The New York City judge who sent a career criminal into drug treatment only to see him arrested on charges of murdering a police officer defended her decision, saying she and another judge had been unfairly pilloried by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton, reports the New York Times. Judge Patricia Nuñez accused officials of putting out a “false narrative” that the courts had let a violent criminal out of jail. Then she sentenced the defendant, Tyrone Howard, to the maximum of 12 years in prison for breaking his promise under a plea agreement to go into a treatment program. Howard, 31, is charged with murder in the shooting death of officer Randolph Holder on Oct. 20. He was out on bail at the time and was supposed to have started a residential drug treatment program in September rather than serve a two-year prison term.
The case has focused attention on the workings of a drug court that offers treatment instead of prison to nonviolent addicts who deal drugs to support their habit. Howard's trip through the system has also exposed lapses in the sharing of information between prosecutors and judges about defendants. Nuñez said prosecutors never informed her of Howard's involvement in a 2009 gunfight, which would have disqualified him from treatment. She said that Howard had posted bail in February and would have been free awaiting trial even if she had not ordered him into rehabilitation. “Shame on those politicians who now point fingers and try to blame the judges for a program that they themselves wanted,”Nuñez said. “I would suggest that the mayor look into a mirror and ask himself whether or not it is his own policies — that he's in favor of — whether those policies make someone think they can shoot a cop. Do not blame the judges.” The mayor's spokeswoman, Karen Hinton, called the remarks “entirely irresponsible.”