USA

Controversial Bronx judge releases alleged rapist without bail

An illegal immigrant facing rape charges was released without bail by a judge who critics claim only landed her position through political connections — and his victim’s family is outraged and terrified.

A 54-year-old woman says she was violently raped by ex-boyfriend Jesus Ayala, 39, July 3 in her East Bronx apartment.

Prosecutors asked for $20,000 bail at his arraignment July 14 on eight felony counts of rape, criminal sexual act and other raps — but Bronx Criminal Court Judge Jeanine Johnson released Ayala on his own recognizance.

“Her knees just went weak and she went to the floor,” said the victim’s daughter, Katherine, of her mom’s reaction to learning her alleged rapist would be back on the street. “If you have someone who is a flight risk, how can you just let them walk?”

Ayala emigrated illegally from Mexico, Katherine said, and she fears he’ll harm her mom again then flee the country. The daughter’s last name is being withheld to conceal her mom’s identity.

After the attack, the terrified victim, who shares a 13-year-old daughter with her assailant, obtained a restraining order, promptly changed her locks and flew to Florida with Katherine, her adult daughter from a prior relationship.

A few days later, a neighbor called and told the victim that someone was outside her door with a key trying to get into the apartment for several minutes.

Ayala had a key before the new locks were installed, and Katherine was the only other person with a spare, she said.

The judge has come under fire in the past for releasing without bail a convicted killer on a gun bust, and for name-dropping her former boss, ex-Assemblyman Keith Wright, when cops pulled her over in Harlem in 2014 for drunk-driving.

She allegedly refused to get out of her car, threatened to get the officers in trouble then blew a .113 blood-alcohol level. She was Wright’s chief of staff at the time.

Critics said Wright flexed his political muscle in 2018 to get Johnson elected to the bench.  She ran on the Democratic ticket unopposed and bypassed a screening process that most potential jurists submit to. “There was a selection panel of one person, Keith Wright,” Manhattan Democrat Alan Flacks told The Post. “And no one was allowed to run against her.”

On the day of the alleged attack, the victim broke up with Ayala after several alleged incidents of domestic violence, Katherine said.

Later that day, he showed up at her apartment “dragged her from the kitchen all the way to the bedroom by her hair” then pushed her to the bed face-down and “vaginally and anally raped her” as she screamed, the daughter said.

A neighbor heard her mom yelling “No, no! Please stop!” Katherine said. Ayala then allegedly “pulled up his pants” and ran away.

The victim only told her daughter, who works as a medic, of the sexual assault two days later. “She was ashamed and embarrassed,” said Katherine, who sent her mom to the hospital to get a rape kit. The next day, they went to the Special Victim’s Division to report the crime.

Police picked up Ayala on July 13 at Lenny’s Bagels on the Upper West Side, where he works as a cashier.

The daughter said she was stunned that the judge could release Ayala on such serious charges without a cent of bail.

“This is an issue of public safety and to have a female judge sit there and say this doesn’t matter, I don’t understand,” Katherine said.

If convicted, Ayala faces up to 25 years in prison. Ayala’s lawyer, Jose Orochena, said his client is ” innocent” and “the judge saw that he was not a flight risk or dangerous and released him appropriately.” He added that Ayala’s immigration status is “absolutely irrelevant to the case.”

Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen defended the judge. “Bail decisions at arraignment are meant to ensure a defendant’s return to court,” he said in a statement. “Since Judge Johnson released the defendant without bail on his own recognizance, in her determination, she was confident that would be the case.”

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