Manhattan District Attorney's Office

Manhattan DA Bragg Issues Letter Clarifying ‘Confusion' Over Controversial Guidelines

"Our collective experience, however, has been that the Memorandum has been a source of confusion, rather than clarity," Alvin Bragg's clarification letter reads in part

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What to Know

  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent out a letter to prosecutors Friday clarifying what he called some of the "confusion" from an initial memo regarding prosecutorial guidelines that caused controversy.
  • Bragg took office on Jan. 1 and came under fire almost immediately for a set of guidelines he issued to prosecutors, ordering them not to charge certain crimes at all and to downgrade others to lesser charges.
  • However, in the letter Bragg sent out Friday, his office clarified that it will prosecute robberies with weapons as felonies, that gun possession cases will be default prosecution as felonies, and any attempt at violence against police will be prosecuted.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent out a letter to prosecutors Friday clarifying what he called some of the "confusion" from an initial memo regarding prosecutorial guidelines that caused controversy.

Bragg took office on Jan. 1 and came under fire almost immediately for a set of guidelines he issued to prosecutors, ordering them not to charge certain crimes at all and to downgrade others to lesser charges.

Among the most controversial of those changes was an order not to prosecute some instances of resisting arrest, and another mandating that felony armed robbery be downgraded in many cases to misdemeanor shoplifting.

His order came against a backdrop of sharply rising crime in New York City. In the NYPD's Patrol Borough Manhattan North, major crimes are up 23% this year versus the same period last year, led by a 43% increase in robberies.

Shooting incidents have almost doubled as well. The numbers are even higher in the Patrol Borough Manhattan South.

The widow of one of the two NYPD officers killed by a gunman when they responded to a domestic disturbance call last month further fueled the firestorm around Bragg, saying in a tear-filled eulogy, "The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore, not even the members of the service."

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent out a letter to prosecutors Friday clarifying what he called some of the "confusion" from an initial memo regarding prosecutorial guidelines that caused controversy. NBC New York's Rana Novini reports.

However, in the letter Bragg sent out Friday, his office clarified that it will prosecute robberies with weapons as felonies, that gun possession cases will be default prosecution as felonies, and any attempt at violence against police will be prosecuted.

"In the last month, I have seen, first-hand, your tireless, great work on behalf of New Yorkers. And I have received valuable feedback on the January 3rd Memorandum," Bragg's letter, which was obtained by News 4 New York, read in part. The January 3rd Memorandum was intended to provide ADAs with a framework for how to approach cases in the best interest of safety and justice. Our collective experience, however, has been that the Memorandum has been a source of confusion, rather than clarity."

Det. Jason Rivera's widow said during her eulogy that her husband had a final message: Lax laws and lax enforcement are partly to blame for the killing of the officers, while specifically criticizing the new Manhattan district attorney. NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst reports.

The letter of clarification goes on to state that a commercial robbery with a gun will be prosecuted as a felony, whether or not the gun was "operable, loaded, or a realistic imitation."

"A commercial robbery at knifepoint, or by other weapon that creates a risk of physical harm, will be charged as a felony. In retail thefts that do not involve a risk of physical harm, the Office will continue to assess the charges based on all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented," Bragg's letter said.

Additionally, according to the clarification letter, people in possession of guns will be prosecuted.

"Gun possession cases are a key part of our plan for public safety. People walking the streets with guns will be prosecuted and held accountable," the letter said. "The default in gun cases is a felony prosecution. We also will use gun possession cases as an opportunity to trace the sources of illegal guns and build cases against gun traffickers."

The letter also states that violence against police officers "will not be tolerated."

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