The praise for New York Attorney General Letitia James is short lived as people question if her office put as much effort in handling the case of Daniel Prude, an unarmed Black man killed by police, as it did in the investigation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office released a 165-page report detailing the sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Cuomo. The report included interviews with 11 accusers, 179 witnesses, and found thousands of documents as evidence over the course of a five month investigation.
At first, James’ office was applauded for their work, but for the family of Daniel Prude, a grim reality set in.
According to NBC News, Elliot Shields, the Prude family’s attorney, felt the investigation showed James’ office was capable of doing more last year to get justice for Prude and his family.
Last March, Prude was handcuffed without resistance, hooded and pinned to the ground by police in Rochester, N.Y. Authorities were called to the area when Prude left his brother’s house mentally distressed, shoeless and shirtless. While pinned, Prude had stopped breathing for two minutes and despite life saving efforts by medics on the scene, he died a week later in the hospital. He was a father of five struggling with his mental health and suffering from paranoid episodes.
For months, authorities refused to release the bodycam footage taken on the scene by arresting officers. It was released last September and showed not only that Prude complied with all the officer’s commands, but also begged for the hood to be taken off. It also showed the officers mocking and laughing at Prude before and after he lost consciousness.
Following the release of the footage, according to the New York Times, Attorney General James announced that her office would investigate and set up a grand jury to consider the evidence in the case. When they failed to persuade the jury and get an indictment of the officers involved, James promised that her office would continue to address police abuses and seek ways to reform.
Here’s what Shields had to say according to NBC News:
“What the investigation into Andrew Cuomo shows is that when her office wants to put resources towards conducting a thorough investigation, they know how to do that,” said the Prudes’ family attorney, Elliot Shields. “If her office had put the same focus and determination into securing an indictment of the police officers who killed Daniel Prude that they did towards bringing down Andrew Cuomo, they would’ve gotten an indictment.”
Shields’ critique has caused some to revisit the case and see the flaws in the case brought to the grand jury. Letitia James and her office have not yet responded to the criticism.