More than ten thousand uniformed police stood outside St. Joseph’s Church in Babylon,Long Island on Monday morning. The solemn assemblage was present to usher Police Officer Peter Figoski, a fallen NYPD hero,to his final resting place.
Four daughters walked behind their father in the funeral procession, and as they cried for their monumental loss, we as witnesses of their agony wept along with them. A mother and father stood outside the church where the commanding officer of the 75th Precinct presented them with the flag that had draped their son’s casket.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hyneshas vowed to see justice for Peter Figoski,declaring that there will be no plea deals for any of the five accused even if it is shown that they did not pull the trigger on the murder weapon.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly admitted that while nothing would give life back to Officer Figoski, some measure of justice would be given to his family.
But the tears and the promises of future justice can do absolutely nothing to erase the horrendous mistake made by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Laporte when she released the monster that allegedly squeezed off the rounds that ended Peter Figoski’s life.
Justice is supposed to serve the innocent.It is intended to inspire confidence in our criminal system and work in conjunction with law enforcement officials to guard and protect us. Those empowered and entrusted with doling out justice to the public have a difficult task. At times they must overlook things which may have no legal bearing but are viewed as morally unacceptable.
It is difficult to even approach a theoretical explanation as to why Justice Laporte and Judge Shari Ruth Michels both allowed accused shooter Lamont Pride to walk out of their courtrooms despite more than sufficient proof that he was not fit to walk the streets.
Pride was arrested repeatedly, both in New York and North Carolina. Records show Pride first showed up in a New York court in 2002 where he faced non-felony charges in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Those charges we read adjourned in contemplation of dismissal –meaning they would be dropped if he didn’t get into any more trouble.
Pride was then arrested several times in North Carolina, but he never served a full term of sentence for convictions.
Police in Greensboro, North Carolina began their search for Pride in August 2011 when he allegedly shot a man during a dispute. The North Carolina cops issued an arrest warrant for Pride at that time.
The criminal made his way back to New York City, where records show he was arrested in Brooklyn on Sept. 22 on misdemeanor charges. He was released within 24 hours.
On Nov 3, Pride was arrested in Brooklyn again. This time, according to court records, on low-level drug charges. At Pride’s arraign menton those charges, Brooklyn prosecutors informed Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Laporte that “other law enforcement personnel” were looking for Pride.
Prosecutors told Laporte about the warrant and pleaded with her to remand Pride or order bail for the career criminal, but she refused and released him without bail.
Less than two weeks later on Nov. 15, Pride slipped through the courtroom cracks again,when he failed to show up for a court date and Judge Michels let Pride skate at the request of his attorney who asked for a chance to contact him. A new prosecutor assigned to the case had failed to inform the judge about the outstanding warrant from North Carolina.
City Councilman Peter Vallone, the head of the council’s public safety committee has called for an investigation into the handling of Pride’s case. According to published reports,David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court system had this reply in regard to Vallone’s request: “We don’t investigate judges. Judges have discretion when it comes to bail but they don’t have a crystal ball.”
We wonder if Mr. Bookstaver would have felt comfortable in discussing crystal balls with Pete Figoski’s fellow officers or his family.
Unlikely as it seems, this heinous act of murder committed by a raging monster masquerading as a human being was further compounded by two judges and the spokesman who attempted to explain their poor judgment.
There remains little to say about this tragic loss to the Figoski family, the NYPD and the city of New York. We support Mr. Vallone in his call for an investigation and denounce any member of the court system who seeks to make excuses for that which is in excusable.
Lamont Pride will eventually go to prison for the rest of his life. Those who knew and loved Pete Figoski will remain his victims for the rest of theirs. No one needs a crystal ball to see that.