Manhattan’s district attorney has focused his prosecutorial energies on Bad Orange Man and victims instead of criminals.
Alvin Bragg, the New York City district attorney who made a name for himself by arresting Donald Trump, waxed triumphantly about his effort to take down the former president. You see, the Manhattan prosecutor said, no one is above the law in the “business capital of the world.”
“We today uphold our solemn responsibility to ensure that everyone stands equal before the law,” Bragg told reporters last week, following Trump’s arraignment on 34 criminal charges. “No amount of money and no amount of power changes that enduring American principle.”
So as Bragg tells it, the patriotic decision to prosecute Trump was all about equal justice under the law. Never mind that Bragg campaigned for office by pledging to prosecute the locally hated ex-president in a county where Joe Biden won 86.8% of votes in the 2020 presidential election. And never mind that Bragg’s 2021 campaign for the Manhattan DA job was bankrolled largely by billionaire activist George Soros, the biggest donor to Democratic Party candidates and causes.
That’s right, Bragg says his case is legally and ethically righteous. However, a closer look at the indictment reveals that the charges he filed are so legally dubious that only a Manhattan jury of Trump haters might buy his story. He’s prosecuting Trump for allegedly falsifying business records six years ago, and he’s bypassing the two-year statute of limitations on such misdemeanors by elevating the charges to felonies. To make that possible under New York’s criminal code, he’s claiming the offenses were committed to cover up violations of election laws when Trump was running for president in 2016.
Those alleged violations stemmed from a supposed hush-money payment to a porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. The payment wasn’t illegal on its face, but if it was proven to have been made solely for the purpose of helping Trump win the election, it would exceed the legal limit for a political contribution. Both the Federal Election Commission and the US Department of Justice looked into the matter at the time and found no cause to pursue a case against Trump.
Even if you give Bragg the benefit of the considerable doubt regarding his motives for going after Trump – just as the 2024 election is approaching, with the former president polling as the top Republican candidate – it would be tough to argue that he’s driven by the interests of justice. For one thing, Bragg shows no interest in investigating the leaks of information about Trump’s prosecution to the media, which is itself a felony under New York law.
For another, his approach to justice is making the city increasingly more lawless. Bragg used his first memo after taking office as DA in January 2022 to direct prosecutors to quit sending so many criminals to prison and downgrade charges for such crimes as armed robbery and drug dealing. He also ordered his underlings to make sentencing recommendations that address racial disparities in incarceration – meaning the criminal’s punishment should depend at least partly on his or her skin color.
During Bragg’s first year as DA, 52% of the felony cases referred to his office were downgraded to misdemeanors (the opposite of the Trump charges being upgraded to felonies). Nearly half of the felony cases Bragg’s office did take on ended in defeat for the prosecution.
With many laws being enforced lightly, if at all, crime has surged in America’s largest city and the business capital of the world. Car thefts are at a 16-year high. There were more than 2,000 felony assaults committed in January alone, up 15% from a year earlier, according to police figures.
If there’s one thing on which Bragg appears to be really cracking down – other than Republican presidential candidates – it’s self-defense. Consider the case of Manhattan parking-garage attendant Moussa Diarra, who woke up in a hospital earlier this month to find himself handcuffed to his bed. The 57-year-old had been shot twice by a suspected car burglar. The suspect also was shot, during a tussle for his gun as the garage attendant fought for his life.
Weeping at his predicament, Diarra reportedly told his boss, “I got bullets in me, and I’m chained to a hospital bed, but I didn’t do anything wrong.” He was charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of a gun – the same gun that the suspected burglar, a career criminal with over 20 arrests on his rap sheet, used to shoot him.
The charges against Diarra were later dropped, “pending further investigation,” amid public outrage over the case. Diarra had to hire a lawyer, who suggested that his client was initially charged because the authorities hadn’t had time to sort out how the two men wound up shot. But police claimed the DA’s office directed the arrest and charging of the garage worker.
This might be viewed as an aberration, or merely an unfortunate circumstance for Diarra. Perhaps he was handcuffed to his hospital bed because police couldn’t immediately discern that he was a hero, rather than a perpetrator, so it was just a placeholder to charge him. That might be believable if not for Bragg’s pattern of trying to punish people who defend themselves.
Before Diarra, there was Jose Alba, a 61-year-old Dominican bodega owner who was attacked behind the counter of his Harlem store by a 35-year-old black ex-con last July. After sitting passively and pleading with the assailant, reportedly saying “Papa, I don’t want a problem,” Alba fought for his life as the attack escalated, stabbing the younger man to death. Surveillance video of the incident shows Alba being stabbed by the attacker’s girlfriend as he fights the man off.
Alba was arrested for murder and incarcerated at the notorious Rikers Island jail, where he reportedly didn’t even receive proper treatment for his stab wounds. His bail was initially set at $250,000. Bragg finally dropped the charge weeks later, but only after public outcry, including statements by Mayor Eric Adams and New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton that Alba clearly acted in self-defense. The DA didn’t charge the girlfriend who stabbed Alba.
In another case, Bragg broke a campaign promise to drop the charges against Tracy McCarter, a nurse who fatally stabbed her abusive husband, allegedly in self-defense. In other cases, he has downgraded charges against serial criminals, such as a man who had nearly 90 arrests on his record and had his bail set at just $1 after being busted last month for two alleged robberies on the same day.
In rationalizing his policies against enforcing some laws, Bragg has claimed that limited resources must be freed up to focus on violent crime. Yet, on his watch, violent criminals – at least those who weren’t acting in self-defense – have been set free without bail while awaiting trial. The DA cut a sweet plea-bargain deal for a man arrested for raping a teenager, requiring him to serve only 30 days in jail, but while out on bail and awaiting sentencing, he sexually assaulted five more people.
Nevertheless, with resources stretched thin and a poll showing that 40% of New York City office workers are considering leaving the city because of crime concerns, Bragg has found time to prosecute a political enemy. He’s doing so in a case stemming from seven-year-old allegations that the more relevant authorities – those who police federal elections – found unworthy of pursuing.
Whatever is going on with law enforcement in Alvin Bragg’s Manhattan, it’s not about equal justice under the law – or any kind of true justice at all. This sort of unjust legal activism isn’t limited to New York, either. Soros has reportedly helped stake about 70 lawyers to victory in district attorney elections around the US. These social justice warriors have made their cities less safe and more racist, calibrating their prosecutorial policies to essentially legalize certain types of crime and favor certain categories of criminals.
MSNBC political analyst Peter Beinart recently offered a leftist’s perspective on what’s driving the prosecution of Trump, arguing that a coalition of groups that are historically victims of discrimination – black people, Jews and “LGBT folks” – have “come together to push back against the white Christian nationalist assault on American democracy.”
Yes, the aggrieved victim classes are so concerned about protecting democracy that they’re banding together to take down the leading Republican presidential candidate, potentially taking him off the 2024 election menu if they’re successful. They would love to dictate the candidates from which voters can choose because, you know, democracy.
The first arrest of a former US head of state is a clown show, which some foreign leaders have been honest enough to point out. For instance, El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said, “Think what you want about former President Trump and the reasons he’s being indicted, but just imagine if this happened in any other country, where a government arrested the main opposition candidate. The United States’ ability to use ‘democracy’ as foreign policy is gone.”