Alvin Bragg’s official biography describes him as a “son of Harlem” who became Manhattan district attorney after “a lifetime of hard work, courage and demanding justice”.
In obtaining a grand jury indictment against Donald Trump over his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels in 2016, the Democrat has now carved himself a place in history, as the man behind the first vote to criminally indict a former president.
Now 49, Bragg is a Harvard-educated former assistant New York state attorney general and assistant US attorney in the southern district of New York.
In 2021, he was elected as the first Black Manhattan DA and only the fourth permanent occupant of the post in 80 years.
In office, his biography says, he has focused on “protecting everyday New Yorkers from abuses by the powerful, and correcting past injustices by vacating wrongful convictions”.
The biography also highlights the creation of a Special Victims Division, handling “extremely sensitive cases in a trauma informed and survivor centered manner”, and an expansion of a Hate Crimes Unit.
Bragg has prominent critics, however. Chief among them is Mark Pomerantz, an experienced New York prosecutor who joined an investigation of Trump begun by Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr, but resigned in February 2022.
In his resignation letter, Pomerantz said Trump was “guilty of numerous felony violations” in his business and political affairs and called Bragg’s initial decision to stop pursuing an indictment “a grave failure of justice”. The two men exchanged shots in the press.
Last month, Pomerantz published a book in which he described efforts to make Trump’s hush money payment to Stormy Daniels a viable path to prosecution.
Pomerantz called the Daniels payment a “zombie case” because it would not die. A month later, it emerged that Bragg was homing in on a Trump indictment in the very same case.
Bragg’s official biography now highlights a six-count indictment against the Trump ally Steve Bannon for fraud, and the conviction of Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization chief financial officer, for tax evasion.
Bragg has also faced criticism for his approach to crime, not least from the New York City police commissioner, Keechant Sewell.
In early 2022, Bragg issued a memo instructing prosecutors to avoid seeking prison time for all but the most serious crimes. In a city where crime is always a key political issue, and in an atmosphere of heightened concern fueled by the disruptions of the Covid pandemic, Sewell told NYPD officers she was “severely troubled”.
Bragg said the memo had been misunderstood. After a meeting, he and Sewell agreed that “police and prosecutors would weigh the individual facts and circumstances of each case with a view toward justice and work together to keep New Yorkers safe”.
Later in 2022, the issue of crime and punishment in New York flared forth again. After a Hispanic Harlem shopkeeper stabbed a Black assailant, Bragg charged the shopkeeper with second-degree murder. After an outcry, the charges were dropped.
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