The year 2021 brought a hefty serving of junk justice to the Big Apple.
Between lenient judges and liberal state bail reform laws, a slew of violent criminals landed back on the streets — only to reoffend.
The soft-on-crime statute, passed by state lawmakers in 2019 and tweaked in 2020, stripped judges of discretion by barring them from setting bail on nearly all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
Other jurists simply went rogue by springing defendants in serious cases.
Here’s a look back at some of the most stunning cases:
Free to ‘kill’
Steven Mendez, 18, already had at least three busts on his record and was out on probation when he allegedly gunned down 21-year-old college student Saiko Koma in October.
Bronx Judge Denis Boyle freed Mendez on five years’ probation in May after he pleaded guilty to a violent armed robbery in 2020, The Post previously reported. The troubled teen, whose rap sheet includes a bust for allegedly pulling a gun on his own mother, could’ve been kept behind bars for up to four years in the robbery case.
Instead, the reputed gang member, then 17, was free to allegedly fatally shoot Koma in Fordham Heights — after police said he mistook the victim for a rival gang member.
Mendez was arraigned on murder charges in the case last week and ordered held without bail, court records show.
“What is wrong with this judge?” Koma’s father railed to The Post last month.
Sir Isaac Lootin’
Serial shoplifter Isaac Rodriguez was nabbed nearly 50 times this year alone — yet kept getting dumped back on the streets.
Rodriguez, 22, currently has 23 open cases in Queens, part of a mind-boggling rap sheet that lists 74 arrests dating to 2015, records show.
He allegedly hit one Walgreens in Jackson Heights 37 times during the year but has also targeted a slew of other retailers, stealing everything from baby formula to Victoria’s Secret merchandise.
Thanks to the state’s revolving-door criminal justice system, the petit larceny and stolen property charges don’t qualify for bail.
“I don’t know how these [cases] have been handled, but clearly there has been no consequence,” one police source told The Post at the time.
It wasn’t until Rodrigez was nabbed for assault in a June 7 gang attack of a 39-year-old Jackson Heights man that he was finally locked up.
Records show he’s now being held at Rikers Island on $10,000 bail.
Accused serial burglar Juan DelValle was so adept at dodging jail that cops came to call the 32-year-old career criminal “Teflon.”
DelValle already had more than 30 busts on his rap sheet — and five open cases in Manhattan and Brooklyn — when a Manhattan judge ordered him released without bail on Aug. 15 on the most recent burglary case.
Prosecutors wanted DelValle held on $10,000 bail.
Within 10 days, cops said, DelValle was being sought on more than a dozen other burglaries after investigators found 20 laptops, a stolen 9mm handgun and drugs at his apartment at a Brooklyn public housing complex.
Police caught up with DelValle at the end of August and hit him with felony burglary charges — and he’s finally behind bars on $10,000 bail, records show.
Freed creep molests girl
A 31-year-old homeless man was free on a pending burglary case when police said he broke into a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom on June 12 and rubbed his genitals on her.
Raymond Wilson had been arrested on burglary charges at least a dozen times.
“The victim felt something slimy on her feet and noticed that the defendant was rubbing his penis on her toes,” Manhattan prosecutor Meghan McNulty said in court.
“The victim screamed for her parents but no one was home except her younger sister, who was sleeping in another room,” McNulty said.
Just one month before the alleged assault on the girl, Wilson was charged with third-degree burglary in another case — but had to be released because the state bail reform measures do not allow judges to set bail on the charge.
Detectives later tracked down Wilson through DNA from a water bottle he left behind, and he is being held on $500,000 bail at Rikers Island on sex abuse charges.
Released on reduced bail
Reputed teen gangbanger Alberto Ramirez caught a break when Bronx Judge Denis Boyle lowered his bail on a gun case — then used it to allegedly kill a father of two.
Ramirez, 17, was freed on March 2 after Boyle — the same jurist in the Mendez case — reduced his bail from $75,000 to $10,000 over the objections of Bronx prosecutors.
Police said on May 16, Ramirez fired randomly into a crowd on a rival gang’s turf, when one bullet struck and killed 34-year-old Eric Velasquez, a bystander.
“How many bites of the apple does someone get before someone gets killed?” one law enforcement source told The Post at the time.
The teen was arrested June 7 and is being held without bail on murder, manslaughter and weapons charges in the case.
‘My hands are tied’
Ricardo Hernandez was cut loose after he was charged with three hate crimes for allegedly shoving an Asian NYPD officer onto Queens subway tracks on April 17.
And there was nothing prosecutors — or the judge — could do about it.
“My hands are tied because under the new bail rules, I have absolutely no authority or power to set bail on this defendant for this alleged offense,” Queens Supreme Court Justice Louis Nock said at Hernandez’s arraignment.
The 32-year-old suspect had at least a dozen prior arrests under his belt, but the cop-shove charges were nonetheless not eligible for bail under the state’s new laws.
Police said Hernandez approached the undercover cop on the N train platform in Dutch Kills, telling the officer, “I will f–k you up. This is my house.”
The cop was not seriously hurt, and Hernandez walked out of court telling The Post he didn’t want to talk about the charges.
Hernandez later pleaded guilty to a violation in the case, with the case then sealed, a spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
Christmas tree Grinch
Even The Post felt the sting of the state’s shoddy bail laws.
Craig Tamanaha, 49, was charged with arson and criminal mischief for allegedly torching the Christmas tree outside the News Corp building in Midtown on Dec. 8 — only to be released without bail.
Although Tamanaha has a lengthy rap sheet, the charges do not qualify him for bail under state criminal justice reforms.
He’s due back in court on the case next week.
What comes next?
Incoming Mayor Eric Adams has expressed concern over the impact of state bail reform measures, but as a local official, there’s likely little he can do about it.
State lawmakers did not respond to inquiries from The Post about the issue over the past week, and Gov. Kathy Hochul has largely declined to discuss the issue in any detail.
Meanwhile, state court officials have repeatedly defended judges’ discretion when making bail decisions — when the law allows them to do so at all.
“Judges are unique in the criminal justice system, particularly during arraignments, in that with limited information they exercise their discretion in case after case while having to decide what is fair and equitable both for the defendant and society, which at times can seem to be at cross purposes,” courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen said in an email.
Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan