We Spent The Night In Manhattan's Notorious Night Court And Here's What We Saw


new york criminal court

Abby Rogers/Business Insider

While night court is no picnic for those waiting to see the judge, it's even worse for the family members sitting in the gallery.


Just ask Melanie, a 16-year-old girl sitting in night court around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, waiting to find out if her boyfriend would be released.

He was booked around 2 p.m.

"Who wants to be in criminal court at night waiting for their significant other?" she said.

In honor of Business Insider's new Law & Order vertical, I decided to spend Wednesday at night court to see what it was all about.


The law requires that people have the right to be charged soon after they're arrested. Because so many people are arrested in New York every day, night court, which runs from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., was born.

Most of the cases I saw dealt with some sort of drug violation.

But a few involved domestic violence and one man was arraigned on charges he robbed 14 banks.

Melanie, who declined to give her last name, was in court because her mom filed a bogus police report accusing her boyfriend of theft, Melanie said.

"It's just petty, ruining both our lives," Melanie said of her mother's police report, claiming her boyfriend hadn't committed a crime.


Melanie was in night court with her boyfriend's mother. Her own mother hadn't come.

"I'm very sleepy, it's past my bed time," Melanie said, as she blearily waited for the bailiff to post the list of new cases. I told her it was past mine, too.

The wait was just as hard for Ann, a mother waiting for her son. While she declined to discuss her son's case in detail, Anne did say he was there on charges he violated an order of protection.

Ann, who declined to give her last name, was waiting with two other female members of her family.

"It's going to be a long wait, I know that much," she said.


Ann and her family got to night court around 5:30 p.m. It was now 9 p.m. and her son still hadn't seen a judge.

Ann said she hated coming to Manhattan's criminal court, which she described as having the reputation of being the worst court in the city.

"All they want is money," she said. "Their policy is more strict, more tougher."

new york criminal court

Abby Rogers/Business Insider

The hallway outside the courtrooms.

I got to Manhattan's Criminal Courthouse, at 100 Centre Street, around 8 p.m. Wednesday and hung out until about midnight.

The courthouse was eerily quiet, with the only chatter coming from the guards, most of whom were big beefy white men sporting numerous tattoos.


In one courtroom alone, nearly 10 guards stood watch, manning everything from the cells - hidden behind a wall behind the judge's desk - to the bailiff's seat.

Here are the most noteworthy cases I saw:

8:09 p.m. - A black man with short braids who had previously served 20 days in jail on an assault charge was yet again brought in front of the judge.

He never completed his court-mandated anger-management program. The man told the judge he went to one class but then his girlfriend, who had recently given birth to his son, ran away with the baby.

The man said he couldn't attend any more classes because he was too busy searching for his son.


Unfortunately for him, the judge didn't buy it. The judge - a middle-aged black woman with short hair - seemed very in control of her courtroom and wasn't in the mood to listen to any excuses.

"He knows he did not do what the court required," the judge said before sentencing him to 90 days in jail.

"He's done nothing," she added.

The man didn't take too kindly to the judge's orders and became belligerent with officers while waiting to be escorted out. He sat in the gallery mumbling under his breath and challenged the officers when they asked him to move.

"What you pushing me for man," he spat out, as he continued to grumble in the gallery.


8:25 p.m. - A man with dark curly hair and crutches was hauled into night court for allegedly sexually abusing a woman.

In this case, the man met the woman online. While she was at his house, he wanted to have sex and she didn't, leading him to push her onto the bed, take off her underwear and sexually assault her, prosecutors claimed.

The defense claimed the woman flew into "a jealous rage" while she was at the defendant's house, which prompted her to make the assault claims to the police.

The judge eventually ordered the man be held on $15,000 bond.

11:45 p.m. - In the most interesting case of the night, Cornell Neilly, a man accused of robbing 13 Manhattan banks, was brought before the judge.


He is also accused of robbing one bank in the Bronx.

Neilly implicated himself in many of his crimes, the prosecution said last night, claiming he had confessed to the heist.

Plus, he reportedly identified the ransom notes he brought to the banks.

By the time midnight struck, the judge decided to hold Neilly on a $500,000 bond.

For a full list of Neilly's crimes, check out the New York Post.


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