HARLEM — A Harlem man wanted by police for Monday's shooting of a 76-year-old woman and 51-year-old man was free to roam the city streets despite pleading guilty to attempted murder last year, thanks to a state judge's leniency, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Malcolm Smith, 19, who is being sought for the shooting outside a packed supermarket on Malcolm X Boulevard, admitted last April to the attempted murder of another Harlem teenage who was stomped and stabbed in November 2013.
Smith was released without bail by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon when Smith accepted Solomon’s offer to enroll in a second-chance program called BronxConnect as an alternative to jail.
"You have to stay out of trouble," the judge told him during the hearing. "That means stay out of trouble...You understand that?"
Smith agreed, according to the transcript.
But Solomon warned the young man, "I always learn when someone takes a plea and they are released and they do something, however serious or however minimal it is."
The judge, who has a reputation as a tough-on-crime magistrate, told Smith if he successfully completed the program he would grant Smith “youthful offender status” at his sentencing this April 7. The “Y.O.” status would guarantee Smith a light jail term, if any at all.
“The judge obviously saw something in the teenager to try to give him a second chance,” said David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration.
“The judge made a judgment call," he added. "In hindsight, clearly the judge regrets making that decision if [Smith] was involved in this week's shooting.”
Mildred Mahazu, the 76-year-old victim in Monday's shooting, blasted Solomon's decision.
"He shouldn't have been let out," said the retired mental health nurse who suffered a graze wound to the neck that required 10 stitches. "If he was [in jail] this never would have happened."
"I don't know how a judge could let him out on attempted murder," said Mahazu, who was shopping for a loaf of bread she was hit. "He had to be violent. It should be at least 15 years. He turned around and did the same thing. He's just an evil person."
"Thank God, I'm doing all right," she concluded.
Court records show Smith successfully completed the BronxConnect program. But, according to police, that did not prevent him from shooting four rounds outside the Harlem Key Food about 6:30 p.m. after getting in an argument with a 51-year-old man.
The older man pulled a knife, prompting Smith to whip out his gun and shoot, wounding the man and the retired nurse, police said.
This wasn't the first time Smith's short temper got him in trouble.
In November 2013, Smith and three others kicked and beat a man, and then stabbed him four times in the back.
Five days later, the victim crossed paths with Smith on West 140th Street. When they “made eye contact,” Smith lifted his shirt and displayed the handle of a silver handgun tucked into his waistband, according to his criminal complaint.
Smith was arrested later that day and spent the next months on Rikers Island until pleading guilty to an attempted murder charge, records show.
At his arraignment April 25, Smith accepted the judge's offer to enroll in BronxConnect, and was released, over the objections of prosecutors.
According to its website, the program is a “faith-based, community-based, alternative to incarceration program for ages 12 to 18 years old,” and has an 83 percent success rate.
"I just want the police to catch him and the judge to give him some good years," Mahazu said.