NY probing soft-on-crime judge’s questionable behavior: ‘People have to know how she really is’

When even New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams think you’re too soft on crime, you might just be a judge with an attitude problem.

New York’s Supreme Court Judge Naita Semaj — who famously freed accused child killer Tyresse Minter without bail after he allegedly strangled his 15-year-old stepson, Corde Scott, and then berated the mourning mother — is under investigation by the Commission on Judicial Conduct over claims her courtroom behavior is both abusive and unprofessional, according to the New York Post.

The probe into Semaj’s conduct was opened last year after she tossed a veteran supervisor from the Bronx D.A.’s office out of her courtroom during an April 1, 2022, hearing, sources familiar with the case told The Post.

“She’s a better defense attorney than an actual defense attorney,” one source said. “People have to know how she really is.”

The sources reached out to The Post “in disgust after hearing that Semaj was applying for a big promotion to be nominated as the presiding justice of the Appellate Division, First Department, which oversees all disputed criminal and civil cases in Manhattan and The Bronx,” the outlet reports.

In November 2021, Semaj was elected to a 14-year term on the bench, and since then, she’s gained a reputation for allowing accused teenage criminals back on the city’s already crime-ridden streets. Her questionable judgment has even earned scoldings from Hochul and Adams, who themselves have been accused by many of being too soft on crime.

If the rumor mill among court staff is to be believed, the sources told The Post, Semaj will be taken off criminal cases and placed in Civil Court.

“Court officials have discussed putting Semaj in Civil Court,” Court Officers union president Dennis Quirk said. “It’s under consideration.”

It was Semaj’s handling of the Minter case that prompted talk of reassignment.

“You have to treat the victims’ families with respect,” Quirk explained. “She didn’t treat the victim’s mother with respect.”

But the Commission on Judicial Conduct stepped in before Semaj slighted Corde’s grieving mother.

It was her treatment of Bronx prosecutors that got the commission’s attention.

The prosecutors had offered then-17-year-old Sammy Santiago — charged in July 2021 with attempted murder and criminal use of a firearm after he allegedly shot at two young men as they ran from a cell phone store — a prison sentence of seven years.

That was way too severe for Semaj, who said she believed Santiago was acting in self-defense in a dispute between gang members.

Reports The Post:

Santiago had a physical confrontation with one of the men facing him, while the other man who got behind him pulled out a sharp object, which Santiago didn’t see.

His gun went off during the altercation — and he then allegedly fired shots as the two men fled the store, according to a court transcript and sources with knowledge of the case.


In response to Semaj’s protest, the then deputy chief for the Bronx DA’s violent crime enterprise bureau, Ilya Kharkover, came back with a five-year plea.

The judge rejected that deal, too, and booted Kharkover from her courtroom.

“What you are going to do is step out of my courtroom,” Semaj stated.

When Kharkover replied, “absolutely,” Semaj, oozing disdain, said, “Have a great day. Thank you. Because you are clearly, clearly a waste of everything.”

“To step foot in here and pretend that there’s been a full consideration of the facts and circumstances and at the end of it that’s how you got to seven years in jail is nonsense,” she stated after Kharkover’s dismissal. “It is complete nonsense. I am disgusted. That is absolutely insane.”

“His attitude — he need not ever step foot in this part again. Ever step foot in this part again,” she seethed.

“This whole position that your office is taking that you want to grandstand: Lock them all up,” she told assistant district attorney Joshua Couce. “Anybody that has a gun, lock them all up.”

The exchange prompted an investigation from the DA’s office, which, according to sources, conducted an internal probe of its own over complaints about Semaj from prosecutors.

While the state Office of Court Administration (OCA) declined to confirm Semaj’s potential reassignment, OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said “specific changes” to the courts are coming.

“Bronx judges are assigned and sit based on the needs of the court. Those assignments are determined by the Chief Administrative Judge in consultation with the Presiding Justice of the appropriate appellate department,” he said in a statement. “Currently we are in the process of evaluating the judicial needs of a number of courts in New York City and will have specific changes in the near future.”

Melissa Fine


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