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SDNY Young Adult Opportunity Program Went Virtual Amid COVID Now Mayor Adams Visits

By Matthew Russell Lee, Scoop Patreon, thread

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 24 – In reporting on the sometimes depressing litany of young adults jailed in the U.S. Federal courts, with sentences repeated extended by violations of Supervised Release, one hears from time to time of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York's Young Adult Opportunity Program.

  Inner City Press heard it mentioned back on September 3, 2019 by SDNY Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn, that there was an open meeting later in the day.

Nowhere on the SDNY website was the location of the meeting given, but a defense attorney pointed Inner City Press in the right direction, in 40 Foley Square.

  There, Judge Netburn and District Judge Ronnie Abrams, fresh off then  presiding over what some called the homeless beat-down trial of Sargeant Cordell Fitts, took on roles strikingly different than at sentencings and changes of plea. A baker's dozen of program participants sat in a circle testifying, in the manner of group therapy, about how their month of August had gone.

Jump cut to May 24, 2022 and NYC Mayor Eric Adams came to SDNY and spoke at the YAOP graduation. He rhymed from arrested to elected and wished the graduates well. Video here. One said how his while time in the Program had been virtual, but now he was glad to see everyone. It was full of hope.

  In October 2021, the Program continued, albeit with virtual meetings. On October 4, Inner City Press covered telephonically two proceeding admitted two defendants into the Program, with a meeting scheduled "for the same platform" on the follow day.

It was not clear if that would be listed in the dockets; at the end of the formal proceeding the public access line was cut. But it still seemed hopeful, with defendants told they would be closely supervised and urged on schooling and employment.

The first of the two cases was USA v. Bencosme, 21-cr-71 (Carter / Abrams) and the defendant agreed to join the program, and for his case to be transferred from Judge Andrew L. Carter to Judge Abrams.

In the latter case, a Federal Defender stood in for FD Andrew Dallack who's on trial in US v. Hossain which, like the program, Inner City Press will continue to cover and report on.

  Back in September 2019 for most it was good: a man had apologized to a woman for his behavior, another was making money from his livery cab even while going home to take care of his daughter. A woman had gotten engaged and nearly all were in school. One had been and perhaps will again be a Columbia University teacher's aide, working now at a non-profit.

  The judges gave each of them encouragement, extracting life lessons such as to not hang out with the same old crowd, to not get flumoxed by the ups and downs of income.

  To the two graduating on September 3, good luck was wished. Cases reactivate and it is up to each defendant's lawyer to make a pitch to the Assistant US Attorneys on how to proceed.

Of course there were challenges: a school too far away from home, a month so bad its experiencer asked to speak to the judges in private afterward. (Inner City Press left, and is also not identifying participants in this story). But it was a welcome relief to the drum beat of sentencings and violations of supervised release. There should be more or it.

Inner City Press will continue to cover this and other SDNY and 2nd Circuit cases - watch this site, and there is more on Patreon, here.


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