Meet Alvin Bragg, Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Manhattan

COMMENTARY Crime and Justice

Meet Alvin Bragg, Rogue Prosecutor Whose Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Manhattan

Jan 31st, 2022 14 min read

Commentary By

Charles “Cully” Stimson @cullystimson

Senior Legal Fellow and Deputy Director, Meese Center

Zack Smith @tzsmith

Legal Fellow and Manager, Meese Center for Legal Studies

Alvin Bragg as seen at a campaign rally in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City on Nov. 1, 2021. Michael Santiago / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Alvin Bragg has taken his policies directly from the rogue prosecutor movement’s required playbook. 

Their policies are pro-criminal and anti-victim. 

Bragg should know better than most that the job of the district attorney is to enforce the laws as written and exercise appropriate prosecutorial discretion.

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.

Like their fictional counterparts, today’s residents of the real-life Gotham, New York City, face a constant barrage of lawlessness. Stories of violent crime abound, with these heinous acts increasing exponentially.

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 new pro-criminal policies that undercut the mayor’s and police commissioner’s mandate—just like all the other rogue prosecutors we have been warning about for almost two years.

Alvin Bragg has taken his policies directly from the rogue prosecutor movement’s required playbook. 

Bragg’s policies are so bad—and dangerous—that the new police commissioner—Keechant Sewell—felt compelled to warn about their dire consequences. 

Sewell knows, as we have been warning, that cities that have elected rogue prosecutors have seen a dramatic increase in violent crime and crime overall, and her city will look like those others if Bragg acts like the other rogues. 

Bragg’s policies are likely to lead to the same mayhem in Manhattan, at a time when the borough and the city can least afford it. 

Another Pro-Criminal Soros Puppet

Following in the footsteps of Los Angeles’ rogue prosecutor, George Gascon, Bragg sent a memo shortly after taking office to his entire staff detailing his “key principles” and policies. They took effect that same day. 

To be clear, those policies are not the result of serious study or debate within the district attorney’s office or with his senior advisers—though Bragg would like you to think that his policies are pure common sense.    

Instead, they are simply copycat policies other George Soros-supported or inspired prosecutors have enacted. Just look at the policies Gascon implemented in Los Angeles, the ones Kim Foxx imposed in Chicago, and the ones Larry Krasner put in place in Philadelphia, just to name a few.

Those prosecutors are implementing a top-down agenda funded by Soros and other left-leaning billionaires—either directly or indirectly—by carrying out the diktats of richly funded (and ironically named) pro-criminal organizations such as Fair and Just Prosecution, which is neither fair nor just, at least not to crime victims.

In an effort to create some distance between Soros and some of these rogue DAs, Soros or his affiliated entities contribute to political action committees, which then make “independent expenditures” on behalf of the candidate. That’s what happened with Bragg. 

Soros representatives have made a point to say that none of the $1 million Soros pumped into the race was funneled to Bragg. The  Color of Change PAC expended funds as an independent expenditure supporting Bragg. 

Oh. Thanks for the clarification. 

The Color of Change PAC financially supported several prosecutors, each of whom we have highlighted in our “Rogue Prosecutor” blog series: Kim Gardner (St. Louis),  Foxx (Chicago),  Gascon (Los Angeles), and Krasner (Philadelphia), all of whom were elected. The PAC also supported Genevieve Jones-Wright, a public defender who ran for San Diego district attorney, but (thankfully) lost. 

It beggars belief that Soros and his billionaire friends did not know precisely how their donations would be used, and funneling those donations through a difficult-to-decipher web of companies and organizations—presumably created for the very purpose of providing plausible deniability if things go poorly—cannot hide that fact. 

Regardless, Bragg’s key principles—driven, he writes, in large part by the experiences he had growing up in Harlem in the 1980s—are virtually identical with those of other Soros-backed district attorneys:

  • Investing more in diversion and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Reducing pretrial incarceration.
  • Focusing on accountability, not sentence length.
  • Limiting youth being prosecuted in adult court.
  • Actively supporting those reentering society (which sounds good, but in practice means, among other things, seeking little to no probation or post-conviction supervision for offenders).

Policies Nothing to “Bragg” About

Superficially, those principles might sound reasonable. But they’re not. Bragg and his fellow rogue prosecutors mean something different—and totally unfathomable—to the majority of individuals who hear those talking points. 

For the record, many conservatives have supported appropriate rehabilitation and reentry programs, including strong support for the federal First Step Act, among other things.

But when Bragg talks about ideas like “diversion and alternatives to incarceration,” in practice, he really means the elimination of accountability and prison altogether for most offenders.

His push to “reduce pretrial incarceration” is more like a shove—shoving aside the possibility of pretrial incarceration for even dangerous defendants in many cases. What’s particularly astonishing is that Bragg is making this push in the face of New York state’s already widely criticized and problematically lax bail policies.

When Bragg says he will “focus on accountability, not sentence length,” he actually means that he will work to eliminate jail and prison sentences for most convicted criminals and in many cases will cajole victims to sit down with their perpetrator to talk about “restorative justice.” 

While that might be appropriate in a few very limited circumstances, it’s not for the vast majority of crimes and certainly not on the scale that Bragg proposes. 

Just imagine a crime victim being told that: (1) the violent perpetrator who altered her life forever isn’t going to jail or prison, even though he was convicted; and (2) that, under the office’s “restorative justice” model, she has to sit down with the criminal so they can “talk it out.”

Unfortunately, that’s one of the key features of rogue prosecutors: Their policies are pro-criminal and anti-victim. 

Bragg, in a tone-deaf comment that defies logic, said that his policies are “going to make us safer.”

“It’s intuitive. It’s common sense,” he said. “I don’t understand the pushback.”

We do. 

And others are catching on, too, as they have seen this nightmare play out in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, and everywhere else there’s a rogue prosecutor.

Riddle us this, Batman: Why are Bragg and his fellow “progressive prosecutors” so determined to pursue this problematic path even in the face of bad consequences?

It’s because the rogue prosecutor movement is an outgrowth of the same radicals that created the Black Lives Matter movement, as detailed in our colleague Mike Gonzalez’s book “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution.” 

As we have detailed in our major research paper on the topic, the rogue prosecutor movement is not shy about its beliefs, which are twofold: (1) the entire criminal justice system is systemically racist, and (2) the criminal justice system must be “reverse-engineered” to eliminate the racist rot that supposedly infects the entire system. 

Of course, the entire criminal justice system is not “systemically racist.” As one columnist recently wrote, race relations in America are better than ever, even though many liberals won’t admit it

Crimes You Can Now Commit in NYC

Like Boston’s former rogue prosecutor, Rachael Rollins, whom the Biden administration recently elevated to be the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, and Los Angeles’ Gascon, Bragg has announced crimes that his office won’t prosecute, even though they remain criminal offenses in the state of New York. 

These are some of the many crimes you can now commit with impunity in Manhattan:

  • Possessing marijuana.
  • Refusing to pay the fare for public transportation.
  • Trespassing.
  • Failing to pay fines for unlicensed operation of motor vehicle.
  • Committing any traffic infraction.
  • Resisting arrest.
  • Obstructing governmental administration.
  • Engaging in prostitution.
  • Most other misdemeanor offenses.

In other words, Bragg unilaterally appointed himself a one-man legislative committee with the power to ignore—and override—the laws New York’s Legislature passed, and New York’s governor duly signed into law.

As experience has shown in other cities with similar “won’t prosecute” lists, as soon as the word gets out that the district attorney won’t prosecute certain crimes, you see an explosion in the rates of those crimes. 

And when the district attorney won’t prosecute certain crimes, the police have no incentive to arrest people for committing those crimes. And when the arrests for those crimes go down in raw numbers, the rogue prosecutors brag, in circular reasoning, that the “data” proves that their approach works—because the number of arrests for those crimes have gone down.

Watering Down Felonies to Misdemeanors

As if the “won’t prosecute” list isn’t disturbing enough, even more disturbing is Bragg’s decision to require his deputies to water down (undercharge) serious criminal offenses from serious felonies to mere misdemeanors. 

When you combine that with Bragg’s new directive requiring a presumption of pretrial non-incarceration for every case (discussed below), except for those charged with homicide and a few other heinous crimes, there is no doubt that his intent is to favor criminals at the expense of New Yorkers he was elected to protect.

Under Bragg’s scheme, the following crimes are to be watered down:

  • First-degree robbery must be charged as petty larceny. That’s required even in cases where force or threat of force is used and the criminal displays a dangerous weapon. As long as the criminal “does not create a genuine risk of physical harm,” the charge must be watered down to petty larceny. This means that the majority of robberies in commercial settings like stores and gas stations will be reduced to misdemeanors. And how will Bragg define “genuine risk of physical harm”? That terminology is not in the penal law. Or another possible scenario: Someone commits a robbery while brandishing a gun that, unbeknownst to the victim, is not loaded. Since the gun is not actually loaded, under Bragg’s policy, there would be no “genuine risk of physical harm,” even though the victim would be scared for her life. Robbery is a Class B violent felony, meaning that, if convicted, a felon would receive a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 years. Petty larceny is a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of one year in jail, and is eligible for probation up to three years. 
  • Residential burglary watered down. Theft of property from a home that is “not accessible to the living area” or a storage area, must not be charged as a first-degree felony, but watered down and charged as a second- or third degree felony. Under this scheme, if a person breaks into an enclosed attic from the roof and steals property, and the attic is not accessible from a living area, he can only be charged with third-degree burglary.
  • Commercial burglary watered down. A criminal who commits second-degree burglary (knowingly entering a building with intent to commit a crime therein) shall only be charged with a third-degree burglary. That’s the difference between a possible sentence of three and a half years to 15 years under second-degree burglary to a sentence of probation of seven years. This effectively means that almost all commercial burglaries will only be charged as a third-degree burglary, even if someone lives in an apartment in the commercial establishment.
  • Drug dealers get off easy. A so-called low-level agent of a seller shall be charged with misdemeanor possession in the seventh degree, instead of possession with the intent to distribute illegal drugs, which is a Class D felony. That’s the difference between a possible sentence exposure of probation to one year for simple possession versus up to seven years for the felony. 

This makes all suspected low-level drug dealers subject only to misdemeanor prosecution. “Low level” is not defined in the penal law. This also ignores the many existing opportunities for treatment and diversion. In other words, drug dealers are getting a good deal from Bragg.

“Get Out of Jail Free” Zone

One of the more dangerous and despicable aspects of this radical movement is the elimination of pretrial detention. It loathes cash bail, claims that it is racist, and is content simply to let most arrested criminals roam free prior to trial. 

Bragg is following suit. Now, according to his memo, there is a “presumption of pretrial non-incarceration” for the following cases:

  • Robbery.
  • Burglary.
  • Breaking and entering.
  • Carjacking.
  • Possession with intent to distribute any drug.
  • Witness tampering.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Arson.
  • Bribery.
  • Kidnapping.
  • Larceny.
  • Use of a child in sexual performance.
  • Criminal possession of a firearm.
  • Child endangerment.
  • Elder abuse.
  • Unlawful surveillance.
  • And more.

There’s a narrow class of cases where there is a presumption of pretrial incarceration, to include:

  • Homicide.
  • Class B violent felonies where a weapon causes an injury.
  • Sex offenses (presumably other than offenses involving “use of a child in sexual performance”).
  • Domestic violence felonies.

Virtually No Prison Sentences Allowed

Not only are Bragg’s prosecutors not allowed to ask for pretrial detention, they aren’t allowed to seek a sentence of imprisonment for most cases. 

Bragg’s prosecutors can only ask for prison where defendants are convicted of the following offenses:

  • Homicide.
  • A Class B felony where the victim suffered serious physical injury from a deadly weapon.
  • Domestic violence felonies.
  • Sex offenses, such as rape and child sexual abuse.
  • Public corruption.
  • Rackets.
  • Major economic crimes.

And to top that off, prosecutors in Bragg’s office may not request a sentence of more than 20 years for crimes where there is an established sentence under the law, or a sentence that can fall within a range, absent exceptional circumstances. 

So, just like Gascon’s directives disallowing the charging of sentence enhancements, prior convictions, or other commonsense law-and-order schemes passed by the state Legislature to punish the worst criminals, Bragg is sending a loud and clear message to career criminals that he’s on their side and won’t expose them to the full force of the law for violent criminal conduct.

New Yorkers Protest Bragg’s Radical Policies

These policies are already having real-world consequences. One judge apparently told a knife-wielding robber that he got “lucky.” If his case had been prosecuted two weeks earlier, before Bragg took office, the judge told the defendant, “Based on your record, you would have faced a long period of time in jail if convicted.” But now, he’s charged with only a misdemeanor.

Other nutty policies include:

  • If a defendant misses a court date, the prosecutor, who would normally ask the judge to issue an arrest warrant, now must contact the defense attorney to find out why the client missed court.
  • When requesting bail, the prosecutor must request a partially or completely unsecured bond in the same amount as the cash bail request. In other words, if the defendant fails to show up at future court hearings, and had an unsecured bond, then there is nothing the prosecutor or bail bond company can do about it.   
  • In a case’s infancy, prior to a defendant being arraigned on the charge, the prosecutor is required to inform the defense attorney about any upcoming bail request or any plea offer. That poses a problem for prosecutors because the prosecutor usually doesn’t have all of the evidence at his or her disposal by the time arraignment comes along. In homicides, especially, a prosecutor is just learning about all of the evidence in a case, including but not limited to forensic evidence tying a defendant to the crime(s). This rule would handcuff prosecutors at the nascent stage of a case. While prosecutors are required to turn over certain evidence prior to a bail or bond hearing, this goes far beyond those routine occurrences and locks prosecutors into a position far too early in a case.

Is it any wonder that deputies in the office are leaving as fast as they can? That’s exactly what elected rogue prosecutors are counting on: career, independent line prosecutors will leave the office once they realize that the new boss is more interested in the criminal and less interested in keeping the streets and citizens safe.

Is it any wonder that the district attorneys in New York City’s four other boroughs—some of whom would not consider themselves to be law-and-order prosecutors—are trying to distance themselves from Bragg’s policies?

Is it any wonder that the police commissioner issued a statement to her officers saying she is “very concerned about the implications to your safety as police officers, the safety of the public and justice for the victims”?

Is it any wonder that Bragg has hired a PR crisis-management team? Just like Gascon did in Los Angeles and other rogues do, it’s to spin a tale divorced from the bloodshed and reality of their harmful policies.

Unlike some elected rogue prosecutors, like Krasner, Bragg was a prosecutor before he was elected. As a former line prosecutor, Bragg should know better than most that the job of the district attorney is to enforce the laws as written and exercise appropriate prosecutorial discretion in individual cases. 

But once he ran for office and bought into the rogue prosecutor mantra (and took the $1 million from Color of [Soros] Change), he changed his tune to a pro-criminal zealot.

Now, Gotham’s denizens are paying a horrible price, and its criminals are dancing to a happy tune.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal