Ex-NYC School Dean Israel Garcia Heads to Trial in Shock Twist
One former principal of Bronx . High School who federal prosecutors say has lived a double life as a drug lord will be allowed to withdraw his plea and go to court, a federal judge has decided.
Judge Jed Rakoff said on his order that it was likely that Israel Garcia pleaded guilty under pressure from his defense attorney and because he was told he would receive a life sentence if he resisted. lawsuit.
As The Daily Beast reported in December, Garcia – with the support of his family and former students – has struggled to withdraw his defense of what federal prosecutors have called ” decades-long drug conspiracy” while behind bars.
His girlfriend, Hilary Hernandez, said he was so shocked when he heard about Rakoff’s decision over the phone that he had to hang up and go back to his cell.
“He just had to take a moment to process it because he didn’t know which way it was going,” she said.
Garcia’s first court-appointed attorney, Raoul Zaltzberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The educator, described by prosecutors as the “GMG YGz Gang’s Big Gun” controlled by Masarati, has never denied that he once joined a gang, his family told The Daily Beast last month. But, they say, he changed his life, working at the post office and eventually dean on his old high school campus.
Garcia, his supporters say, has used his past to inspire the youth he has worked with as principal of the New Visions Charter School for the Humanities I and II.
But when he was arrested last year, federal authorities said his job was just a cover for something more sinister: he was accused of acting as the leader of a dangerous gang. dangerous and directing the drug trade in his old compound.
Garcia pleaded guilty to drug trafficking conspiracy in March 2022 but tried to withdraw a few weeks later. Shortly after, Zaltzberg filed a memo detailing a scathing objection to Garcia’s claims, saying his client knew what he was doing when he accepted the plea.
Rakoff allowed Garcia to change attorneys but initially denied the request to change the defense. But in September, an audio recording emerged that allegedly recorded a conversation in which Zaltzberg told Garcia and Hernandez that if he went to court, he would never see his daughter again.
Rakoff, who is said to have angered Garcia at a confessional switch hearing, wrote that he doesn’t take his claim of innocence seriously, but that the recording corroborates and the oath is “genuine.” Garcia’s is enough to shake him.
“There is therefore a serious risk that Mr. Garcia will plead guilty, not because he wants to plead guilty, but because he fears the consequences of the sentence represented by his attorney,” Rakoff wrote.
The judge echoed Hernandez’s frustration with the pressure on defendants to plead guilty, noting that “there is increasing evidence that innocent people routinely face pressure to plead guilty because of the crimes they committed. harsh punishment they face if they go to court and are convicted.”
Garcia’s new attorney plans to find a trial date for Tuesday.
“It was the beginning of another war,” Hernandez said.
Spokesperson from United States Attorney’s Office for The Southern District of New York declined to comment for this story.