It's not hard to spot Alvin Bragg going in and out of the Manhattan Courthouse these days. The prosecutor travels with a security service. It must be said that the powerful Manhattan district attorney (DA) is one of the most scrutinized men in the United States. "Manhattan's First Cop" is in charge of the sensitive case of secret payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. A case that earned Donald Trump to become, Thursday, March 30, the first indicted president in the history of the United States. He must appear this Tuesday, April 4 in a New York court for the reading of the charges.
For the Trumpist right, the African American is a "radical leftist", "corrupt" and "racist". For opponents of the former president, he is the vigilante who had the courage to put an end to his impunity. "He looks like he came out of nowhere, but he was able to catch the light," admits Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who teaches at John Jay University in New York.
Other than being born in New York and having attended elite universities (Wharton Business School for Trump, Harvard Law School for Bragg), the two men have little in common. While the first was born in an upscale neighborhood of Queens, the second grew up in the 1980s in Harlem, the black neighborhood of Manhattan, against the backdrop of the crack epidemic. During his speeches, he repeated that he had been held up six times, including three times by the police, before he turned 21: "They put a knife in my neck, a semi-automatic weapon in my head and I found a homicide victim on my doorstep. »
In the 1990s, he observed that minorities were disproportionately targeted by the zero-tolerance policy deployed by Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of Donald Trump's future lawyers. So he decides to do law. In the 2010s, he joined the New York State Attorney's Office, head of the state judiciary. As number two in 2017 and 2018, he oversees several media files, such as the Weinstein affair. He also crosses paths with Donald Trump, accused of having used his foundation to finance his 2016 election campaign. The structure will be dissolved in 2019.
At the same time, Alvin Bragg carves out the image of a progressive prosecutor. He is part of a new generation of magistrates calling for reform in policing after the death of African-American George Floyd in 2020. He notably represents the family of Eric Garner, an African-American who lost his life during a tough arrest with the NYPD in 2014. In 2021, he became a candidate for the seat of Manhattan prosecutor, a position subject to voters' votes like other local magistrates in the United States. After winning hotly contested Democratic primaries against seven other candidates by promising a less punitive justice system for petty criminals, he became, in November 2021, the first African-American to win this position.
His beginnings at the head of this reputable office, which handles tens of thousands of cases every year, from simple offenses to major media cases, such as the DSK scandal in 2011, were chaotic. On January 3, 2022, two days after taking office, he sent a memo to his teams asking them to no longer prosecute certain crimes deemed minor (prostitution, trespassing on private property, resisting arrest, etc.), citing racial disparities in incarceration. These instructions provoke a strong anger within the population and the police, worried about the increase in post-Covid insecurity. Faced with the outcry, the prosecutor must put water in his wine.
The historic indictment of a former president is certainly the most explosive case of his career. Donald Trump called him an "animal". Victim of a virulent campaign on the part of the right, he was targeted by at least one death threat. Republican congressmen seek to intimidate him by promising to look into his investigation. Some opponents of the billionaire and lawyers believe that his investigation will deflate during a possible trial.
"He hasn't shown any enthusiasm for punishing certain crimes, other than those related to Donald Trump," O'Donnell said. This case will boost the political career of Alvin Bragg. There's no place in the country that hates Donald Trump more than Manhattan. Between "the child of Harlem", as he calls himself, and the billionaire from Queens, the standoff is launched.