What you need to know about the Manhattan district attorney leading the historic criminal case

Sydney Kashiwagi

Alvin Bragg, a former New York state and federal prosecutor, drew national attention when he made history as the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office first Black district attorney. Now, he is back in the spotlight after a grand jury voted to indict Donald Trump after a yearslong investigation into the former president’s alleged role in a hush money scheme.

In Bragg’s first comments following Trump’s Tuesday arraignment, he called the charges the “bread and butter” of his office’s work.

“At its core, this case today is one with allegations like so many of our white collar cases,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know about the official:

The Harvard-educated attorney previously served as an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, worked as a civil rights lawyer and as a professor and co-director of the New York Law School Racial Justice Project, where he represented family members of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after being placed in an unauthorized chokehold by a then-police officer, in a lawsuit against the City of New York seeking information.

Bragg has aggressively pursued Trump and other progressive priorities so far in his tenure, including not prosecuting some low-level crimes and finding alternatives to incarceration.

Before Bragg’s swearing-in last year, he had already worked on cases related to Trump and other notable names in his role as a New York state chief deputy attorney general.

He said he had helped sue the Trump administration more than 100 times, as well as led a team that sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which resulted in the former president paying $2 million to a number of charities and the foundation’s dissolution.

Bragg also led the suit against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and his company, which alleged a hostile work environment.

Bragg emerged the winner in a crowded Democratic primary in the summer of 2021 to lead the coveted Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, for which Vance had announced earlier that year he would not seek reelection. While campaigning, he often spoke about his experience growing up in Harlem, saying he was once a 15-year-old stopped “numerous times at gunpoint by police.”

“In addition to being the first Black district attorney, I think I’ll probably be the first district attorney who’s had police point a gun at him,” he said during a victory speech, following his historic election to the office. “I think I’ll be the first district attorney who’s had a homicide victim on his doorstop. I think I’ll be the first district attorney in Manhattan who’s had a semi-automatic weapon pointed at him. I think I’ll be the first district attorney in Manhattan who’s had a loved one reenter from incarceration and stay with him. And I’m going to govern from that perspective.”

Bragg ran as a reformer, releasing a memo just days after taking office detailing new charging, bail, plea and sentencing policies – a plan that drew criticism from police union leaders. He said his office would not prosecute marijuana misdemeanors, fare evading and prostitution, among other crimes.

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