Stephen Abreu, an investigator with the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, was arrested and charged on Friday with attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon, and reckless endangerment in the first degree. According to police and witnesses, he fired two shots at a bouncer during a drunken rampage inside a Williamsburg bar, after a woman spurned his aggressive advances.
Unlike many New Yorkers facing a felony attempted murder charge, Abreu will not be awaiting his court date behind bars. He was released from custody without bail, and is free to come and go from from his West Village home under a supervision program ordered by Brooklyn Judge Hilary Gingold.
Defense attorneys say there's little doubt the arraignment would've gone differently, if not for Abreu's status as a sworn law enforcement officer.
"If that was a civilian, they would be on Rikers Island right now," said Marie Ndiaye, supervising attorney of the Legal Aid Society's Decarceration Project. "Most people who shoot up bars are not getting released without conditions."
She said she wasn't surprised by the judge's decision, noting that the "deferential treatment" afforded to those in uniform is a well-established fact of the court system.
Staff members at Horses & Divorces, the Bedford Avenue bar where the shooting occurred on Friday morning, said they were alarmed to learn of Abreu's release, and planned to attend Wednesday's hearing to call for accountability.
"We are all disgusted that this psychopath was let off without bail," Jennifer Manfredi, a bartender, told Gothamist.
While the new bail reform laws prohibit pretrial detention and cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, Abreu was charged with five violent felonies, all of which remain bail eligible.
In past cases, Judge Gingold has set bail for a nonviolent alleged cop impersonator, and ordered an apparently mentally ill man accused of second-degree assault to be remanded without bail. At Abreu's arraignment, she denied the Brooklyn District Attorney's request of $50,000 bail.
Even under the new rules, defendants accused of crimes far less serious than Abreu's may find themselves incarcerated before trial, attorneys said.
"Charles Barry is in jail right now on $10,000 bail for allegedly scamming tourists," noted Ndiaye, referring to the so-called "serial scammer" who has made the front covers of both city tabloids as an example of bail reform's dangers.
By contrast, outspoken critics of the new laws have been virtually silent about Abreu walking free. Neither the Sergeants Benevolent Association nor the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association — the two police unions that have led the charge against bail reform — responded to Gothamist's inquiries about the alleged gunman's release.
Those calling for change to the recent bail reforms, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, have claimed the new restrictions unduly limit judicial discretion. Defense attorneys, meanwhile, say such discretion creates a two-tiered justice system.
"The real problem isn’t that this person was released, it's that other people aren't released for the same charges," Ndiaye said. "Especially for poor people and people of color — the presumption is that person can’t be out in the world pending their case, while law enforcement is given the benefit of the doubt."
In addition to serving as an investigator for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for four years, Abreu is also a trustee for the Detective Investigator Association, a union that represents about 275 officers who investigate crimes for local district attorneys. The union did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The group has raised concerns on Facebook about criminals walking free, and bemoaned "liberals showing a total disrespect for Police." The union's former president, John Flemmings, declined to discuss the union's views, telling Gothamist that the investigators' work was "extremely confidential."
Notably, the NYPD did not circulate a press release about Abreu's arrest, something they typically do for shootings, and which they are legally required to do for city employees. Abreu also did not have to endure a perp walk — the common practice in which suspects are escorted before the media at a certain place and time.
Prior to his suspension this weekend, Abreu was earning a taxpayer-funded salary of $69,817, a spokesperson for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor confirmed. Investigators' incomes are not listed on public databases "due to safety concerns stemming from the nature of the work," according to the spokesperson.
A spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney declined to comment for this story, as did Abreu's attorney. He is due back in court on Wednesday morning.