Manhattan District Attorney’s ‘Soft On Crime’ Record Is Brought Into the Spotlight as He Readies an Indictment of President Trump
Between 2021 and 2022, the number of major felonies that occurred in the city increased by 26 percent.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s sudden about-face on President Trump, after declining to prosecute him last year, is raising the eyebrows of his critics who say his overt leniency on violent crime does not correspond with his newfound zeal for prosecuting the former president for years-old conduct likely to be a misdemeanor.
In a memo released just two days into his tenure, Mr. Bragg outlined four key areas of importance: investing in “alternatives to incarceration,” avoiding pretrial detention, focusing on shorter sentences, and reducing the number of minors who are tried as adults in court.
Since his inauguration, Mr. Bragg has overseen a significant increase in crime rates in Manhattan. According to data from the Crime Prevention Research Center, Mr. Bragg declined to prosecute 35 percent of the the seven “major felonies” — murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto — that were brought to him by investigators.
In total, Mr. Bragg made the decision to not prosecute these felonies 1,119 times during his tenure. He also downgraded 52 percent of felony crimes to misdemeanors, which under his predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., never occurred more than 40 percent of the time in one year.
That Mr. Bragg has downgraded felonies to misdemeanors a majority of the time highlights the fact that he is apparently preparing to elevate President Trump’s alleged misdemeanor charges to felony crimes.
The charges President Trump could face include campaign finance violations — of which the Federal Elections Commission cleared him in 2019 — or fraud, as he allegedly reimbursed his lawyer, Michael Cohen, under the guise of “legal fees.”
Mr. Bragg’s declining to prosecute the seven major felonies at such a high rate came amid a rapid increase in total crime rates during his tenure. Between 2021 and 2022, the number of major felonies that occurred in the city increased by 26 percent.
Critics say Mr. Bragg’s soft stance on these major crimes is born of a search for racial “equity” in the justice system. His “day one agenda” set forth in his 2021 memo called for ending prosecutions of marijuana possession, transportation fare evasion, resisting arrest, and prostitution, among other crimes.
Republican members of Congress are weighing in on the fight, with Speaker McCarthy highlighting Mr. Bragg’s record on crime. “Alvin Bragg is abusing his office to target President Trump while he’s reduced a majority of felonies, including violent crimes, to misdemeanors,” Mr. McCarthy said in a tweet. “He has different rules for political opponents.”
The chairmen of the House judiciary, oversight, and administration committees sent a letter to Mr. Bragg on Monday asking that he testify before Congress about this possible indictment. The three chairmen alleged that Mr. Bragg would only bring these charges in the face of the former president’s political viability.
“If these reports are accurate, your actions will erode confidence in the evenhanded application of justice and unalterably interfere in the course of the 2024 presidential election,” the congressmen wrote. “In light of the serious consequences of your actions, we expect that you will testify about what plainly appears to be a politically motivated prosecutorial decision.”
They asked that Mr. Bragg disclose all communications between his office and the Justice Department and his office relating to the former president, all communications related to Mr. Trump between Mr. Bragg and two former employees, and a description of any federal funds the Manhattan district attorney’s office receives.
Many on the right have derided Mr. Bragg as a “Soros-funded prosecutor,” alluding to the Hungarian-American billionaire who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars electing liberal district attorneys nationwide.
Governor DeSantis denounced Mr. Bragg at a press conference on Monday. “The Manhattan District Attorney is a Soros-funded prosecutor. That’s an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office,” Mr. DeSantis said.
Many of Mr. Bragg’s policies mirror those of other liberal district attorneys who have faced backlash in even the most left-leaning cities. Last year, the San Francisco district attorney, Chesa Boudin, was easily recalled from his position by the city’s voters following a crime wave paired with declinations to prosecute.
The Baltimore district attorney, Marilyn Mosby, was likewise dispatched from her post by voters angered and frightened by skyrocketing crime.