A New York judge set free a man who was allegedly caught with a rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammo in the Bronx — on the same day she allowed a murder suspect back on the streets on a mere $5,000 bail, The Post has learned.
Judge Leticia Ramirez — who was slapped with an ethics reprimand in 2017 for using her position to try to get her son out of prison — let out Matthew Velardo on supervised release Sunday against the request of prosecutors, who wanted him held on bail, officials said.
Velardo, 22, was hit with criminal weapons charges after he was arrested with a Tires American Tactical .22 rifle, an extended magazine and 500 rounds of ammunition in the trunk of his car, according to court records.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s Office had requested he be held on $50,000 bail, $150,000 bond or $150,000 secured bond, a spokesperson said.
But Ramirez ignored that request, and another from prosecutors on Sunday that she hold an accused killer behind bars without bail.
Vernon Gowdy, 54, a smoke shop worker, was accused of fatally stabbing a man during a brawl outside the store on Saturday.
The Bronx DA’s Office wanted him remanded, but Ramirez set Gowdy’s bail at $5,000 during his arraignment on charges of murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. He was released later Sunday after paying the sum, according to officials and jail records.
Gowdy worked at Magic 7 Smoke Shop on Fordham Road and allegedly stepped into a fight sparked when a manager at the store bumped into a 59-year-old man who was walking by, according to cops.
The man, Kenneth Fair, had taken the contact as intentional and Gowdy put him into a chokehold, pulled out a knife and stabbed Fair once in the chest, according to authorities.
Gowdy, a former city parks employee, had a rap sheet that included 15 prior arrests and time in prison in the 1990s, sources said. He was accused of exposing himself to a Parks Department coworker in 2011 and was also arrested in the 1991 killing of Anna McCoy but wasn’t prosecuted due to a lack of evidence.
Ramirez was elected a civil court judge in 2011, and was appointed for a time as an acting justice of Manhattan Supreme Court and also served four years as an acting Family Court Judge in Brooklyn.
She had been assigned to city criminal court on Sunday, a state courts spokesperson said.
In 2017, a state ethics panel found she had misused her position – then as a Manhattan Supreme Court judge – when she wrote an appeals panel on behalf of her son Michael Tineo, who was sentenced to 20 years to life for fatally shooting a man on Long Island.
The state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct also found Ramirez had written a letter on official court letterhead lobbying for a childhood friend fighting gambling charges.
Ramirez admitted to wrongdoing and was punished only with a public admonition, according to the ruling.
Her son remains locked up in Sing Sing prison, and is eligible for parole in 2024, according to state jail records.
Police sources were outraged over the judge taking it easy on Velardo and Gowdy, with one Bronx cop griping, “What does it take for someone to be held in jail?”
“We keep arresting criminals and they keep getting released,” the cop told The Post.
One officer called on Mayor Eric Adams to chime in on what he thinks about “allowing murderers and people with 500 rounds of ammunition back on the street.”
“This is crazy,” said another cop. “You can’t keep letting criminals back out on the street to victimize innocent people.”
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the state Office of Court Administration, defended the judge’s decisions in the Velardo and Gowdy cases, saying bail in New York is “solely to guarantee” the accused returns to court.
“With the recent criminal justice reform laws a judge must consider the least restrictive form of bail to ensure the defendants return,” Chalfen said. “In both cases that evidently is just what the judge did … as the law requires.”
He said it’s “common practice” to assign judges to courts as needed, explaining why Ramirez was moved to criminal court that day.