He’s accused of killing a woman in SoHo. So why is he in Arizona?


Gov. Kathy Hochul is working with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to extradite the suspect in a brutal SoHo murder who fled to Arizona before facing charges, spokespeople for both offices confirmed on Wednesday.

Their effort to bring murder suspect Raad Almansoori back to New York comes after an Arizona prosecutor pulled what several legal experts said was an ugly political move last month by refusing to extradite him after saying she didn’t trust Bragg to keep him in custody. The prosecutor, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, is a Republican who campaigned on promises to “hold dangerous criminals accountable.” Bragg is a Democrat and proponent of criminal justice reform.

Bragg’s office hasn’t formally requested an extradition warrant from Hochul just yet, according to Hochul spokesperson Avi Small. But spokespeople for both offices said they are working on it.

District attorneys in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island issued a joint statement backing Bragg on Tuesday.

“Making a spectacle of this simple request defied our long-standing practice to place justice and accountability above politics,” the statement said.

As the complicated case plays out, Gothamist has your questions answered.

What happened?

Almansoori, the suspect in a brutal murder that took place in a SoHo hotel earlier this month, fled to Arizona, police said. There, he was accused of committing more violent crimes, and police arrested him. After Bragg was notified that Almansoori had been caught, he issued a warrant to have Almansoori returned to New York to be tried for murder — which legal experts said is customary, since the New York murder is the most serious crime he’s been charged with. But Mitchell said she doesn’t trust Bragg to keep Almansoori behind bars and refused to extradite him.

What’s the Arizona prosecutor so worried about?

Judges, not prosecutors, make decisions on whether suspects are held in custody while they await trial. But prosecutors do get a chance to argue for what they want.

That said, people accused of murder are almost always either held without bail, or held on a bail amount so high that they have no realistic chance of posting it, said Diane Peress, a former prosecutor and criminal justice professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bragg’s office has been criticized for releasing accused criminals without bail, but always on lower-level charges — never murder. One high-profile example is a recent case in which a group of people was caught on video hitting and kicking a police officer who was trying to make an arrest outside a migrant shelter in Times Square. Both Bragg and the judge in that case faced criticism from police and conservative politicians after several of those suspects were released after they were arrested. One was rearrested days later on shoplifting charges.

In this case, police said Almansoori was out on bail when he allegedly committed the SoHo murder — but for a Florida case, not one in New York. Police have said he has a long criminal history that includes prior cases in Arizona, Texas and Florida, but not in New York. That means no New York prosecutor, Bragg included, has yet had a chance to hold him in custody or release him.

How does extraditing someone normally work?

Prosecutors in New York would normally have to show that they have probable cause to believe that their suspect committed the crime. They would then ask a New York judge to issue an arrest warrant, said Peress. That warrant would be entered into a national background check system. If the person came into contact with law enforcement anywhere else, they would be arrested on the warrant, Peress said.

If there are charges in two states at once, prosecutors will negotiate where the defendant should stand trial first, legal experts said. Usually the suspect will go to the place where they face the most serious charges first — in part because if they are convicted of the most serious charges, less serious charges in the second state can become irrelevant in terms of prison time, and the defendant often opts to plead guilty in the lesser case, Peress said.

In this case, Almansoori did not agree to go back to New York. When that happens, or when prosecutors disagree, the prosecutors who want him extradited can ask for a governor’s warrant — something Bragg’s office is preparing to do, said his spokesperson Emily Tuttle. Experts said this could mean that the decision over extradition ends up in the hands of Hochul and Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, who are both Democrats.

There are a few legitimate reasons why a prosecutor can refuse to extradite someone, Peress said, such as paperwork that isn’t in order, or because one office believes the other office is after the wrong person.

“You can’t sit around and judge whether you like the other office’s case or not,” Peress said.

Has anything like this ever happened before?

Peress could think of only one instance: when nine Black teenagers were falsely accused of raping a white woman on a train in Alabama in the 1930s. In that case, one of the suspects, Haywood Patterson was convicted of the crime without evidence, but escaped from prison and fled to Detroit, Peress said. The Michigan governor then refused to extradite him back to Alabama.

Former Manhattan Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman Agnifilo said she’s alarmed that politics are affecting a murder case — something that has traditionally remained above the political fray.

“This is one of the starkest signs that our polarization has infected the criminal justice system, and that’s scary to me,” she said.

Samantha Max and Jon Campbell contributed reporting.



Source link

Leave a Comment