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Why the special treatment?



Published: Wed, August 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



New York City's boast about having one of the toughest drunken driving laws in the country is being put to the test today as residents question why a judge in Brooklyn released an off-duty city police officer after he was charged with multiple crimes, including vehicular homicide.

Blood tests show that Officer Joseph Gray was drunk when the van he was driving slammed into a pregnant woman, her 4-year-old son and her teen-age sister.

They were crossing a street in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn when they were hit. The pregnant woman's baby died after being delivered in an emergency procedure.

Blind justice? What could Judge David Schmidt have been thinking when he declined to order bail, thus permitting the officer to walk out of the Brooklyn Criminal Court? Schmidt certainly couldn't have been thinking about justice being blind. If he had, he would have treated Gray like any other individual in New York charged with vehicular homicide. Substantially high bail would have been a given.

Even Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who tends to be rather defensive when it comes to the police department, criticized the judge's decision, saying it was "a mistake." But it's more than that. It once again points to the double standard that exists in many communities. Police officers are invariably treated much more leniently that the ordinary citizen.

It is noteworthy that Gray was on his way to work when his red Ford Windstar slammed into the family. That fact alone should have prompted Judge Schmidt to demand that Gray post bond.




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