By Joy Bergmann
The Manhattan grand jury has indicted Darrell Johnson on two counts of second-degree assault, a class D felony, for allegedly committing two seemingly random, unprovoked attacks against two women near 79th and Broadway on the morning of December 2nd. Johnson, 28, also faces the two counts of third-degree assault, a class A misdemeanor, he was originally charged with and arraigned on December 3rd.
The new charges reflect the severity of the injuries suffered by the victims, a law enforcement source confirmed to WSR. The first victim, a 50-year-old woman, had several teeth broken and suffered a deep cut running from her lip to the right side of her face, requiring plastic surgery. The second victim, a 32-year-old woman, suffered a broken jaw. Both sets of injuries caused redness, swelling and substantial pain, court documents said.
Johnson has not yet been arraigned on the new felony charges. That was set to happen during a hearing this past Thursday, March 3rd.
However, Johnson could not appear in court; he has been hospitalized for psychiatric care since December 10th, his defense attorney Kristin McAlpin of New York County Defender Services told Judge Michele Rodney.
Between December 3rd and December 10th, Johnson had been under a “Tier 2, Level 4” supervised release which required at least five contacts with officials during the first month of release, then two phone check-ins and two in-person visits per month after that.
McAlpin said Johnson’s AOT [assisted outpatient treatment] team brought him to Jacobi Medical Center for an evaluation on December 10th. He was then transferred to Bronx Psychiatric Center where he has remained in inpatient treatment. “Although he is medication compliant, he is not psychiatrically stabilized enough to be discharged at this time,” said McAlpin.
Given the apparent severity of Johnson’s condition, McAlpin then asked Judge Rodney to order a “730 exam.” Rodney granted the order.
A “730” refers to Criminal Procedure Law §730 which sets forth the method to determine whether a criminal defendant is incapacitated and therefore not able to proceed to trial. To be considered “incapacitated”, Johnson must be found to lack the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense due to mental illness.
WSR was unable to reach the assault victims for their reaction and an update on their recoveries.
We did speak with “Mike”, who witnessed the second attack and helped chase the alleged assailant, leading to Johnson’s arrest just 10 minutes later.
“This is the way it should be, with him off the streets getting the care he needs,” said Mike, an Upper West Sider who asked us not to use his real name.
It was clear to Mike that Johnson “wasn’t in his right mind” on December 2nd. “These were unprovoked attacks. He was unhinged,” Mike said, calling the situation “both terrifying and sad.”
When Johnson appeared before Judge Robert Rosenthal for his December 3rd arraignment, his psychiatric status was not mentioned, according to a transcript of those brief proceedings obtained by WSR. Neither his attorney, nor prosecutors, nor a representative from CASES Supervised Release, nor Johnson himself brought up anything related to his mental health or housing status.
Instead, much of the December 3rd discussion focused on procedural issues related to a prior assault case brought against Johnson.
On August 3, 2020, inside Harlem Hospital, Johnson allegedly struck a man with a closed fist, knocking him to the ground, and then proceeded to kick and stomp on the victim’s head and body, court documents say.
Police in that incident charged Johnson with third-degree assault, a class A misdemeanor, and issued him a DAT – desk appearance ticket – to be arraigned a few weeks later. However, Johnson did not appear for his arraignment on at least six separate occasions, and a warrant for his arrest was issued, according to public records. He was only arraigned on the Harlem charges when he appeared in criminal court for the Upper West Side assaults.
“He never appeared?” Judge Rosenthal asked McAlpin, Johnson’s defense attorney.
“My understanding was that, yeah, he never appeared for arraignment,” replied McAlpin, according to the transcript.
The Assistant District Attorney on duty that day, Damyre Benjamin, requested supervised release for Johnson before stating, “The defendant has three failures to appear, two felony convictions, including one violent felony, two misdemeanor convictions, one open felony, including one violent felony, two open misdemeanor cases, and one on an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal status,” according to the transcript.
Under current New York State law, most defendants facing Class A misdemeanor charges are to be released prior to trial, with very few exceptions. As section 510.10 states, unless a judge determines, based on evidence, that a defendant poses a flight risk, they must release him on his own recognizance. If a judge does determine a defendant poses a risk of not returning to court, the judge must select “the least restrictive alternative or conditions that will reasonably assure” that he does. ADA Benjamin noted during the December 3rd proceeding that “supervised release is the least restrictive means,” to assure Johnson’s return; Judge Rosenthal granted it.
A New York judge may not consider a defendant’s “potential dangerousness” when making a decision on whether to set bail for a defendant, as has been true since 1971.
It appears that Johnson might have been eligible to receive bail in the Upper West Side assaults, if Johnson had been formally arraigned in the prior Harlem assault case. Section 510.10.4(t) of the statute allows 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.
No detailed discussion around bail eligibility took place on December 3rd, according to the transcript. There was also no verbal testimony relating the nature of the violence inflicted on the victims, nor the extent of their injuries.
This is not unusual during arraignments at the main Criminal Courts building at 100 Centre Street. Judges and attorneys assigned there move through multiple cases in a given hour. And their decisions are only as good as the information they are provided with at that moment.
So, as New Yorkers grapple with how the criminal justice system can be improved, and with how people facing severe mental illness can be appropriately treated, it’s important to remember that each element in each case is often not as simple as we might wish.
WSR readers who would like to see how actual criminal arraignments work can visit the first-floor courtrooms at 100 Centre Street any day – or night – of the week, 365 days a year. Proceedings are open to the public.
How is the crime considered second-degree assault? And so much for “supervised release.” 😕
Supervised release under bail reform is a giant failure:
“… 23% of those New York City defendants freed under supervised release were rearrested on felony charges while their cases were still pending.”
I really wanted to vote for Liz Crotty. She was the only candidate in the Manhattan DA race who said she’d actually prosecute people correctly. Then the Times endorsed Bragg and I started to doubt my own liberal credentials and I voted for Bragg. Never again. Always vote for the real prosecutor. Defendants have everyone else in the judicial system to protect them. The prosecutor is supposed to be the hardass, that’s his job.
The ultimate responsibility for these laws sits in Albany. Whomever is DA or the judge must abide by what gets passed by the legislature eg Linda Rosenthal, Robert Jackson, Danny O’Donnell.
Thanks for this reporting, WSR.
WSR has done a great job reporting on this. Perhaps they could reach out to Linda Rosenthal or another elected official who has the power to create change and get a comment. There are many of us who agree that the laws need to be changed. Let’s make it clear that their political futures rest on getting something done.
” Then the Times endorsed Bragg and I started to doubt my own liberal credentials and I voted for Bragg.”
Is this a joke?
OMG we’re doomed. We got the government we deserved.
I voted for Crotty. In hindsight I wish I had voted for Weinstein. Crotty was the better candidate but Weinstein was the more electable one and was still a lot better than Bragg. Though I think that if Crotty ran now she would do a lot better as people are finally taking these issues seriously.
It is ironic that people didn’t like Weinstein because they thought she was too cozy with the financial sector yet Bragg is the one letting Trump off.
Unreal. It’s almost as if a person has to rape or murder someone before he is physically restrained from wreaking more havoc on others.
WSR – thank you for this very thorough, well-researched article.
This just shows what is wrong with the legal system. As I read it, rather than focusing on his total list of offenses, most of the attention is focused on the most recent offense. Someone who is clearly a recidivist should receive harsh sentencing.
The bottom line is that he should not have been on the streets. So much time is being wasted on legal nitpicking. Just keep him away from innocent, law-abiding citizens. Anyone who does something like this clearly is not mentally sane and needs treatment. But regardless of the treatment he gets, he should not be free to walk around for a long time.
I wish our elected officials would do their jobs and repair these laws. They should not go overboard but there is a lot of room for improvement. Let’s hold their feet to the fire next time there is an election.
The Manhattan DA was elected. Very few voted but he got most of the votes. This is the result of criminal justice ‘reform’. How do you end ‘ mass incarceration ‘? Stop arresting people and stop jailing them. They make no mention of the fact that these activities still occur. Assaults, muggings etc. When you’ve been arrested dozens of times and never been to jail why change your behavior.
Interesting how they’re all so “mentally ill” but know how to pick victims who are guaranteed not to fight back.
“Mentally ill” isn’t the same as stupid.
SEND HIM AWAY(PERIOD…….
Thank you, WSR, for following up on this sad story. I feel horrible for these women. I was attacked by the homeless twice but luckily didn’t get hurt as badly even though one of them (a woman!) had a knife. Back then the police was responsive and there were arrests in both cases. People were not as desensitized by crime as they are now so they called the police right away after witnessing these totally unprovoked attacks. In both cases, the perpetrators looked seriously mentally ill.
I am wondering what the final outcome for Darrell Johnson will be. If you happen to find out, I appreciate if you publish another follow-up piece.
I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. I was attacked by 3 people w/knives and punched in the face and the police told me it would be pointless to file a report because the ‘kids’ would be right back out on the street the next day. That was 30 years ago. I was attacked twice during the height of Covid and injured once and I was told the same thing. Apparently if you don’t go to the ER it’s not considered a crime. That’s sarcasm on my part but I was more concerned about getting Covid than I was about having a scar. When I went back to work I heard stories from my coworkers about multiple incidents that happened on the subway or ‘in their own neighborhood.’ It’s physically and mentally exhausting for anyone being on high alert 24/7. 🙁
I’m so sorry to hear that, Lynn. The first time I was attacked, also a while ago by a woman with a knife, the police told me they are going to take her to the ER, but she will be out in 24 hours. They were sympathetic but told me that’s how the system worked. The second time, they didn’t tell me anything. I was too scared and confused both times to even think about the report. Is sort of assumed the police would do it. They didn’t take my name or number, but I realized it later, after I came back to my senses.
Apparently something needs to be done to keep mentally ill at the hospitals longer than 24 hours and against their will, but that’s not how it works now. I don’t think anyone is addressing it because the main reason is cost. These people have to get Medicaid or the equivalent in order for the hospitals to keep them longer. The hospitals are not crazy about Medicaid not to mention absence of any insurance.
I’m not even starting about the “freedom” issue. That one sounds like the lost cause.
Bottom line is that it makes no difference whether this criminal is mentally ill or had the mens rea required for an intentional crime. He should be off the streets whether in prison or mental institution, just not to inflict any further harm on additional innocent victims.
These Criminals may be mentally ill but seem to be shrewd enough to cowardly attack only women. We are all tired of these types of assault. If we cannot be protected then we must find a way to protect ourselves. I hope we are not headed back to the days of Bernard Goetz.
Blaming mental illness for every wrong doing is an insult to the many people who experience mental illness and do not do these things. Some people are simply angry, jealous, mean, etc. Life, liberty, freedom to practice your religion, pursuit of happiness. There is no right to harming other people. The fact that the tax payers support him makes it even more insulting. Maybe if he was required to contribute to society as part of his housing and care he might show more respect towards others. How much choice is reasonable? How many strikes until one is out? Maybe not everyone gets the privilege of living for free someplace that is expensive where they have a track record of harming those around them? Define “fair” and “just?” And compassion?
“Blaming mental illness for every wrong doing is an insult to the many people who experience mental illness”
Who does that? You’re just making stuff up.
I’m glad they upped the charges to Felony class D. Bottom line: regardless of bail reform, anybody who violently assaults someone, especially a stranger, should be charged with a felony. Currently, most assaults, even violent ones, are considered misdemeanors (unless a weapon is used). I think the laws have to change.
What responsibility or culpability as the case may be is placed on the social workers and agencies who make determinations for housing? Providers receive VERY large payments. Where is there responsibility especially for repeat offenders? It is hard to understand why placing a person with this track record into a family neighborhood is good for anyone except the providers who have beds to fill. Shame on them!
Do we live in the twilight zone? This woman had her teeth knocked out. Who’s going to pay for expensive surgery that follows? The city should? Victims need to start suing the city for failure to protect. They keep letting violent offenders out to continue their violent attacks. Maybe then they will wake up.
I go EVERYWHERE with a large dog. Never been bothered. I strongly suggest it! Seriously!
I’m going to start carrying mace around everywhere I go. It seems we are sadly on our own and must figure out ways to protect ourself while these criminals face very few consequences. Maybe if the ramifications were more severe, they would think twice.
Only about 20% of registered voters, bothered to vote in the last municipal election.
1. We elected a woke DA
2. We have a legislature that doesn’t care about recidivists.
3. This is going to continue to happen until we elect officials who care.
4. Democracy dies when voters don’t care.
If the defendant was charged with Second Degree Assault in relation to the UWS incidents, then he was eligible for bail. That charge is a D Violent felony, which is a qualifying offense. This appears to be a DA decision.
OK, but he only got the felony charges recently, not when he was first arrested and given supervised release in December. So bail may be an option when and if he is found competent and discharged from the hospital.
Thank you for this thorough explanation of the legal system and it’s failures with regard to the serious crim on 79th street.
Amazing to think not too long ago during the mayoral race Andrew Yang after several miscues buried his own chances when he lashed out against homeless and stated we also have rights. He was blasted then which was only several months ago.
We residents are the guinea pigs in this new experiment called law and order in NY state and especially here in NYC.
How many more people need to be randomly attacked either by the truly mentally ill or people who are labeled mentally ill?
As mentioned above why are these attacks mostly against women if the perpetrators are not in the right state of mind.
I worry for my wife daily and our children. I’ve given a self imposed timeline of 2 years to see where this is headed. Unless there is change now this city will be too forgone to bring it back within any reasonable timetable.
I’m a 20+ year Manhattan resident after college and I’m not alone in feeling we may need to leave.
I understand this. Not sure if I want to grow old here (recently turned 60)
Hats off to Joy Bergmann and the Rag for continuing to cover the saga of Darrell Johnson.
It’s an amazing case really. Mr. Johnson, freely roamed the streets of the Upper West Side after failing to show up for arraignment on six (!) occasions for other assault charges, allegedly assaults two women—one knocked unconscious and suffering a disfiguring laceration. And he’s sent home on “supervised release.” What’s the worst that can happen to him? DA Alvin Bragg’s playbook says no gun, no jail time.
Now if we could just get Linda Rosenthal and her colleagues in the NY State Assembly to take public safety seriously. If they don’t, I suspect the political fallout will be substantial. That’s a story I hope the Rag can cover as well.