Touch of Grateful Dead grey in Bronx judge’s take on bail


A Bronx judge, mixing a touch of sarcasm with a “Touch of Grey,” cited the Grateful Dead in a court decision detailing his issues with the state’s bail reforms.

Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Zimmerman gave a shoutout to Dead bassist Phil Lesh and lyricist Robert Hunter’s song “Box Of Rain,” citing its lyrics “Maybe you’ll find direction, around some corner” to open his 11-page decision this past Monday.

“Clearly the bass player and lyricist of the Grateful Dead have never read New York’s bail reform statutes,” he wrote. “Instead of direction, the statutes provide judges with obfuscation and legislative slight of hand.

“The legislature’s cynical attempt to mollify the public’s concerns, without expressly giving judges the tools to address them, has created a confusing mess.”

Bronx Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was writing about the case of Edward Santiago, 22, arrested on felony complaints of attempted murder and weapons possession in two incidents and arraigned in April.

The judge’s take on the situation was denounced Friday by Mike Murphy, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“This bizarre statement shows our legislation requiring training judges on bail reform was badly needed,” said Murphy. “Hopefully the judge takes these classes immediately.”

Zimmerman offered his “very truncated history” of state bail reform, dating back to ex-Gov. Cuomo and continuing with tweaks across the last four years.

“Of course, all these nearly annual changes to the bail statute were done after extensive legislative hearings in Albany, where noted experts in criminal law were invited to share their penological insights … and legislators asked thoughtful and probing questions,” he wrote.

“JUST KIDDING!! None of that happened. Instead, each of these significant changes to laws that have potentially great effect on the liberty of the defendants and the safety of the community were passed as part of the state budget.”

The Grateful Dead band, from left to right: Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Brent Mydland, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir.

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The result, Zimmerman wrote, was courts where judges were left to interpret state laws “dictated largely by political expediency rather than policy enlightenment.”

Mike Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx, disagreed with his take.

“The law is crystal clear and as we have always said, bail is about ensuring a person’s return to court,” said Whyland. “Judges have plenty of tools available to meet this standard.”

Lawyers for Santiago argued their client did not seriously harm anyone, since the bullets missed their intended targets, while prosecutors argued serious harm is distinct from “serious physical injury.”

“If you shoot live, deadly bullets at somebody, you have caused them ‘serious harm,’ whether or not your aim was good,” offered Zimmerman.

Santiago, 22, was initially held on $335,000 bond, secured by 10% of the amount, or $135,000 cash, and charged in a 17-count indictment with firing a loaded gun at three men in one incident caught on video and weapons possession.

The Bronx judge ultimately reduced the defendant’s bail to a $200,000 bond or $100,000 cash after defense counsel asked for release with an electronic monitoring device earlier this month.

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