By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office sponsored a program called "Begin Again" at the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Friday and Saturday, during which they helped to clear summons warrants for people from all over the borough.
The event was co-sponsored by the Kings County Criminal Bar Association, the Office of Court Administration, the Court Officers of the Criminal Court and members of the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in an effort to get people out from under sometimes decades-old summonses.
“It's important for the people who are coming to this,” said Michael Cibella, president of the KCCBA. “These are people getting summonses for riding a bike on the sidewalk who haven't shown up to their court date. If they get stopped again, they get brought to court and put in jail until they see a judge. It's allowing a person who had a minor offense, to avoid having to spend the night in jail if they were stopped for speeding, let's say, something minor.”
Members of the various organizations each took time away from their Easter weekend to take part in the program. Many members of the KCCBA, including past President Jay Schwitzman, volunteered by offering legal advice, and criminal court Judges Hon. Craig Walker and Hon. Sharen Hudson oversaw the event.
“We're so used to punishing people in this system so it's nice to take time out to be able to clear up stuff for people who really didn't get into trouble,” Cibella said. “I represented a guy who works for Verizon. He got a ticket for urinating in a park years ago, but otherwise has been a total law-abiding citizen. We're glad to help clear that up because there is no reason for a guy like that to be sent to jail for running a red light, or some other minor violation, just because he has this old summons.”
The judges and attorneys were available to resolve outstanding and low-level summons warrants for various violations including public consumption of alcohol, possession of marijuana, riding a bike on the sidewalk, littering, being in the park after closing, unreasonable noise and walking a dog without a leash, among others offenses.
The event wasn't only for Brooklyn residents, as all summons issued in NYC qualified, with the exception of transit-related summonses. Anyone with more serious summons warrants was directed to Legal Aid.