An ex-conman who peddled heroin and served more than 10 years in prison for attempted murder has changed his life by turning lawyer and is now running to be a judge in New York. Angel Cruz, 56, who till sometime ago was a public enemy, is today one of the front runners for the position of a Civil Court judge in The Bronx.
Cruz, after quitting all his illegal dealings and dark past, took to academic to become an A-grade lawyer as part of his big reform plans. He is now using his past as part of his campaign for judgeship and telling people how any criminal, if has the will, can reform himself and do something good for society.
According to the New York Post, Cruz is excited about leaving behind his dark past and running for the judgeship at a Civil Court in The Bronx. "Only in America is this possible. I've gone from public enemy to public champion," Cruz told the outlet.
Cruz was earlier a conman who peddled heroin and spent more than 10 years in prison for attempted murder and armed robbery. Interestingly, he is now using his sordid past as part of his campaign and also has been admitting that he did wrong while growing up in Kingsbridge during the turbulent "The Bronx is Burning Days" of the 1970s and early 1980s. He even mentions his criminal past in a campaign video, which is garnering massive views.
In the video Criz explains how he took to crime as a juvenile and then got entrapped in the dark world. Cruz says he was a juvenile delinquent as a young teen and first got arrested for burglary when he was just 13 year old. He again got arrested in 1981 for chain snatching.
However, that is not where his criminal records end. In 1982, when he was only 17 years old, Cruz was arrested and convicted for attempted murder during a robbery. "I had a gun. Shots were fired," he said, though insists it was an accomplice who fired shots and no one was hurt.
Starting a New Life
Cruz by that time had already become a seasoned criminal. After serving six years in prison, he was released in 1988 but crime had now become a way of life for him. The next year, when he was just 22, Cruz was busted again and convicted for armed robbery in a dispute over a heroin sale in Brooklyn.
This time he was sentenced to prison for eight to 16 years but that is when life took a U-turn for him. Cruz didn't have a godfather who guided him out of crime. Cruz became a regular at the prison library and started studying law books. "The prison library became my church," he told the outlet. Cruz, became the assistance of a public defender and represented himself when he appealed his conviction.
The Appellate Division tossed out the case and kicked it back to the trial judge for resentencing. The resentencing, which was made by the then-Brooklyn Judge Cesar Quinones, reduced his jail term to five years or time served at his hearing. Quinones died in 2018.
"I asked Judge Quinones if he had enough courage to give me an opportunity. You're talking about a twice-convicted felon who's been in the criminal justice system since the age of 12," Cruz said.
"In the end Judge Quinones exercised grace. The judge paid my debt to the devil. After that, I belonged to God. From that moment, I changed my life," Cruz said.
After coming out from prison, Cruz completed his graduation degree from John Jay College and CUNY Law School. He then clerked for judges, did legal work for The Bronx borough president's office and now has his own law practice. And he now is running for the position of judge in The Bronx Civil Court.
Cruz initially had to struggle because his criminal past posed as a hindrance in getting him the law license. His first application was rejected but was granted after he reapplied. Cruz, who now resides in Throggs Neck, also got married and now has three children.
Last year, Cruz lost when he ran for a state Assembly seat in Queens.
Cruz has been endorsed by Assemblyman Jose Rivera, the former Bronx Democratic Party chairman and Councilman Fernando Cabrera, a candidate for Bronx borough president. "Angel has done his time. He he has redeemed himself. He has nothing to be ashamed of and a lot to be proud of. I'm proud of his candidacy," said Rivera, who noted that Cruz provided legal assistance when he headed the Bronx Democratic Party. "Angel will be a fair judge. He won't be controlled by anyone," he added.