West Side Rag » New felony charges, psychiatric evaluation ordered in 79th and Broadway assault case

Posted March 6, 2022 12:09 PM by West Side Rag

Northwest corner of 79th and Broadway, site of the first attack.

By Joy Bergman

The Manhattan Grand Jury has indicted Darrell Johnson on two counts of second-degree assault, a Class D felony, for allegedly committing two seemingly random acts, unprovoked attacks against two women near 79th and Broadway on the morning of December 2. Johnson, 28, also faces two counts of third-degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor, for which he was originally charged and arraigned Dec. 3.

The new charges reflect the severity of the injuries sustained by the victims, a police source confirmed to WSR. The first victim, a 50-year-old woman, had multiple teeth knocked out and suffered a deep cut from her lip to the right side of her face, requiring plastic surgery. The second victim, a 32-year-old woman, suffered a broken jaw. Both sets of injuries caused redness, swelling and significant pain, according to court documents.

Johnson has yet to be arraigned on the new felony charges. This was to happen during a hearing last Thursday, March 3.

However, Johnson was unable to appear in court; he has been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment since December 10, his defense attorney Kristin McAlpin of New York County Defender Services told Judge Michele Rodney.

Between December 3 and December 10, Johnson had been under a “Tier 2, Level 4” supervised release which required at least five contacts with officials in the first month of release, then two telephone check-ins and two in-person visits per month thereafter.

McAlpin said Johnson AOAT [assisted outpatient treatment] the team brought him to Jacobi Medical Center for an evaluation on December 10. He was later transferred to the Bronx Psychiatric Center where he remained for inpatient treatment. “Although he is compliant with medication, he is not psychiatrically stabilized enough to be released at this time,” McAlpin said.

Given the apparent seriousness of Johnson’s condition, McAlpin then asked Judge Rodney to order a “730 review.” Rodney granted the order.

A “730” refers to Criminal Procedure Act §730 which exposes the method for determine whether an accused is incapacitated and therefore unable to proceed with a trial. To be considered “incapable”, Johnson must be deemed incapable of understanding the proceedings against him or assisting in his own defense due to mental illness.

WSR was unable to reach victims of assault for their reaction and an update on their recovery.

We spoke with ‘Mike’, who witnessed the second attack and helped pursue the alleged attacker, leading to Johnson’s arrest just 10 minutes later.

“That’s how it should be, with him on the street getting the care he needs,” said Mike, an Upper West Sider resident who asked us not to use his real name.

It was clear to Mike that Johnson “wasn’t in his right mind” on Dec. 2. “These were unprovoked attacks. He was unhinged,” Mike said, calling the situation “both terrifying and sad at the same time.”

Southwest corner of 80th and Broadway, site of the second attack.

When Johnson appeared before Judge Robert Rosenthal for his arraignment on December 3, his psychiatric condition was not mentioned, according to a transcript of this brief proceeding obtained by WSR. Neither his lawyer, nor the prosecutors, nor a representative of CASE Supervised release, nor Johnson himself have discussed anything related to his mental health or housing status.

Instead, much of the Dec. 3 discussion focused on procedural issues related to an earlier assault case brought against Johnson.

On August 3, 2020, inside Harlem Hospital, Johnson allegedly punched a man with a clenched fist, knocking him to the ground, then kicked and stomped on the victim’s head and body, according to court documents.

In that incident, police charged Johnson with third-degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and issued him with a DAT — a ticket to appear — to face trial a few weeks later. However, Johnson failed to appear for his arraignment on at least six occasions and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to public records. He wasn’t arraigned on the Harlem charges until he appeared in criminal court for the Upper West Side assaults.

“He never appeared?” Judge Rosenthal asked McAlpin, Johnson’s defense attorney.

“My understanding is that he never appeared to be arraigned,” McAlpin replied, according to the transcript.

Assistant District Attorney on duty that day, Damyre Benjamin, requested a supervised release for Johnson before saying: ‘Defendant has three failings to appear, two felony convictions including one violent felony, two misdemeanor convictions , an open felony, including a violent felony, two open misdemeanor cases and one on an adjournment for a status of termination,” according to the transcript.

Undercurrent New York State Law, most defendants facing Class A misdemeanor charges should be released before trial, with very few exceptions. As stipulated in section 510.10, unless a judge determines, on the basis of evidence, that a defendant poses a flight risk, he must discharge him on his own recognizance. If a judge determines that a defendant is at risk of not returning to court, the judge must select “the least restrictive alternative or conditions that will reasonably ensure” that he will. ADA Benjamin noted during the December 3 proceedings that “supervised release is the least restrictive way” to secure Johnson’s return; Judge Rosenthal granted it.

A New York judge may disregard a defendant’s “potential dangerousness” when deciding whether to set bail for a defendant, as has been the case since 1971.

It appears that Johnson might have been eligible to receive bail in the Upper West Side assaults, had Johnson been formally arraigned in the previous Harlem assault case. Section 510.10.4

No detailed discussion of bail eligibility took place on Dec. 3, according to the transcript. Nor was there any verbal testimony relating to the nature of the violence inflicted on the victims, nor the extent of their injuries.

This is not unusual at arraignments at the main Criminal Courts building at 100 Center Street. The judges and lawyers assigned there deal with several cases in a given hour. And their decisions are only as good as the information provided to them at the time.

So, as New Yorkers wonder how the criminal justice system can be improved and how people facing severe mental illness can be dealt with appropriately, it is important to remember that each element in each case is often not as simple as we would like.

WSR readers who would like to see how criminal indictments work can visit the first floor courtrooms at 100 Center Street any day – or night – of the week, 365 days a year. The debates are open to the public.

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