Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/1232 Thu, 22 Apr 2021 23:17:40 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: Debating Major Criminal Justice Reforms Taking Effect in January https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8957-max-murphy-podcast-debating-major-criminal-justice-reforms-bail-discovery https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8957-max-murphy-podcast-debating-major-criminal-justice-reforms-bail-discovery nycpba wbai 600

SI DA McMahon at a press conference (photo: @NYCPBA)


November 27, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Debating Major Criminal Justice Reforms Set to Take Effect in January

da mcmahon marie nidaye 150Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon and Marie Ndiaye of Legal Aid Society joined the show to discuss their respective concerns about and support for major criminal justice reforms passed earlier this year in Albany an set to take effect in January, especially bail reform and discovery reform.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Debating Major Criminal Justice Reforms Taking Effect in January Fri, 29 Nov 2019 05:00:00 +0000
How Vulnerable is Max Rose? https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8822-how-vulnerable-is-max-rose-congress-malliotakis-trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8822-how-vulnerable-is-max-rose-congress-malliotakis-trump rose handshake

Rep. Max Rose (photo: @MaxRose4NY)


Max Rose calls himself a “centrist populist.” The first-term Democrat who represents New York’s 11th congressional district, which spans across Staten Island and along the shore of Southern Brooklyn, appears set on trying to make that label stick, and in doing so earn a second term when voters head to the polls next year.

Rose’s pitch and politics seem to match the district well: he’s a moderate, center-left politician and military veteran with a no-nonsense but affable and energetic personality. His mantra is serving constituents above political party, he regularly criticizes fellow Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio, and he distances himself from the ascendent left-wing of his party, but sticks close to the House majority, though in fulfilling a campaign promise he did not vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to retain her leadership role.

But as he runs for reelection for the first time in 2020, a presidential year where Donald Trump is expected to be on the top of the Republican ticket, Rose is one of the top targets of Republicans hoping to regain majority control of the House of Representatives while holding the Senate and reelecting the president. Representing one of the swing-iest districts in the country -- represented by three Republicans and two Democrats in the last 10 years -- Rose is dealing with major countervailing forces: Trump’s strong popularity among many New York-11 voters and Democrats awakened by Trump’s surprise 2016 win who swept Rose into office last year.

Indicative of the minefield he finds himself navigating, Rose just became the last Democrat from New York City to announce support for impeachment proceedings against the president. While Rose’s somewhat cautious approach to Trump may endear him to some of his district’s center-right voters, it, coupled with his moderate positions on a variety of issues, could embitter the very Democratic base that he needs in his corner. But upon announcing he backs the impeachment inquiry into Trump at a Staten Island constituent town hall on Wednesday night, Rose shifted the terms of his already-heated reelection campaign.

“So while the President of the United States may be willing to violate the constitution to get re-elected, I will not,” Rose said on Wednesday. “I will not shirk my duty and I will not violate my oath. I will support and I will defend the United States Constitution. And it is for that reason that I intend to fully support this impeachment inquiry and follow the facts."

His announcement, coming just the day after a Democratic primary challenger launched a campaign against him, was met by derision from Republicans who hope to unseat him through next year's election.

Rose won the 11th district seat last year against Republican Dan Donovan, the former Staten Island District Attorney elected to Congress in 2015, in a 2018 election that saw a surge in Democratic turnout, giving the Democrats control of the House and dramatically shifting the national political landscape. Rose’s margin of victory was substantial – he received 101,823 votes to Donovan’s 89,441, even defeating the Republican on Staten Island by more than 5,000 votes.

It was a reversal of fortune for Donovan, who had been reelected to the seat in 2016 with 142,934 votes against Democrat Richard Reichard’s 85,257 (there were nearly 60,000 more votes cast that presidential year than in the 2018 midterms). It helped Donovan that Trump was running for president and won Staten Island with 56.3% of the vote against Hillary Clinton’s 41.2%.

But Rose is confident he can pull off another victory, even with Trump on the ballot, in part by remaining far more focused on local issues than the national dynamics of the 2020 election. “We have gotten tremendous amounts of legislation through and by that I don't mean symbolic or ceremonial pieces of legislation passed by the House of Representatives, and then resigned to the graveyard that is Mitch McConnell's Senate,” Rose said in a recent phone interview. “I mean things that have or will be signed by the president of the United States.”

He cited four major victories – approval for the Staten Island east shore seawall, permanent funding for the 9/11 victims compensation fund, sanctions on Chinese pharmaceutical companies to stem the flow of fentanyl into the city, and two-way tolling on the Verrazzano bridge to reduce traffic.

“Staten Island and south Brooklyn are on the map, and we are not stopping. We are advocating for issues at every level of government to make sure that people are no longer ignored,” Rose said.

Though there is a Republican primary for the seat as well – between Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and longshot candidate Joseph Saladino, a YouTube personality who goes by the name Joey Salads and has a history of racist pranks – virtually all observers see the race as an eventual Rose-Malliotakis battle, though there does remain the question of whether any other Republicans may jump into the race ahead of the June 2020 primary.

When he first ran for office last year, Rose set himself apart from most other New York City Democrats, seen as a necessity in a district that defies the bluer boroughs. Though there are more active registered Democrats (191,145) than Republicans (114,363) in New York-11, along with 93,303 party-unaffiliated voters, the district elected Trump by a margin of nearly 10 points, after a tight victory there for President Barack Obama in 2012. Governor Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, won the district in his last two elections. 

Though Trump remains extremely unpopular in New York City, with his approval rating at 26% (to 71% disapprove) in an April Quinnipiac University poll, his approval was generally higher on Staten Island, at 47% approval to 52% disapproval. The Island is fairly split, with more Democrats concentrated along the northern shore than in other parts of the borough, which gets more conservative the further south one goes.

Rose made it clear he was running against what he saw as ‘the establishment’ and the ‘career politicians’ in Congress and elsewhere who had ground the business of the people to a halt. He was, and remains, a critic of de Blasio, even focusing on him in a 2018 campaign ad, and refuses to embrace the politics of newly elected progressives in the House such as fellow New York City Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“We are showing people that you can make war against the establishment, you can choose not to play by the rules of inside-D.C. establishment politics while also accomplishing something,” Rose said in the interview, citing his vote against Pelosi’s election as speaker.

City Council Member Justin Brannan, a Southern Brooklyn Democrat and Rose ally, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette, “Ultimately this election is going to come down to what kind of elected official do you want. Max refuses to take money from lobbyists. He supports campaign finance reform. He has been unwavering in his battle against [the Trump] administration's discriminatory policies that directly impact the hardworking people he represents.” Brannan added that Rose has fought “Trump's discriminatory Muslim ban not just in words but in action by literally helping reunite families torn apart by conflict. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent is on Twitter posting ‘You're Fired’ memes.”

Despite his distance from Ocasio-Cortez and others, Republicans have still sought to paint Rose as a “socialist Democrat” who has betrayed the will of the voters who elected him. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has spent months hammering at Rose in press releases and public statements, largely on the general principle that he’s part of a Democratic operation hostile to the president.

NRCC spokesperson Michael McAdams says the party’s chances of taking back the seat are strong, citing the district’s strong Republican presence and Trump’s victory there in 2016. “Max has claimed that he is a moderate. On the campaign trail, he said he was going to be an independent voice for Staten Island, and he's gotten to Washington, D.C. and he's fallen right in line with the socialist Democrats and their socialist agenda,” McAdams said in a phone interview, though he did not provide specific examples (later in the interview he said Rose hasn’t taken a position on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants).

“He votes against President Trump 96% of the time, which is an absolutely shocking number given that a majority of his constituents voted for the president last cycle,” McAdams said.

Malliotakis, whose Assembly district covers much of the east shore of Staten Island and a small part of Southern Brooklyn, has extended the same argument. “As far as I’m concerned, this race is between me and Max Rose,” she said, dismissing any worries about facing a primary opponent. Though Salads is running a barebones campaign, there’s also the possibility that others could jump into the race. Michael Grimm, who previously represented the district and served prison time for felony tax evasion, has signalled he may run. New York City Council Member Joe Borelli, who represents the South Shore of Staten Island and is running for public advocate in this fall’s special election, has also not ruled it out.

“I believe I am more in line with the people in this district,” Malliotakis said, citing her nine years in elected office. She said the race would be a combination of local and federal factors. “This is a district that is pretty impacted by what the federal government does,” she said, pointing to the seawall project, national parks, a veterans hospital, and the Fort Hamilton army base. She also brought up issues that were salient in the 2017 mayor’s race, including her opposition to sanctuary city policies and safe injection sites for drug-addicted people, and said she would push for a federal infrastructure package.

“The Democrats in the House are more concerned with continuing investigation instead of actually working with the president to address a lot of these issues,” said Malliotakis, who has come around to closely embrace Trump as she runs for Congress after having been a supporter of Senator Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and distancing herself from Trump in the 2017 mayoral race. She begrudgingly stated at one point that she had voted for Trump over Clinton, and expressed regret for having done so.

“I’m going to be running on the same ticket as the president and I embrace that,” Malliotakis said, when asked if she sees herself in line with the president, calling Trump a “voice of reason” in Washington, D.C.

The House of Representatives has “absolutely no interest in actually doing the job that they were elected to do and instead they're just looking to see how they can tear down the president,” she said, “And so he needs people who are willing to work with him, and particularly from New York City, and I will be an individual who will work with him to accomplish things where we see eye to eye...I'm not going to agree with everything the president does but for the most part, yes, I do agree with a majority of what he's doing. And I think that he's doing a good job overall.”

Malliotakis says Rose has been more progressive than moderate, insisting that he votes “in lockstep” with Pelosi and members of the so-called Squad of Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive women of color. “The votes he's taking in Washington are not representative of views in this district,” she said, citing, for instance, his support for a resolution that criticized Trump for a racist tweet about the women of color representatives of “the Squad.”

But it’s a tenuous argument, says Richard Flanagan, political science professor at the College of Staten Island. “I don't think it holds water with the independent voters at all,” he said. “Rose has done a really good job of positioning himself in the center, getting federal action on local issues. He's very upfront about his military record. It’s definitely differentiated him from [the members of the Squad]...I guess [Republicans are] going to do that to try to get their base to come out to vote, but it's not persuading anybody in the middle.”

Rose himself scoffed at the Republicans’ attempts to align him with progressives. “If they think anyone's gonna believe that, they're idiots. The truth is that nobody in the entire Democratic caucus has pushed back more than I have,” he said, pointing to his votes against Pelosi, his opposition to the Green New Deal, which he called a “socialist lie” in the interview with Gotham Gazette, and his repeated disapproval of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar over her criticism of Israel. “The NRCC and Nicole Malliotakis have such an obsession with these individuals that it's clear they would rather run against them than me,” he added.

On the question of impeachment Rose found himself in a difficult place. He issued public statements that showed him seemingly vacillating on the issue saying that “all options must be on the table,” which signalled to some that he was open to jumping on board. He voted to table a privileged resolution led by Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that would have disapproved of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s actions to begin an impeachment inquiry.

Just before Rose announced his support for the impeachment inquiry, McAdams from the NRCC said Rose’s decision, either for or against, would doom his chances of reelection with one or the other segment of voters.

“I think support for the president is at the top of the line there,” he said, predicting that support for impeachment would lose Rose votes among Republicans and opposition to it will anger the Democrats who powered his victory. The latest Quinnipiac University poll from September 30 may show a fast-moving shift, as it found that nationally voters were split 47-47 percent on impeaching and removing Trump from office. Just last week, support was at 37% and opposition at 57%. By a majority of 52-45 percent, voters approved of the impeachment inquiry opened by the House.

The NRCC and Malliotakis both quickly jumped on Rose after he proclaimed his support for the House impeachment inquiry. "Just one day after finding out he had a challenger in the Democrat primary, Congressman Max Rose caved to socialists Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Nancy Pelosi in the rush to impeach President Donald Trump," Malliotakis said in a statement. "It just shows that when pressure is applied, Max Rose stands with the radical left instead of Staten Island."

During his remarks at the Wednesday town hall, Rose followed his comments about the impeachment process by attempting to preempt that line of attack: "But, I want to make something else very, very clear: nothing, nothing at all—impeachment or otherwise—will distract us, will distract me from my work fighting for you," he said. "I will not let this or anything else detract us from our focus on ending the opioid epidemic, holding pharmaceutical companies accountable, making sure that we have the backs of our cops and our firefighters and our first responders, and yes--ending our commuting nightmare.”

What kind of impact Rose's support for the impeachment inquiry has on his standing in his district is yet to be seen. A great deal will of course play out over the next year-plus before the 2020 general election.

Rabyaah Althaibani, a community organizer and co-founder of Arab Women's Voice, a consulting firm, rallied the Arab vote in Southern Brooklyn behind Rose last year. But she’s worried that he has disappointed progressives, particularly by refusing to support impeachment. “There are a lot of issues that progressives...just don't agree with Max on, and a pretty sizable bunch of people are very upset with him,” she said, although she praised him for supporting the Yemeni American community by questioning the rationale behind Trump’s Muslim travel ban and for pushing to end American support for the war in Yemen.

“The Yemeni community and allies that care about the community, I'm just hoping that they're going to rally and help us get him elected again,” she added. “But Max has a lot of work to do, a lot of explaining to do. He needs to reach out to the progressive base.”

Althaibani did recognize that Rose faces a tough situation, having to reconcile the differing parts of the district with its spread of conservatives and progressives, and many moderates in between. She expressed doubt that Rose would face a tough primary. “I don't think anyone can do what Max is doing right now,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Staten Island Advance reported that Richard-Olivier Marius, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, is challenging Rose in the Democratic primary. In an interview with the paper, Marius said he had voted for Rose in 2018 but was running because of Rose’s failure to support progressive legislation like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, as well as impeachment of Trump. 

A Democratic operative familiar with the race, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that Rose may be trying the same balancing act as the last Democrat to hold the seat, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, who voted against the Affordable Care Act in the hopes of not alienating conservative voters. But while that move backfired against McMahon, the dynamics of the district necessitate similar thinking by Rose.

As of the latest fundraising deadlines, Rose held a significant advantage. His campaign had $1.2 million in cash on hand as of June 30, compared to Malliotakis’ $475,000. (Saladino had $16,877 in his campaign account.)

But the Trump effect may nullify that. As Flanagan from College of Staten Island noted, the district has always been competitive and even Republicans have never won in a blowout. He said the race will hinge on voter turnout, which will be hard to predict since Trump being on the ballot will drive voters from both parties to the polls. “Are these Trump voters gonna come back and vote for Trump and vote straight ticket? Or are they willing to ticket-split? I think that's the big question,” he said.

Malliotakis is trying hard to turn Trump’s presence to her benefit, and appeal to voters across the district who have seen her on the ballot before, whether in her Assembly district or when she faced de Blasio in 2017 and, while receiving only 27.1% of the overall vote to de Blasio’s 65.1%, did blow the incumbent mayor away on Staten Island, winning 70% of votes to de Blasio’s 25.3%. (As it was in Rose’s 2018 win, one of the keys in 2020 will be the turnout in the more Democratic Southern Brooklyn portion of the district.)

On several issues, Malliotakis has broken from Trump while embracing him on most fronts. She has wholeheartedly accepted the aid of Trump and his allies, including national Republican stars like U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Dan Crenshaw, who canvassed for her in Staten Island a few weeks ago, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Yet a source close to the Staten Island Republican Party said she is far from an ideal candidate to beat Rose, despite the potential that’s there to unseat him. “Rose is vulnerable to a candidate that can land some punches on him,” the source said. “However, we saw from Malliotakis’ race against Bill de Blasio that she can't land a punch on even him.”

The source, who requested anonymity to speak freely about internal party concerns, added, “Rose is moderate, he's likeable, he hasn't made many errors. And I think when he campaigns, he grows his support. And the more Malliotakis’ campaign develops, the less it seems successful.”

The Republican said Malliotakis needs to “clarify where she stands” with respect to Trump. “The 2017 Malliotakis is not the same as the 2019 Malliotakis,” the person said. “It’s just so plainly evident that anyone can see it.”

Rose, meanwhile, believes Trump will fail to affect the vote. “I'm going to win,” he said. “The people of this district are independent and they will vote and have consistently voted for the person, not the party.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated to reflect Rose's support for the House impeachment inquiry.

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How Vulnerable is Max Rose? Tue, 01 Oct 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Bill to Create Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission Awaits Cuomo Decision https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7783-bill-to-create-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission-awaits-cuomo-decision https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7783-bill-to-create-prosecutorial-misconduct-commission-awaits-cuomo-decision gov andrew cuomo electoral college

Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


Behind the veil of an unproductive state legislative session where, in its aftermath, the focus has been on what did not get done, one significant piece of legislation that made its way through both chambers and toward the governor’s desk is a bill to create a new, independent state commission tasked with investigating prosecutorial misconduct by district attorneys, including misconduct that could lead, and has led, to false convictions. If the controversial bill is signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for a third term this year, the commission would be the first of its kind in the nation.

The legislation passed the Republican-led state Senate 45 to 12 and the Democrat-dominated Assembly 98-46, with members of both parties on either side of the bill. The bill has been lauded by public defenders and criminal justice reform advocates, but has been excoriated by prosecutors, an association of which is calling it unconstitutional and threatening a lawsuit.

The commission would consist of three appointees from the state’s Chief Judge, currently Janet DiFiore, two by the Governor, two each by the Assembly Speaker, currently Carl Heastie, and the Senate Majority Leader, currently John Flanagan, and one each from the Assembly Minority Leader, currently Brian Kolb, and the Senate Minority Leader, currently Andrea Stewart-Cousins. According to the bill, the Governor’s appointees would have to consist of one public defender and one prosecutor, while the Chief Judge’s appointees must consist of one appellate judge and two judges from other jurisdictions. The rest of the appointees must be split evenly between prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The commission, which would oversee the state’s 62 district attorneys and their subordinates, would be given full subpoena power for prosecutors and witnesses, be able to request relevant documents, and would be able to conduct investigative hearings against prosecutors accused of misconduct. If wrongdoing is demonstrated, the commission can take several actions, such as a censure or even recommending that the prosecutor be removed from their post. The commission’s findings and recommendations would be compiled into an annual report to the Governor, Legislature, and Chief Judge.

False convictions, and subsequent exonerations, have become so commonplace in New York’s criminal justice system that some district attorney offices, such as that in Brooklyn, have set up whole units dedicated entirely to reviewing past convictions. As of December 2017, the Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit had requested exonerations for 24 wrongfully-convicted defendants.

“It’s a significant problem,” said Bill Gibney, director of the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Practice Special Litigation Unit. “The last time I looked, I think New York State was up in the top tier of numbers of wrongful convictions that have occurred. And with some regularity, prosecutorial misconduct is in the mix.” It is impossible to fully account for all wrongful convictions. However, the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations placed New York at number four in the country for exonerations in 2017.

The Registry recorded 13 exonerations in New York in 2017, for offenses including fraud, weapons possession or sale, sexual assault, and murder or attempted murder. Eleven of the 13 recorded exonerations involved “official misconduct” by individuals in positions of authority such as police officers or prosecutors.

One of them, Johnny Hincapie, served for 26 years before being exonerated for a 1991 subway killing. Several key witnesses had not been asked to provide testimony in the original case; when allowed to testify in 2015, they stated that Hincapie was not involved. Hincapie further claimed that he was coerced into a confession by a physically abusive detective.

The Registry has, as of June, counted 12 exonerations in New York State in 2018.

A 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland, established that prosecutors must turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. And last year, New York’s court system became the first in the country to require that prosecutors turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence to defendants, before trial. Nevertheless, New York’s discovery laws are poorly regarded by advocates and politicians alike; despite the precedents and rules, no timetables for turning over evidence or penalties for failing to do so exist. Discovery reform has repeatedly failed to advance in Albany despite widespread support.

“There have been so many major cases, murder cases, of people staying in jail for years and years and years, and with the availability of DNA evidence now, there’s been a lot of exonerations,” said Senator John DeFrancisco, a retiring Republican who was the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate, in an interview on WQXR’s The Capitol Pressroom.

“And what happens is, people get exonerated, and in the course of that, when they show by DNA it’s not them, further investigation shows that evidence was withheld by prosecutors that should’ve been turned over by the law,” DeFrancisco told host Susan Arbetter. He noted that taxpayers end up on the hook for an unnecessary jail sentence and remuneration fees, while prosecutors get off scot-free.

“We’ve had the same thing for judges since the ‘70s,” he continued, referring to the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, established through two constitutional amendments in 1976 and 1978, which serves to investigate, reprimand, and/or discipline judges accused of misconduct. In an interview with Gotham Gazette, DeFrancisco noted that judges were “apoplectic” when the commission began, but it has been highly successful.

“After several years, after complaints were brought and it was shown how fair the commission was, right now it's second nature,” he said. “It’s changed the conduct of judges.”

Nevertheless, district attorneys are strongly against the proposed commission. “This legislation is a mistake and quite likely unconstitutional, and I urge the Governor to veto it,” Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, a Democrat, told Gotham Gazette in an emailed statement. “As oversight already exists to address prosecutorial conduct, any attempt by the Legislature to impose additional measures will only tie the hands of prosecutors, and potentially threaten the safety of those we are sworn to protect.”

These existing oversight measures include “grievance committees,” subdivided by appellate division but sometimes with multiple committees per division. These committees investigate claims of misconduct by both prosecutors and defense attorneys, and can lead to censure or professional misconduct charges leveled against attorneys.

But the bill’s advocates say that the grievance committees are not enough. DeFrancisco and Legal Aid both told Gotham Gazette that the committees rarely, if ever, disciplined prosecutors. Legal Aid cited a study, from the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, a criminal justice reform think tank, which found that less than 2 percent of prosecutorial misconduct cases nationwide resulted in punishment. The same study noted 151 cases of misconduct in New York State, found by trial and appellate courts, with only 3 of those cases resulting in sanctions.

DeFrancisco, who has sponsored the bill for several sessions, said that he waited years for the state’s prosecutor association, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, to provide him evidence of the grievance committees effectively policing prosecutors, but it failed to do so.

The Queens District Attorney’s office directed Gotham Gazette to a letter sent from DA Richard Brown to the New York Law Journal on June 22, in which he stated that both the New York State Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline, chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and the New York State Justice Task Force found that allegations of “rampant prosecutorial misconduct” were unfounded.

“Despite each of these findings, the legislature has elected to pass legislation that subjects prosecutors, alone among those who practice law, to a duplicative and intrusive process that is not only violative of the state constitution, but will surely cause delay to the progress of ongoing investigations and prosecutions, much to the detriment of all New Yorkers,” Brown wrote. He is also urging Cuomo, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and former attorney general, to veto the bill.

The district attorneys for the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan did not return requests for comment.

In a separate appearance on Capitol Pressroom, David Soares, the president-elect of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, raised both constitutional and content-based critiques of the legislation.

On constitutionality, the legislation allegedly circumvents a section of the state’s governing document allowing only the Governor, not the Legislature nor an independent commission, to remove district attorneys from office. He noted that the Commission on Judicial Conduct was established through constitutional amendments, not regular legislation -- such amendments must be passed by consecutive sessions of the Legislature, then the voters by popular referendum.

Soares also criticized the legislation as not requiring complainants to provide a sworn affidavit, “under the penalty of perjury,” and that most instances of “misconduct” were actually not intentional.

He added that if the legislation were to be signed by the governor, then DAASNY would sue the state to block its implementation. The governor’s office, in a statement to Gotham Gazette, did not address the potential lawsuit nor signal an intent to sign the bill or not.

“We believe there should be accountability for all officers of the court, and we will absolutely be reviewing this bill,” said Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens.

DeFrancisco told Gotham Gazette that he believes the governor will sign the bill. “I think he will sign it. The governor, I think, understands this history here.”

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Bill to Create Prosecutorial Misconduct Commission Awaits Cuomo Decision Mon, 02 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
District Attorneys, City Council Agree Mayor is Underfunding DAs https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6351-district-attorneys-city-council-agree-mayor-is-underfunding-das https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6351-district-attorneys-city-council-agree-mayor-is-underfunding-das district attorneys city council hearing

The five District Attorneys at a March hearing (photo: William Alatriste)


The district attorneys of the five boroughs reasserted their need for increased funding in the 2017 fiscal year at a City Council executive budget hearing Monday at City Hall. Council members—opting to forego heavy questioning of the necessity of this funding—framed fulfilling the district attorney requests as a crucial step towards criminal justice reform.

The public safety committee hearing was the penultimate executive budget hearing, with the finance committee set to finish the proceedings Tuesday before closed-door negotiations lead to a budget deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

De Blasio’s preliminary budget, released Jan. 21, estimated $94 million would be allocated to the King’s County (Brooklyn) DA office, $57 million to Queens County, $10 million to Richmond County (Staten Island), $101 million to New York County (Manhattan), and $59 million to Bronx County.

The five DAs presented additional funding requests during a preliminary budget hearing in March, after which the Council called on de Blasio to fully fund those budget needs in its response to his preliminary budget and listed public safety among its top eight priorities. Of the five offices, New York County requested an additional $600,000, Bronx County $11.5 million, Kings County $1 million, Queens County $4.9 million, and Richmond $3.6 million. The Bronx request was so large because new DA Darcel Clark plans to open a new bureau on Rikers Island, as well as several other significant initiatives.

None of the additional funding requests were included in de Blasio’s $82.2 executive budget, released April 27—a decision Council Member and Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson said on Monday she was “very disappointed to see.”

“The City Council is making significant impacts to criminal justice reform, but none of this will matter if the city does not support our District Attorneys,” Gibson said. “Though I applaud the efforts that the administration’s [making] to fund other law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD, it is irresponsible not to include funding for our city’s prosecutors.”

At Monday’s executive budget hearing, representatives from the DA offices, including three DAs themselves, said increased funding would be the only solution to severe problems facing each county, and Council Member and Finance Committee Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland said the Council was “on the same page.” Ferreras-Copeland criticized de Blasio’s executive budget earlier in May when she said it did not “ensure that the shared priorities of both the Administration and the Council are included.”

In response to Monday's comments from the district attorney offices and Council members, mayoral spokesperson Monica Klein said in an emailed statement, "The administration is committed to appropriately funding the critical needs of our District Attorneys, and we look forward to working with the Council and DAs throughout the budget process. Mayor de Blasio has also invested in numerous initiatives to support our DAs' essential efforts -- including an additional $2 million per year to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and $10 million to the Anti-Violence Innovation challenge -- and launched expansive initiatives aimed at reducing opioid misuse and overdose deaths across the City, in close partnership with local elected officials."

Manhattan DA Cy Vance said on Monday that additional funding would go toward the creation of an Alternative to Incarceration unit aimed at preventing low-level nonviolent offenders from facing jail time.

Staten Island DA Michael McMahon, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Dan Donovan (now a member of Congress) as DA, said his predecessors “did not aggressively pursue” sufficient funding at City Hall. As a result, McMahon said his office is unequiped to combat Staten Island’s rising heroin overdose epidemic and domestic abuse incidents, and currently unable to finance a case management system. All five DAs are now Democrats, like de Blasio and 48 of the 51 City Council members.

Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson, represented at the hearing by his chief of staff Leroy Frazer, and Queens DA Richard Brown, represented by Chief ADA Jack Ryan, both hope to direct additional funding towards increasing personnel and improving facilities.

While Bronx DA Clark said some funding would go towards facilities and retaining more staff within her offices, she also hopes to establish a Rikers bureau that targets the prison complex, where she said corruption currently fosters “criminal business as usual.”

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by Aaron Holmes, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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District Attorneys, City Council Agree Mayor is Underfunding DAs Mon, 23 May 2016 04:00:00 +0000
2015 General Election Results https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5968-2015-general-election-results https://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5968-2015-general-election-results Cuomo voting Nov 2015

Gov. Cuomo votes on Tuesday (via the Governor's Office on flickr)


Although there weren't many high-profile races in yesterday's election, New York City now has two new members of the City Council (one in Queens, one on Staten Island), two new District Attorneys (Staten Island and the Bronx), two new Assembly members (Queens and Brooklyn), a new state Senator (Brooklyn), and a few new judges.

On Staten Island, former Congressional Rep. and City Council Member Michael McMahon, a Democrat, defeated Republican Joan Illuzzi to become District Attorney. The seat was left vacant when former DA Daniel Donovan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats now hold the DA position in all five boroughs. 

The Bronx got its first new DA in 26 years as Darcel Clark was elected to the seat. Clark, a New York Supreme Court judge, replaced Robert Johnson who resigned to run for Supreme Court justice.

A Democrat also won the City Council seat from Eastern Queens. Former Assembly Member Barry Grodenchik beat his Republican opponent, Joseph Colcannon, a retired police captain. The seat belonged to Mark Weprin, a Democrat who left the Council to join Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration. The Staten Island City Council seat went to Republican Joseph Borelli, an Assembly member who ran unopposed to replace Vincent Ignizio, who had resigned for a job as a nonprofit leader. Borelli joins the Council's Republican minority, returning it to three members in the 51-seat body. Both Grodenchik and Borelli will have to run in 2017 to retain their seats.

As was the case with the two Council seats, the three special elections for New York City-based seats in the state legislature remained with the same political party. All three state legislative seats stayed Democrat. With a whopping majority, Democrat Assembly Member Roxanne Persaud won a Brooklyn Senate seat over Republican Jeffrey Ferretti, owner of a real estate company. The seat was left vacant when former State Senator John Sampson was convicted in July on federal charges of obstruction of justice and false statements.

The two Assembly seats were also won by Democrats. Pamela Harris, a retired corrections officer, defeated Republican Lucretia Regina-Potter to become the only African-American to represent a majority white district in the city. The district covers parts of southern Brooklyn and the post was left vacant when the former rep resigned to take a private-sector job.

In the special election to complete the term of Democrat William Scarborough -- who was forced from office after accepting a plea on corruption charges -- Democrat Alicia Hyndman beat her opponent with a wide margin. Hyndman, Harris, and Regina-Potter will all have to run for re-election next year, in 2016 when all of the state legislature goes up for election, to retain their seats.

In one of many unopposed races, Democrat Richard Brown won the seat of Queens DA for the seventh consecutive term.

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by Samar Khrushid
@GothamGazette

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2015 General Election Results Wed, 04 Nov 2015 12:17:43 +0000