Brooklyn District Attorney - General Election 2013

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Endorsed Candidate - Kenneth P. Thompson - Dem
Age: 47 Occupation: Founding Partner, Thompson Wigdor LLP
Education: John Jay College of Criminal Justice (BA), New York University (JD)

Ken Thompson established and ran his own law firm for 10 years and was involved in the high-profile like the prosecution of Dominique Strauss-Khan and Justin Volpe, the police officer convicted of sodomizing Abner Louima. Thompson is running for district attorney because he believes the Brooklyn DA’s office is mismanaged and in crisis. He points to a number of cases which have been mishandled by the office, which Thompson believes are indicative of a trend of seeking victory rather than justice. Those cases include that of David Ranta, who a judge released after 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit because witnesses were coached by the district attorney’s office to choose Ranta out of a lineup. Another mishandled case, according to Thompson, was the prosecution of Darrell Dula, who was indicted despite a rape victim recanting her accusations. Two assistant district attorneys resigned amidst allegations of mishandling exculpatory evidence. Thompson also referenced the case of Jabar Collins, who was found guilty of murder but later determined to be innocent and released after witnesses recanted their testimony. Thompson also cites the ruling of Eastern District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in releasing William Lopez after serving 23 years for a murder he did not commit, which the judge called “rotten from day one” and chastised the trial lawyer for being “overzealous and deceitful.” Beyond wrongful convictions and the mishandling of particular cases, Thompson argues Hynes has not brought a public corruption case since 2003, and by being too friendly with politicians has put himself in a position in which he has to recuse himself from cases like Vito Lopez’s. Thompson would not recuse unless he has a personal relationship and would keep his distance from political events. Thompson said he would invite the FBI to the DA’s office to do training and review public records to actively bring public corruption cases. Thompson also criticizes Hynes for his policies in relation to sex offenders in the Orthodox Jewish community believing that defendants should be identified. He said witnesses and defendants get no such protection in gang cases while sometimes facing violent repercussions for cooperation with the police. He would prosecute witness intimidation and cultivate contacts in the Orthodox Jewish community to ensure sexual abuse is reported. Citizens Union believes Thompson made a compelling case for a change in the office, thoroughly critiquing practices and mishandled cases by the incumbent that raise serious questions about Hynes’ ability to lead the office going forward. We therefore continue to support Thompson in the general election. 

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Charles J. Hynes - Dem
Age: 78 Occupation: District Attorney
Education: St. John’s University (BA), St. John’s University School of Law (JD)

Charles Hynes has held the office of Brooklyn District Attorney for 23 years but believes there remains important work to be done. If re-elected, Hynes wants to expand a number of groundbreaking programs he established that are being replicated across the country. One of these is Project Redirect, an alternative sentencing program for gang members that requires community service and academic performance in lieu of a prison sentence. Forty of its 58 participants have graduated school and the government has saved tens of thousands per participant annually. Hynes also wants to expand Community and Law Enforcement Resources Together (ComALERT), which provides wraparound services for parolees including job training and placement, housing support, and assistance with mental illness, among other services. A Harvard professor’s study found the program reduced recidivism by half and the $2,200 cost per participant was far less than the incarceration average of $64,000. Hynes also wants to resurrect community courts, specifically in Brownsville, because it shows the community justice is being carried out while also providing crime prevention services. On good government issues, Hynes rebuts the criticism that his office did not bring cases against Senators Carl Kruger or John Sampson, noting that he has convicted more elected officials than any other district attorney in history including most notably, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Clarence Norman. He also supports the Governor’s Public Trust Act. Hynes believes criticism of his policy of not making immediately known defendants in sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is unwarranted. He notes that successful prosecutions of sexual abuse cases in the ultra-Orthodox community are historically low, and that the Kol Tzedek program created in collaboration with community groups resulted in the arrest of over 80 people before it generated media criticism over shielding the names of defendants. In response to reporting of wrongful convictions by his office, Hynes argues they represent a miniscule fraction of the tens of thousands of cases his office has prosecuted. Hynes, however, concedes a Brady violation in the case of Jabar Collins but disagrees with Eastern District Judge Dora Irizarry that Michael Vecchione, the head of the office’s rackets division, was responsible. He points to his open-file discovery policies and the release of 22 defendants for wrongful convictions in demonstrating how his office works well with defense attorneys. Citizens Union believes that while Hynes has established many innovative prisoner reentry and alternative sentencing programs during his career, earning our preference in 2005, there comes a time when change is needed for an office even when held by a long-serving public official with notable successes. That there are questions about too many cases and practices in his office only further informs CU’s decision to support Hynes’ opponent.