NYPD Officer Cronin back in court facing attempted murder charges

Thursday, January 22, 2015
NYPD Officer Cronin in court facing attempted murder charges
Jim Hoffer has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An NYPD officer facing attempted murder charges was back in court Thursday. Lawyers for Brendan Cronin presented a psychological evaluation that could set the stage for his defense. Cronin is accused of opening fire on a stopped car while he was off-duty. Eyewitness News was the only camera in the court room.

A stoic Officer Cronin appeared in court for what will be a years-long legal battle. The battle will try to keep him from spending years behind bars for what can only be described as a bizarre shooting of two people he never met, but whose lives he nearly ended.

NYPD Officer Brendan Cronin said not a single word in court. His attorney told the Judge that Cronin had completed a psychological evaluation which they were ready to hand over to the prosecutors. That report likely lays the groundwork for some kind of psychological defense for Cronin, who's charged with attempted murder for firing 14 shots at a car stopped at a traffic light in Pelham back in April. Six of those shots hit Joseph Felice who nearly died.

"No comment means no comment. I appreciate that," said Cronin's attorney.

"Mr. Cronin do you have anything to say," Eyewitness News asked.

"No comment from Mr. Cronin," his attorney said.

The bizarre shooting happened after Officer Cronin had spent the day doing drills on vehicle stops while at a nearby NYPD training facility. Afterward, while off-duty, he went out for drinks, allegedly got kicked out of a City Island bar for fighting. Shortly after, Cronin got out of his parked car and started blasting away at Felice and his friend who had just pulled up to the light on their way from playing hockey. Prosecutors say Cronin told police he drank whiskey and beer that night.

"There aren't a lot of good options," said N.G. Berrill, Ph.D., NY Forensic Center.

Forensic Psychologist Dr. N.G. Berrill says there are few psychiatric defenses for Officer Cronin to use in his case, especially considering his alleged drinking.

"You become so intoxicated that your judgment is impaired, that's what happens when you drink a lot. The fact you have a weapon and been given authority to carry weapon you don't get off the hook and can't use psychiatric reasons to abdicate responsibility," Dr. Berrill said.

Officer Cronin apparently told prosecutors that he doesn't remember firing his weapon suggesting he blacked out.

On March 12th, Cronin is back in court when we might learn more about whether his blacking out becomes part of his defense strategy.

"He would have to have a pattern of acting out or blacking out on other occasions that might be helpful from a defense prospective that's a lot of stuff to try and uncover and work with," Dr. Berrill said.

The NYPD has suspended Cronin without pay. If he's found guilty, he could spend up to 25 years in prison.