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NYC DA Bragg, In Reversal, Vows Tough Prosecution of Serious Crimes

New Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Friday issued harsher new guidance on the prosecution of gun possession and robbery that revised and in some cases reversed policies in a memo from his first week in office that had been criticized as too lenient. Bragg last month told prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for all but the most serious crimes. Its release prompted weeks of pushback from police officers, business owners and public officials. Much of his time since has been devoted to clarifying and modifying the policies outlined in the original document, which he acknowledged was confusing and legalistic, the New York Times reports.

The memo had instructed prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for certain crimes including robberies, assaults and gun possession. Bragg has said that the impact of the changes outlined in the memo had been overstated and misunderstood. On Friday, Bragg said that the document had been “a source of confusion, rather than clarity,” and emphasized that it was up to the office’s prosecutors to determine how best to handle individual cases. “You were hired for your keen judgment, and I want you to use that judgment — and experience — in every case,” he said. In the update, Bragg said that commercial robberies that involved the use of guns — or even convincing-looking fake guns — would be charged as felonies, as would robberies committed with other weapons that carried a risk of physical harm. Initially, Bragg had said he would only charge such robberies as felonies if a defendant had created “a genuine risk of physical harm.” He now says gun possession will be taken seriously and that those “walking the streets with guns” would be prosecuted and held accountable.

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