Queens DA’s office announces changes to combat spread of coronavirus

Photo by Mark Hallum

The Queens District Attorney’s Office is taking immediate action to protect the hundreds of employees that work within the DA’s Kew Gardens headquarters and to keep all defendants, crime victims, witnesses, jurors and all others safe from COVID-19 during the coronavirus emergency.

The DA’s Office will continue to staff every essential aspect of their work and are prepared to respond and adapt to each challenge during the crisis.

“As New Yorkers, we have lived through citywide crises before. We survived the attacks of September 11th and the ravages of Superstorm Sandy. We have always found a way to come together, to support one another and protect the vulnerable,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “I have no doubt that we will get through this new crisis, but it will take all of us doing our jobs and taking the extra steps to work in unison to fight this potentially deadly virus. Ultimately, however, this office will continue to function and work with our criminal justice system to assure that the rights of both defendants and victims are safeguarded.”

The DA’s office is cooperating with the courts and defense bar to facilitate arraignments which will take place via video conferencing. Defendants will appear on video screens from within the confines of Central Booking, if they are healthy. If a defendant is sick, he or she will be taken to the Red Hook Community Court and be arraigned via video conferencing from that location. Defendants will still have an opportunity to meet with their defense attorneys, via video conferencing. The arraignments via video are underway.

“For those of us in positions of leadership within our government, we must find new, creative, and effective ways to continue to serve the public while at the same time minimizing the risk of spreading the coronavirus,” Katz said. “The responsibilities of my office are essential to the continuing function of public safety and may be even more so as this crisis evolves.”

Members of the DA’s staff that are able to perform their jobs from home are working remotely, thereby avoiding as much interaction as possible with others, especially those workers who have preexisting conditions such as heart conditions, diabetes or other underlying medical issues. Assistant District Attorneys will telework whenever possible and internal meetings with members of the DA’s staff will take place with videoconferencing.

Cleaning and sanitizing the District Attorney’s offices and the courthouse, too, will be accelerated and enhanced.”

“The headlines are frightening, but we know that there are numerous things we can do to combat this growing epidemic,” Katz said. “My first priority is to make sure we continue to provide a fair criminal justice system. We are mandating changes that will help keep everyone safe while at the same time ensuring the rights of defendants. We will do so while we take steps to enable social distancing, teleworking and other procedures.”

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