By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Lawyers for the Legal Aid
Society said people accused of minor offenses in New York were
held longer than they should have been in the aftermath of the
superstorm that hit the city a week ago.
Under state law, prosecutors have five days to file
information to corroborate certain misdemeanor complaints.
But defendants have been kept behind bars for longer
periods, according to Tina Luongo, deputy attorney in charge of
the criminal practice at the Legal Aid Society in New York.
"We're talking about cases where clients are being held on
low-level bail," she said. "And because our clients are poor,
$200 is tantamount to remand for them. And then their cases were
being adjourned without seeing the judge."
The Manhattan Criminal Court had no power after the storm
and last week was open only for arraignments, powered by a
generator. Luongo said the society suggested its clients --
jailed for such offenses as trespass or turnstile jumping -- be
brought before judges in other boroughs.
On Friday, authorities agreed to a compromise, Luongo said.
Legal Aid produced a list of some 75 to 100 people, held mostly
for misdemeanors, who the lawyers believed should have been
released. When Manhattan Criminal Court reopened on Monday, the
cases would be heard whether or not they were scheduled that
That's not how it turned out.
Legal Aid lawyers waited all day Monday, but most of the
defendants on the list were not brought before judges, according
to Steve Goldin, the society's deputy attorney in charge of
Manhattan criminal defense, who was in the courthouse.
Some defendants were produced in court after 4 p.m. Of
those, very few were released.
In most cases, the judges accepted the Manhattan district
attorney's arguments that the storm justified the extensions.
For some of the defendants, there may have been a silver
lining. As Sandy hit New York, flooding parts of the city and
causing power outages that lasted for days, inmates at Rikers
Island had heat, power, hot meals and hot showers, according to
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