in. We're all for reforming the criminal justice system. By the way, it has been reforming itself and continues to reform itself just like any good organization or system within government.
Stimson: But the people in these inner cities who are engaging in these recall efforts, Michelle, and their recall efforts in LA, in San Francisco ... there was one in Philadelphia. Of course, Marilyn Mosby up the road is under federal indictment, so that may take care of itself if she's convicted, are being led by minority black and brown inner city residents ... clearly probably not conservatives, but I don't care. But they're the ones negatively impacted.
Stimson: And so I think people are waking up to this fact, and we just have to push back, and speak truth to power, and point out how dangerous this is. Because it is a, from a constitutional standpoint, a separation of powers problem. They're pretending they're super legislators as the DA, when in fact they're in the executive branch, and their job is to enforce the laws written. If they want to change the laws, run for office. Become a legislator. Otherwise, do your job, protect the citizens, convict the guilty ... which is what the ABA says the role of the prosecutor is, and protect victims. And until they start doing that, we're going to be on them. We're going to be all over them.
Cordero: Cully, thank you so much for joining us and all your work on this issue.
Stimson: Thanks for having me.
Cordero: And that's it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening. I'm going to link to Cully's article in the show notes. Please show us some love on social media, and we'll see you next week.