News & Politics

Lawsuit Alleges Married Couple Rigged Court Cases in New York Against Drug Defendants

The case involves the district attorney who failed to re-open the Eric Garner case.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart /

A new lawsuit implicates Judge Judith McMahon and district attorney Michael McMahon—a married couple—for trying to choose friendly judges in Staten Island courts. It's looking like a particularly sticky situation for McMahon, whom some blame for failing to indict Eric Garner's killer. 

McMahon’s election occurred after former district attorney Daniel Donovan was elected to Congress. Under Donovan, a grand jury failed to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for the killing of Eric Garner. Both the interim district attorney Daniel Master and Michael McMahon failed to call another grand jury. During his election, Donovan was endorsed by multiple police unions.

Judith McMahon is accused of being involved in criminal cases even after she said she would step back due to her husband’s campaign and subsequent victory. 

The suit claims that Judith McMahon and Michael McMahon “conspired to develop and use Part N (the special narcotics part) as a way to steer grand jury applications away from judges who were deemed ‘defense oriented judges’ and towards the Honorable Charles Troia.” The judge is now located in Manhattan.

As the New York Post reported, though the former chief administrative judge “relinquished her supervision over the criminal section to Judge Stephen Rooney during the campaign and before her husband became DA,” the list of misconduct cites seven instances all occurring in 2016, after Michael McMahon was district attorney.

The lawsuit also involves the case of Ramsey Orta, who filmed footage of Eric Garner’s death. As the New York Daily News reported in July 2016, Orta has claimed he is a “target of the NYPD” because of the video, which showed Eric Garner being placed in a chokehold and saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Orta took a plea deal on weapons and drug charges. He has been arrested multiple times since 2014. His case has become an activist touchpoint around the treatment of those who film incidents of police brutality.

As the New York Post reports, “On Jan. 7, 2016 after Mike McMahon was sworn in as DA, Judge McMahon handled the decision whether to allow video as evidence in the case against Ramsey Orta case (the man who filmed the Eric Garner police chokehold death).”

A statement was released from McMahon’s office calling the lawsuit “another desperate attempt to tarnish the reputations of the D.A. and Judge McMahon.” Judith McMahon’s representation called the suit “baseless allegations.”

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.