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Critics Slam Judge For Sentencing Alleged Cop Killer To Drug Rehab In Earlier Case

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- NYPD Officer Randolph Holder's family was speaking out and searching for answers Thursday evening, as CBS2 learned new information about how the career criminal charged with his murder was out on the street.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the judge who released suspected gunman Tyrone Howard, 30, last year – and agreed to send him to a drug treatment program -- said he had no reason to believe Howard was violent.

"Why is this guy at least a candidate (for diversion)? Because nothing else has worked,'' state Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin said.

But Officer Holder's father, Randolph Holder Sr., said there was "no justice."

Holder Sr. was simply incredulous that Howard was not in jail and was allowed to go to a drug treatment program with his lengthy record.

"I do not think that a criminal should be put back on the streets after being arrested for more than, you know, a certain amount of times," he said.

So why wasn't Howard in jail, and why was he allegedly out in East Harlem to shoot and kill Officer Holder during a pursuit this past Tuesday night? The same question was also asked by other police officers killed in the line of duty – including officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, shot and killed execution-style in Bedford-Styuvesant Brooklyn, and Officer Brian Moore, shot and killed in Queens Village.

In Howard's case, CBS2 has made two shocking discoveries.

First, Howard's arrest in connection with a 2009 shooting that injured an 11-year-old and a 78-year-old was sealed. Sources told CBS2 Howard was apparently granted youthful offender status – even though he was 24.

Court transcripts showed that when Howard was arrested in a drug case in the fall of 2014, the District Attorney's office did not mention the 2009 case – prosecutors couldn't do so legally since it was sealed. Thus, the judge did not know about it.

In the second finding, court transcripts showed Judge McLaughlin apparently fell for the defense attorney's plea for drug rehab, because he came from a family of addicts and deserved a chance.

Kramer said one could call it the "why not" ruling.

"I wrote two words on my yellow sheet which remain there, which will remain there until the planet, the universe, the state and the city become an ember, and the words are, 'Why not?'" McLaughlin wrote in the ruling. "Prison not having worked, I've decided maybe out of frustration and exasperation, why not?"

Fordham University law professor James Cohen said that was the wrong move.

"The alternative, or the default, should not be, 'Let's keep him out on the street, and maybe, by a miracle from God, he'll do better there,'" Cohen said.

Cohen said even without knowledge of the gun case, the judge should not have sent Howard to jail, since he had four felony drug convictions.

"Given the record that this man walked in with, he never should have been given another chance," Cohen said.

Judge McLaughlin did not return calls for comment. Court records showed that after proposing rehab for Howard, McLaughlin sent the case to another judge for actual sentencing.

Howard got a deferred two-year sentence to go to a "diversion" rehab program.

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