Brooklyn DA moves to vacate 1,400 pot warrants, overturn 28 convictions

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN (WABC) -- Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Wednesday moved to vacate more than 1,400 open warrants stemming from marijuana cases and erase more than two dozen past convictions for misdemeanor pot possession.

The 1,422 outstanding misdemeanor warrants are related to cases in which suspects failed to appear in court, which will be closed since the DA no longer prosecutes such offenses.

Gonzalez also consented to defense motions to erase 28 past convictions, which represents the first time in New York state history that a criminal record for marijuana possession was erased under a DA's initiative.

"The majority of these warrants were issued to black and Latino New Yorkers, and many are remnants of stop-and-frisk policies that harmed many of our communities and that the city has since abandoned," Gonzalez said in court. "I believe we must do what we can to repair the harms done to the individuals and the communities that were targeted in well-meaning but misguided efforts of the past."

There have been community events for those with minor marijuana convictions, where they could meet with defense attorneys for free and file the motions to erase their convictions.

This has been in the works for a while, with Gonzalez and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance saying for months that they would no longer prosecute low level marijuana offenses.

They said they needed to address those people with prior convictions on their records which jeopardizes job opportunities, housing and immigration status.

Wednesday's move aims to resolve that hurdle.

"I strongly believe that clearing these misdemeanor warrants is what justice requires in these cases and corresponds with my mission of keeping Brooklyn safe and strengthening trust in the criminal justice system by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all," Gonzalez said in court.

This follows Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement earlier this week, during which he vowed to call for marijuana legalization next year.

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