Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has apologized for ‘confusion’ over his new policies downgrading many felony charges, but is not backing down from his stance despite weeks of criticism.

In remarks on Thursday at an NYU School of Law virtual conference, Bragg blamed poor ‘messaging’ and communication for the backlash over his stance downgrading many charges and declining to seek prison terms for all but the most serious crimes.

‘I take full accountability for that confusion caused by the memo,’ he said of his January 3 policy memo, which drew harsh criticism from NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, among others.

‘[It] left many New Yorkers justifiably concerned for how we will keep them safe,’ he added, claiming the public was just confused by the dense legalistic language of the memo.

‘I’ve got a lot to learn about comms and messaging,’ Bragg conceded. ‘Lesson learned.’

Bragg’s controversial ‘Day One’ policy memo instructed his office to stop prosecuting low-level offenses including marijuana misdemeanors, prostitution, resisting arrest and fare dodging.

He also instructed prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences for all crimes except for homicides, assaults resulting in serious injury, domestic violence felonies, sex offenses, public corruption, and ‘major economic crimes’.

Aside from the same list of offenses, Bragg’s prosecutors have also been told not to seek bail requirements for suspects awaiting trial.

The memo also outlines a number of circumstances in which charges should be downgraded, including certain cases of armed robbery, burglary and drug dealing.

Bragg confirmed in his remarks on Thursday that his office would not downgrade armed robbery cases in which a firearm is used.

‘Let me be clear,’ he said, ‘any use of a gun to rob a store by definition is and must be and will be treated seriously.’

This clarified language in the memo which called for downgrading robbery cases in which ‘the force or threat of force consists of displaying a dangerous instrument or similar behavior but does not create a genuine risk of physical harm.’

The new policies fulfilled Bragg’s campaign promise to reduce incarceration and pursue progressive prosecutorial policies, but drew sharp backlash from critics who argued tha… (Read more)