Criminal Justice

Hochul declines to criticize Alvin Bragg after release of migrants accused of police assault

The governor has said the migrants who allegedly attacked officers should be deported.

Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York Winter Conference on Friday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York Winter Conference on Friday. Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

A day after she said that the migrants accused of assaulting New York City Police Department officers in Times Square should be deported, Gov. Kathy Hochul doubled down on her message – but declined to criticize Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for his office’s decision not to set bail for many of the suspects in the case.

Police in New York City have so far arrested multiple people associated with the attack, mostly migrants residing in city shelters. They are charged with attacking two officers while an arrest was taking place on Saturday evening. The suspects kicked the officers repeatedly. Injuries were not life-threatening – one officer sustained cuts to his face while the other was being treated for bruises. Five suspects were released without bail, despite being charged with a bail-eligible felony. The decision has led to widespread criticism and renewed scrutiny of the 2019 law that eliminated bail in the majority of criminal cases in an effort to keep poor people out of jail.

When asked what she thought Bragg should have done regarding bail, Hochul first pointed out that the crime was bail eligible and could lead to deportation. “So that is also something I want to have a conversation with the district attorney about his options here,” Hochul said. “I don’t believe this investigation has concluded, there are more charges to be had, and that’s not something that I’m going to second-guess.” Hochul told reporters the day before that the migrants accused of the assault should get deported.

Hochul also said that each of the suspects arrested should be incarcerated prior to trial. “All I know is that assault on a police officer means that you should be sitting in jail,” the governor said. “Like there's an individual right now sitting in Rikers pending your trial date.” Hochul was referencing Yohenry Brito, 24, who is the first of the defendants to be held on bail. According to court records, Brito has two priors. 

Hochul was in Manhattan for the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York Winter Conference to talk about several of her public safety budget priorities. Bragg attended the conference, but he did not appear at the governor’s press conference, which included two representatives from the city. “This was set up prior (to the incident in Times Square),” Hochul said of the press conference. “I was looking for representation from our district attorneys who have an area of specialty.” Specialties included domestic violence, hate crimes and retail theft. 

However, Hochul said that she did have a “conversation” with Bragg on Friday while they both attended the DAASNY Winter Conference, but she would not elaborate on any specifics. “But I’m also rather confident that there will be more charges brought,” Hochul said.

Hochul has made public safety, particularly retail theft, a key component of her agenda for the year. She included $40 million dollars in her executive budget to fight against the crime, and pledged a joint state, local and federal task force to tackle the issue.