https://nypost.com/2022/11/03/brooklyn-judge-weighing-soft-sentence-on-attempted-murder-if-suspect-apologizes-sources/

A controversial Brooklyn judge is secretly considering cutting a deal that would give a gangbanger a slap-on-the-wrist sentence in an attempted murder case — as long as he says he’s sorry, The Post has learned.

Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson has been weighing sentencing accused gunman Donte Simpson to just five years behind bars for the May 2021 shooting that left the 17-year-old victim paralyzed for life, law enforcement sources said.

That’s as long as Simpson — an alleged member of the violent street gang “Focus On Paper” — writes a letter expressing remorse, according to the sources.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence in the case, but declined to comment further.

“This is the Montessori School version of the criminal justice system,” one law enforcement source fumed. “Shoot a 17-year-old and write an apology.”

Brooklyn Judge Laura Johnson will give an attempted murder suspect a 5-year-sentence if he apologizes, according to sources.
Donte Simpson
Donte Simpson appears in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022.
Gregory P. Mango

Simpson was arrested in September 2021 for allegedly opening fire on a street in Crown Heights, striking the teen in the neck. It doesn’t appear that he was the intended victim, according to sources.

The crime was part of a string of shootings tied to “Focus On Paper” — an offshoot of the Brooklyn-based “Wooo,” or “We ‘On Our Own” crew that operates out of the Ocean Hill Houses in Brownsville — which took place at around the same time, the sources said.

“[The victim] is facing a life sentence to a wheelchair, but [Johnson] thinks the shooter should walk away with five years and an apology,” another source said. “And she’s protecting this defendant from the press?

“Maybe she should try to protect society from this perp,” he added.

Simpson was indicted on charges of attempted murder, assault and weapons possession and pleaded not guilty. He’s been out free on a $350,000 bond in the case since last November, according to court records and sources. Judge Jessica Earle-Gargan set the amount. Prosecutors had asked for a $500,000 bail or $1 million bond.

In court on Wednesday, Johnson discussed “the submission” with prosecutors and Simpson’s lawyers, saying it “is not part of the court record” — a reference to the secret letter, sources said.

But because the letter has not been read into the official court record, it remains under wraps — as does the alleged planned backroom deal.

Devin Coley, police-threat suspect.
Devon Coley was charged with threatening cops after a 2014 police shooting — but released without bail by Brooklyn Judge Laura Johnson.

In an email Thursday, the Legal Aid Society, which represents Simpson, noted that he has lived up to all of the court’s restrictions in the case.

“Let’s be clear. No offer has been extended yet,” a spokesman for the public defender agency said.

“Throughout this case, Donte Simpson — who has no conviction record — has fully complied with all court orders, including house arrest, electronic monitoring, and programming to address a myriad of long-term and complex personal issues.

“We look forward to continuing to advocate for Mr. Simpson, who has taken this case seriously from the onset,” the spokesman said.

Johnson — who was appointed to the criminal court bench in 2013 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg — abruptly canceled Wednesday’s court appearance by Simpson when she learned The Post was there, adjourning the case for Dec. 20.

Quipped another source, “Maybe we need body cameras on judges now too.”

The proposed letter-writing deal came as a surprise to the victim’s grandmother, who told The Post prosecutors told her about the possible five-year sentence, but never mentioned the apology note.

“I don’t agree with that at all,” Delores Myers, 61, said Wednesday. “I feel like they should give [Simpson] more. It’s not enough. I want more. It makes me very angry.”

The shooting left her grandson in a wheelchair, Myers said, adding he “is basically learning to do everything over again.”

“After five years he’s gonna come out talking, walking,” she said of Simpson. “He took that away from my grandson.”

Myers added that authorities didn’t even tell her about Simpson’s arrest until months after he was nabbed.

“Nobody said anything,” she said. “I know they asked me [if]would I come down to court. I said to them I’d rather put something in writing. If anything else is going to happen, they should tell me. I want to know everything.”

Brooklyn Judge Laura Johnson
Brooklyn Judge Laura Johnson, center, was reappointed by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 despite the controversial police-threat ruling.
New York City Office of the Mayo

The state Office of Court Administration on Thursday denied that there was an apology-for-leniency deal in place in the case.

“The judge is not suppressing a letter, a letter that she has not actually seen nor is in possession of, in exchange for any type of plea or other consideration,” OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said in an email.

“There will be a suppression hearing regarding the gun at the next court date in December, which is pretty routine in these types of cases,” he said.

Johnson drew the ire of New York’s Finest in 2014 when she freed a reputed gangbanger who threatened cops.

Prosecutors said Devin Coley posted his threats just hours after two NYPD officers were executed — including a disturbing photo of the shooting.

Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio drew more heat when he reappointed Johnson to the bench.

Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives Endowment Association, this week lambasted the illicit courthouse deal in the Simpson case, saying the accused gunman “belongs behind bars.”

“Detectives are working tirelessly to lock up violent criminals like Mr. Simpson while judges like Laura Johnson are working tirelessly against justice,” DiGiacomo said.

“New York City detectives are doing their job,” he said. “Judges need to do theirs.”

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