Monday Night Arraignments

“Mr. Julio, you better be there or you will be in big trouble, do you understand?” The honorable Louis Nock rarely addresses the defendant directly, but after denying the People’s motion for bail, the judge wants to be thorough.

Mr. Julio nods. His crimson underwear stands out from his otherwise all black jeans, boots, leather jacket and dark hair as he adjusts his sagging pants. Mr. Julio was arrested for possession of marijuana and will be expected to return to court November 14th.

Moments before, Mr. Julio stood listening to Assistant District Attorney Joshua Lisk quote him from an arrest transcript, “I don’t have a warrant. I just got out.” The sound of Lisk ripping out the discarded pages tore through an otherwise quiet courtroom.

It’s understandable for Lisk to seem restless. There’s not much glamorous in the New York City criminal court on a Monday night. The courtroom feels box-like, with black tile and dark wood paneling below an eggshell white ceiling. More than a dozen police offers are dispersed throughout the room. Some with court specific uniforms; others in the traditional navy NYPD collared shirts or windbreakers, and even a couple in plain clothes.

There are cups of coffee and bottles of seltzer water on every table and clerks on their cell phones. Spectators, previously convicted felons, attorneys, and friends of the accused filter in and out all night. This is night court.

After someone is arrested in New York County, essentially anywhere in Manhattan, they must be arraigned within 24 hours or granted release. With hundreds of thousands of arrests each year, the New York City Criminal Court works around the clock every day of the year. Night court is open Sunday through Wednesday from 5 pm to 1 am, and typically all night Thursday through Saturday. Sometimes a well-known athlete or a foreign diplomat comes through the court’s flimsy gold doors, but most of the time it’s just ordinary citizens.

Judge Nock stands a little less than six feet tall. He is clean-shaven and clean cut with black, graying hair that blends into his pale skin. Nock has been a criminal court judge almost a year, but comes across as temperamental.

The defense attorney for Trent Cranston, who allegedly left his child unattended, appeals to Judge Nock to reject the proposed $2,000 bail, citing Mr. Cranston’s role as a benevolent stay at home dad. “Mr. Cranston makes his son breakfast every morning, he takes him to and from school. He goes to basketball practice, football practice, and teacher conferences,” she says.

Wearing a plaid jacket over a green hoodie and white Nikes, Mr. Cranston stands stoic.

The judge stands as he looks over documents; he sits when once he has made a decision. After a brief bench meeting, he makes a rare acknowledgement of his audience and announces that the meeting confirmed Child Services has been involved in the situation. Bail is rejected and Mr. Trenton is to be released on recognizance, with a limited order of protection.

Lisk objects, and requests a full order of protection, but the Judge will not be swayed pointing out there are no allegations of physical misconduct. “This matter is adjourned,” he barks while Lisk is still speaking.

Carlos Rodriguez has been charged with resisting arrest and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. Lisk states that the People recommend a $500 fine and six-month suspension of Rodriguez’s license. After Judge Nock announces a postponed adjournment, two female police officers whisper in the back of the courtroom. They share a laugh.

The bailiff yells, “Quiet please!” The two officers look up immediately and he cracks a smile.

A few minutes later, Mr. Cranston returns to the courtroom pews and sits down. He waits silently until the clerk calls for him to sign court documents. Once finished he is given instructions and handed another sheet of paper. He glances at it, folds it in half and walks out of the courtroom.

Author: Zac Howard

Freelance Journalist based in NYC

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