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His Honor vs Hizzoner

June 8, 1996

Angered by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's criticism of his granting low bail to a man charged with causing the death of a city cop, State Supreme Court Judge Burton Roberts of the Bronx said in effect that he didn't need any advice from the mayor or anyone else.

"I will decide each case on its merits without regard to political considerations of any kind," said Roberts, who turns 74 next month and has never been a stranger to publicity or volubility.

"After 47 years in law enforcement as an assistant district attorney, Bronx County district attorney, judge and administrative judge of the Bronx County Supreme Court, in making my determination I applied the law as it exists today in New York State," Roberts said.

"It is not incumbent upon me to poll public officials to interpret the law for me or to guide me on how I should exercise my constitutional responsibilities and judicial discretion."

The crusty administrative judge of both the criminal and civil sides of State Supreme Court in the Bronx had granted $10,000 bail to Anthony Rivers, who is accused of tossing Police Officer Vincent Guidice into a broken mirror during a domestic dispute. Guidice severed an artery that led to his death.

Rivers' low bail prompted outrage from Giuliani and Police Commissioner Howard Safir, both of whom had also professesd outrage at Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson's decision to indict Rivers for criminally negligent homicide, not second-degree murder as Giuliani wished.

Johnson also expressed outrage over Roberts' low bail decision. The DA and the judge have fought for years over Johnson's refusal to plea-bargain, which Roberts maintains has tied up the courts. Giuliani, who originally Printable versionmaintained that Rivers had thrown the mirror at the cop, acknowledged yesterday that the cop had been pushed into the mirror. He still maintained that Rivers should have been indicted for second-degree murder, described Roberts' bail decision at a City Hall news conference as "idiotic."

"He says he doesn't need my advice. He needs someone's advice," said the mayor. He added that Rivers had previously jumped bail twice and committed "nine or ten vicious beatings."

Court spokesman David Bookstaver pointed out that none of Rivers' previous convictions had been felonies.

Asked at the news conference whether his remarks might jeopardize Rivers' right to a fair trial, the mayor sounded even more outraged than before. "You will not stop my First Amendment rights with a lame excuse. I have the right, the duty, the obligation to speak out and not let a judge intimidate me."

He then stalked out of the news conference.

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© 1996 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.