Supreme Court, The Bronx, NYC.
Photo: Gerardo Romo / Impremedia
As in “Les Miserables” by Víctor Hugo, “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Dumas and many others books, movies and soap operas, the life of Ángel Cruz is a story of fall and redemption.
“The prison library became my church”, affirms Cruz, who at 56, now He is running to be a Civil Court judge in The Bronx (NYC), after trafficking heroin and spending more than a decade in prison for two convictions of attempted murder and armed robbery.
He says he changed his life to be a father of a family and become a lawyer. “Only in the United States is it possible. I went from public enemy to public champion, “he declared in an interview with the New York Post.
Far from denying it, Cruz is using his sordid past as part of the campaign for the office of judge, admitting he did wrong while growing up in Kingsbridge during the turbulent 70’s and early 80’s. That is why he mentions his criminal history in a promotional video.
Cruz was a juvenile delinquent from an early age: he was first arrested for robbery when he was 12 years old. Shortly after, he was convicted of attempted murder during an assault in 1982, as a teenager of 17. “He had a gun. There were shots, ”he recalls, although he insists that it was an accomplice who fired and no one was injured.
But after his release in 1988 after serving that sentence, Cruz returned to a life of crime, and was arrested again at age 22 and sentenced for armed robbery in a dispute over a heroin sale in Brooklyn.
That time Cruz was sentenced to between 8 and 16 years after a jury trial. But while he was incarcerated, Cruz He came to the prison library and became his own legal advocate.
With the assistance of a public defender, he represented himself when he appealed his conviction. The Appellate Division dismissed the case and returned it to the trial judge. Now Cruz gives credit to then Brooklyn Magistrate Cesar Quinones – passed away in 2018 – for cutting his sentence to 5 years or the time already served.
“I asked Judge Quiñones if he had enough courage to give me a chance. You’re talking about a twice-convicted criminal who has been in the criminal justice system since he was 12 years old, ”Cruz acknowledged.
“In the end, Judge Quiñones made use of grace. The judge paid my debt to the devil. After that, I belonged to God. From that moment on, I changed my life, ”says Cruz.
After graduate from John Jay College and CUNY Law School, Cruz served as a clerk for judges, did legal work for the Bronx Borough President’s office, and now has its own law firm.
But initially his criminal past was still an obstacle. After passing the state attorney exam, Cruz applied for his license in the Appellate Division, which determines whether a citizen has the “character” to practice law. The court rejected Cruz’s first offer, but gave him the green light when he reapplied.
He recently represented ex-convict and former councilman Hiram Monserrate, unsuccessfully defying a law passed by the City Council that prohibits people convicted of crimes of public corruption from running for public office.
Cruz, now resides in Throggs Neck. His wife, Lumarie Maldonado Cruz, was elected to a Queens judge position in 2019.
Last year, Cruz lost when he ran for a state Assembly seat in Queens. You have now received the endorsement of Assemblyman José Rivera, former chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, and Councilor Fernando Cabrera, candidate for president of that county.
“Angel has served his sentence. He has redeemed himself. You have nothing to be ashamed of and a lot to be proud of. I am proud of his candidacy, ”said Rivera, noting that Cruz provided him with legal assistance when he led the Bronx Democratic Party. “Angel will be a fair judge. No one will control it. “
cross he insists that if elected he will be an impartial judge and not a bland and carefree jurist despite his past. “I suspect I will hear criminal cases. The first obligation is public safety. Punishment is necessary. But we must measure that gracefully, ”he said.
His campaign said it is finishing processing the paperwork for the Democratic primary on June 22. Other candidates for Civil Court Judge in the Bronx Second Municipal District include Jessica Flores; John Rodríguez; Verena Powell, who has worked in the mayor’s criminal justice office; and Yadhira González Taylor.