Staffing cuts and higher caseloads are forcing New York prosecutors to accept plea bargains they would not have considered otherwise, reports the New York Times. Robert M. Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney, said the percentage of cases going to trial decreased since budget cuts began three years ago. Only about 10 percent of felony arrests in Manhattan reach a courtroom, he told the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety.
Daniel M. Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney, said: “You have the most junior assistants handling over 100 cases. They are forced to accept sometimes pleas that if they had half of the caseload we would never consider.” The five city district attorneys and a special narcotics prosecutor who works citywide have lost more than 18 percent of their city money in the past two years, said Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., the committee chairman.
John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said that because of an arrangement that allows prosecutors to keep much of the money they recover through tax enforcement prosecutions, the budget cuts were not so deep as they appeared. With that money, he said budgets had dropped 9 percent over three years.