By Joy Bergmann
New York County Defender Services, a public defender agency, issued a statement Tuesday lambasting “inflammatory” media coverage of its client Darrell Johnson’s alleged assault of two women on the UWS and subsequent release from custody. [After WSR broke the story, articles appeared in the Daily News, Post, Daily Mail and other outlets.] The statement claims Johnson’s arraignment judge had the option of imposing bail, but chose to issue Supervised Release:
“In fact, contrary to inflammatory headlines that have covered this case, the charges Mr. Johnson faces in fact do qualify for money bail, and leave the decision regarding the terms of pre-trial release to the discretion of the judge. In this case, the judge, likely aware that jail is proven to actually increase a person’s likelihood of recidivism, and also likely aware that NYC jails are both currently unconscionably inhumane and exorbitantly expensive, ordered that Mr. Johnson be released to Supervised Release, a city-run program that has, by all accounts, been hailed as a wildly successful alternative to pre-trial detention.”
WSR asked a NYCDS spokesperson to specify the legal provision that would’ve allowed the judge to set bail. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office previously said Johnson, 28, did not qualify for bail. His third-degree assault charges in the UWS case and a prior, pending Harlem assault case from August 2020 are Class A misdemeanors, which are generally not bail-eligible offenses.
However, a section of the current bail law, 510.10.4(t) does appear to allow a judge some bail discretion on serious misdemeanors involving harm to identifiable people or property when the acts were committed while a defendant is out on release for a pending case of a similar nature. The NYCDS has not yet responded to WSR inquiries.
The statement continued:
“The media’s depiction of Mr. Johnson is both shameful and confounding. The stories describe him as ‘homeless’ and derisively depict a man in the midst of a mental health emergency…
Where is the outrage that our city has failed to adequately provide housing or mental health services for those who so desperately need them?..
After two years of the same headline, we demand that the media stop scapegoating ‘bail reform’ for all of society’s problems, and finally begin to report on the true issues concerning our city.”
WSR asked the spokesperson if Johnson disputed the charges against him and to correct the record if Johnson was not homeless on 12/2/21, as stated by the NYPD. We have not yet heard back.
Meanwhile, the husband of the first victim in the 79th and Broadway attack told the Daily News that his 50-year-old wife had several teeth broken and suffered a deep cut on her right cheek that runs from her lip to the side of her face; she will require plastic surgery, he said. The second victim, a woman attacked at 80th and Broadway, had injuries of “redness and swelling … and substantial pain,” according to court documents. Both required evaluation and treatment at Mount Sinai Morningside [St. Luke’s] Hospital.