A rookie judge in Queens cut loose a reputed gang member whom investigators tracked down in North Carolina after a Valentine’s Day bar shooting — even though his defense lawyer called $50,000 bail “appropriate,” The Post has learned.
Judge Denise Johnson — who was rated “not approved” by the city Bar Association before she was elected in November — made the stunning decision during the April 7 arraignment of ex-con Takim Newson, law enforcement sources said.
“How can this be normal? Is this what criminal justice reform is supposed to look like?” said one outraged cop familiar with the matter.
Newson, 32, is charged with attempted murder and related crimes for allegedly shooting a 43-year-old man in the groin while attempting to rob him of a cellphone at the PreGame Sports Bar & Lounge in Jamaica early on Feb. 14.
Newson allegedly went on the run but was busted at his mom’s home in Rocky Mount, NC, by cops from the 107th Precinct and members of the NYPD’s Queens Violent Felony Squad and the US Marshals Service, sources said.
Newson, a reputed member of the Edgemere Crew gang, has a rap sheet listing more than 20 prior arrests, sources said.
Two of those cases — which involve allegedly shooting at cops in 2008 and another shooting in 2011 — are sealed, sources, said.
Newson served a 3½-year prison sentence for an armed robbery in Nassau County before being paroled in 2011, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website.
Online court records also show three unrelated cases pending against him in Queens and Nassau County.
During his arraignment in the PreGame shooting, which left the victim critically injured, the prosecution sought to have him locked up pending trial, according to sources briefed on the proceeding.
The request led defense lawyer Jason Russo to argue that Newson was a “changed man” and that $50,000 bail would be “appropriate,” sources said.
But Johnson ordered him released without bail pending another court appearance on June 9, sources said.
Russo on Friday acknowledged making the remarks in court and said he believed the state’s controversial bail reform laws “had an impact” on the ruling, noting that a judge “is supposed to look at the least restrictive means” to ensure a defendant returns to court.
“We don’t remand on these kinds of cases,” Russo said.
“It’s a serious allegation but you can argue — supposedly [Newson] was standing within a foot of the victim — if he really wanted to kill him, you shoot him in the head.”
Russo added that Newson “knew about the warrant and cooperated with the process in waiving extradition to come back and face the music.”
Johnson, who ran unopposed for a Civil Court seat in Queens’ Fourth Municipal District, told the New York Law Journal that her “not approved” rating came after she didn’t submit an evaluation packet and wasn’t interviewed by the Bar Association.
A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration defended Johnson’s decision to free Newson.
“After hearing the facts and circumstances along with the defendant’s criminal history and history of returning to court for appearances, in the Judge’s view, the least restrictive form of bail as is required by the law, was supervised release,” spokesman Lucian Chalfen said.