“New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo late Monday night killed a bill to reform the state’s controversial “gravity knife” law, which has been used to jail thousands of working people of color.
Cuomo used his veto message to cite “continued concerns of law enforcement” in quashing a measure that had the support of virtually everycriminal-justice reform organization in the state. It’s a move that’s bound to draw criticism for a Democrat who often cites equitable justice policies as among his biggest priorities and may have presidential ambitions”. –Jon Campbell in The Daily Beast
The article is actually by Jon Campbell, who has been covering gravity knife injustice for the Village Voice. I do not know if he has left the Voice or if this is freelance work, but this piece is important a it gets the issue in front of a broader audience, many of whom are liberals who are going to find the social justice ramifications to be a stain upon Cuomo’s national ambitions.
The article reserves its harshest treatment for District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
The bill’s failure represents something of a victory for another New York politician, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who has not seen many of those lately. Vance has been pilloried for passing up giftwrapped prosecutions of Harvey Weinstein and the Trump children. Vance has lobbied aggressively for years against reforms that have been percolating since 2014…
…But there is no evidence that gravity knives, as a class, are especially prone to use in crime. And oddly enough, the law is almost never enforced outside of New York City. In contrast, as many as 70,000 people in the five boroughs have been arrested under the statute in the past 10 years, according to statistics compiled by the Legal Aid Society.
About 84 percent of defendants were people of color, and a disproportionate number of them were prosecuted in Vance’s jurisdiction. One study found that Vance’s office had prosecuted about four times as many felony gravity knife cases as the rest of the city’s DAs combined.
Public defenders complain that the law is little more than an easy way for officers to pad their arrest numbers in a quota-driven system. Maybe most maddening for lawyers who defend these cases is that such knives are still sold openly at retailers all over the city. The Legal Aid Society last year found more than 100 stores selling them in Manhattan alone. One hardware store on Gold Street in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Vance’s own office, has such knives in their front window.
While Vance has prosecuted scores of contractors, construction workers and other working people for their tools, he has not levied criminal charges against a single retailer for selling those same knives.
Vance had an opportunity to do soin 2010, only months after he took office, when he sent investigators to surveil retailers like Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Eastern Mountain Sports. At all of them, he found knives that routinely draw felony charges in his jurisdiction.
But rather than take those companies to court, he offered them something else entirely: a deferred prosecution agreement. After a splashy press conference, seven businesses were required to submit to monitoring by Vance’s agent over a period of two years, and to remit some sales proceeds, about $1.9 million collectively. In exchange, Vance promised not to file criminal charges. It was considerably more lenient treatment than Vance offered Gonzalez and legions of others.
So we have a Weinstein-coddling prosecutor who pads his scorecard on the backs of hard-working New Yorkers, while running a multi-million dollar shakedown scheme on local business. Sounds like politics as usual in the Big Apple.