Charles J. Hynes
|Charles J. Hynes|
|Hynes in 2012|
|Kings County District Attorney|
|Preceded by||Elizabeth Holtzman|
|24th New York City Fire Commissioner|
November 5, 1980 – October 22, 1982
|Preceded by||Augustus A. Beekman|
|Succeeded by||Joseph E. Spinnato|
May 28, 1935 |
|Spouse(s)||Patricia L. Pennisi|
|Alma mater||St. John's University|
Charles Joseph Hynes (born May 28, 1935) is the current district attorney of Kings County, New York (Brooklyn). A Democrat, Hynes was first elected to office in 1989 and is currently serving a sixth term.
Life and early career 
Hynes was born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  Flatbush is a diverse neighborhood whose population according to 2000 U.S. Census, consists of 79.8% Black or African American, 14% Hispanic or Latino and 6.5% White. Hynes now resides in Breezy Point, New York, a gated community in the borough of Queens that according to the United States Census Bureau, is 99.2% white. According to the New York Times, Hynes has faced criticism for living in an "in an apartheid village that no black can live in." Steve Greenberg, the former chairman of the Breezy Point cooperative’s board, told the NY Times that to his knowledge, no black family had ever held a share in the private community. Breezy Point is the whitest neighborhood in the city, a demographic makeup that critics say illustrates the enclave’s entrenched xenophobia. In the days after Sandy heavily damaged the neighborhood, volunteer firefighters in the community repeatedly told a visitor as she left to beware of the residents of Far Rockaway, the predominantly black neighborhood at the other end of the peninsula. 
He attended St. Ann's Academy (now Archbishop Molloy High School) in Briarwood, Queens, and received both his bachelor's degree, in 1957, and his J.D. in 1961 from St. John's University in Jamaica, Queens. Hynes is married to Patricia L. Pennisi, a registered nurse. The couple has five children and sixteen grandchildren.
In 1963, Hynes began working for the Legal Aid Society as an associate attorney. He joined the Kings County District Attorney's Office in 1969, as an Assistant District Attorney. In 1971, Hynes was appointed as Chief of the Rackets Bureau, and was named First Assistant District Attorney in 1973.
In 1975, Governor Hugh Carey and Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz appointed Hynes as special state prosecutor for Nursing Homes, Health and Social Services, in response to a massive scandal in the state’s nursing home industry. Hynes' office launched a comprehensive attack on Medicaid fraud, and his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit eventually became a national model, cited in a report of the House Select Committee on Aging as the best in the country. Hynes testified before Congress in 1976, in favor of legislation establishing state fraud control units and providing federal funding. The legislation became law in 1977. Now, 48 states have Medicaid Fraud Control Units.
Hynes was appointed the 24th New York City Fire Commissioner by Mayor Edward I. Koch on November 5, 1980 upon the resignation of Augustus A. Beekman. Hynes served in that position until his resignation on October 22, 1982. He served as a Commissioner for the New York State Commission of Investigation between 1983 and 1985, by appointment of New York State Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink. In 1985, Governor Mario Cuomo appointed District Attorney Hynes as Special State Prosecutor for the New York City Criminal Justice System.
Hynes' first major achievement as a head prosecutor would occur in 1987 when he was tasked with investigating the death of Michael Griffith, an African-American teenager who was set upon by a mob of white teens in Howard Beach, Queens. Hynes managed to secure three homicide convictions against the defendants, who would subsequently be sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths. He later published a book about the case.
Controversy Over CBS TV Reality Series 
Hynes decision to star in a six-part reality series called “Brooklyn D.A.” on CBS beginning May 21, 2013 and promoted as a program that will showcase "hard-charging prosecutors [who] have larger-than-life personalities both inside the courtroom and out, who are "eccentric and living right on the edge" and "Every day they’re taking on cases of young girls trafficked as sex slaves, murder, judges on the take, political corruption and mobsters," has subjected DA Hynes to some harsh criticism. The Brooklyn Daily has suggested that Hynes' "overblown stint on reality TV" is motivated by a need to fight "unsavory charges of his own" related to allegations of official misconduct such as "Jabbar Collins serving 15 years for a murder he didn’t commit," (Collins is now suing Hynes for $150 million for allegedly manipulating evidence and witnesses) and Hynes' "glossing over sex predators in the borough’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities to bootlick powerful rabbis and pander for votes" and that Hynes could have "scored more wins by keeping his nose to the grindstone and delivering justice to Brooklyn’s crime victims — like he’s supposed to." David Ranta was also released last month, after spending 23 years behind bars on a wrongful murder conviction."  Legal Journalist Dan Wise wrote about the ethical questions being raised over Hynes' decision to star in the TV show and opined that "I think that six hours of what looks like it will be personality- and ratings-driven television carries too great a risk of casting Hynes in a highly favorable light and possibly tilting the playing field toward Hynes, who already has the advantage of being able to attract coverage by exercising the powers of his office—as he did in deciding to release the prisoner who had been identified by a witness, who now claims to have been coached." 
The NY Daily News reported that former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Abe George, a candidate in the heated 2013 Brooklyn District Attorney race, filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court to block CBS from airing the reality show starring DA Charles Hynes. Referring to the show as an "infomercial" George expressed surprised that CBS News would conspire to violate campaign finance laws and demanded equal time for his campaign or that the show air only after the election. The New York Times reported that Mr. Hynes has been district attorney since 1989 but has appeared more vulnerable than in the past because of mounting criticism of his political ties and his prosecution record, including a series of cases in which convictions were overturned. Hynes' campaign spokesman George Arzt defended the show saying "I would hope George learned in law school the essence and meaning of the First Amendment. He sure doesn't show it here." Abe George maintained that "If their goal is not to influence political electorate, why not wait until November?" The Village Voice asked "if it's truly reality TV, wouldn't the show cast the DA's office in an unflattering light?" 
Innovations as District Attorney 
In October, 1990, Hynes initiated the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison Program (DTAP) on the premise that drug-addicted defendants would return to society in a better position to resist drugs and crime after treatment than if they had spent a comparable time in prison at nearly twice the cost. DTAP is available for nonviolent predicate felons with a history of drug addiction and has been held up as a model for similar prosecution based drug treatment programs across the country.
In 1999 Mr. Hynes created "the ComALERT (Community And Law Enforcement Resources Together) public safety program which supports individuals on probation or parole as they re-enter their Brooklyn communities. The program was validated by a Harvard University study which found it reduced recidivism by more than half."
Hynes is credited with establishing one of the most comprehensive-and first-countywide programs designed specifically to address domestic abuse as a criminal issue, and with the collaboration of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani implemented a citywide program to monitor convicted domestic violence offenders.
In 2005, in partnership with New York City and the state court system, he opened the first Family Justice Center in New York State, an all-in-one facility where domestic violence victims can meet with prosecutors, counselors, civil attorneys and clergy members, and get help changing their locks, finding new housing, handling custody issues and a wide range of related problems, all in their native languages.
Election Campaigns and Challengers 
In 2005, Hynes narrowly beat a primary challenge from State Senator John L. Sampson who won 37 percent of the vote to Hynes' 41 percent. Mark G. Peters, a former senior official in the state attorney general's office, got 15 percent of the votes and Arnold Kriss, a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and a former deputy police commissioner, received 7 percent. The race had attracted considerable attention because Mr. Hynes, a fixture in Brooklyn politics, was seen as vulnerable after four terms in office.
In 2009, Hynes was unopposed.
In 2013 Hynes faces a challenge from Abraham George, an eight-year veteran of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. George says that Hynes' conduct has been "about politics and not justice," citing the recent flurry of criticism surrounding the district attorney's investigation of sexual abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities. George also said the office under Hynes has focused too much on non-violent crimes, especially those related to marijuana.
Kenneth P. Thompson, registered with the New York State Board of Elections and said in an interview that he intended to run for Brooklyn district attorney, a move that would expand the field running against Charles J. Hynes, a longtime incumbent whose hold on the office has weakened amid mounting criticism. Mr. Thompson, who already has the backing of some influential figures in the borough, said he was entering the race chiefly to help “get the guns off the streets in Brooklyn.”
The New York Times reports that the three-way race poses a threat to Mr. Hynes. In the Democratic primary in 2005, when Mr. Hynes had four opponents, he won with 41 percent of the vote, 4 percent more than John L. Sampson, a state senator from Brooklyn. In the previous primary, an obscure candidate, Sandra E. Roper, mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge against Mr. Hynes. The Times writes that while Mr. Hynes has been in office more than 20 years, he has recently come under fire for failing to investigate sexual abuse claims in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and for his office’s mishandling of cases that sent innocent people to prison.
Prosecution of Politicians, Elected Judges and Political Opponents 
John Phillips, an aged former civil court judge whose name had been floated as a possible contender against Mr. Hynes, was found to be incompetent after Mr. Hynes began an investigation into whether he was the victim of a crime. 
Another critic of Mr. Hynes, John O'Hara, a Brooklyn lawyer who was tried by Mr. Hynes' office three times for voting fraud, had encouraged both Mr. Phillips and Ms. Roper to run against Mr. Hynes. He was convicted of illegal voting in New York State, the first such conviction since Susan B. Anthony was convicted for voting (before women had the right to vote) in 1872, and was sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service, five years of probation and a $20,000 fine. A NY Daily News editorial titled "Pardon him, governor: Brooklyn victim of political persecution should be exonerated" opined "It is beyond doubt that O'Hara was the victim of a criminal justice vendetta ginned up by enemies in the Brooklyn Democratic Party… At heart, the case was an example of selective and overzealous prosecution. In a scathing criticism of DA Hynes, a state judicial committee ruled that O’Hara, the only man ever convicted in New York for voting in the wrong election district, was the victim of an unjustified, politically motivated prosecution because of his support for Hynes opponents a decade ago. The final report by the 25-member Committee on Character and Fitness, whose finding was unanimously approved by the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division determined that, “Mr. O’Hara, accurately it appears, claims that the [Hynes’s political] machine went gunning for him and pounced on his change of residency calling it election fraud. ” Mr. O'Hara had also filed a complaint on April 1, 2005, with the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board alleging that over 30% of Hynes prosecutors do not meet the residency requirements required of ADAss and that Hynes accepts campaign contributions from his subordinates. 
Sandra Roper, who had previously run against Hynes in 2001, was brought up on felony theft charges by a special prosecutor. Hynes’ office had received a complaint that Roper stole about $9,000 from a client and then lied about it to the state grievance committee. Hynes immediately recused himself from the case, and Maranda Fritz was appointed as special prosecutor. After a mistrial in 2004 due to a hung jury, the case was eventually dismissed in 2005 after Roper repaid the former client about $9,000. Roper then sued Hynes for allegedly acting improperly with regard to the criminal case against her. However, in 2006, a federal judge threw out the suit and ruled that Roper’s allegation was unsubstantiated.
One of the most high-profile cases pursued by Hynes to date has been his prosecution of former assemblyman and Kings County Democratic Party chief Clarence Norman, Jr. After trial under four separate indictments, Norman was acquitted once and convicted three times on felony charges, including grand larceny and extortion. The New York Times reported that former Mayor Edward I. Koch denounced the indictment against Norman. "It's an outrage what Joe Hynes has done in indicting Clarence Norman," Mr. Koch said "This district attorney is out of control in my judgment. This is not prosecution, it's persecution."
In addition to Norman, Hynes has successfully prosecuted and secured the convictions of two judges for taking bribes. Former Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Victor Barron was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for soliciting a bribe, and former Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gerald Garson was sentenced to three to ten years in prison for accepting gifts and money from an attorney, in exchange for favorable treatment in Garson’s courtroom.
Controversy Over Orthodox Child Sex Abuse Cases 
Hynes has been criticized for his handling of child sexual abuse within Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, whose votes are crucial to his re-election. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, who make up nearly a half of million of the City's population, reside mostly in Brooklyn.  A documentary produced in the United Kingdom covering the issue of child sexual abuse in the UK maintained that while there is no suggestion that there are more child sex abuse cases within the orthodox communities than anywhere else, the cover-up of abuse may exacerbate the problem. 
On January 22, 2013, Hynes announced the 103-year sentencing of Hassidic Jew Nechemya Weberman. Weberman was convicted a month earlier of molesting a 12-year-old girl he was counseling. A few days prior to the conviction Hynes compared the Hasidim to organized crime groups and wrote “I compare it to the Mafia, but at least in Mafia cases we can offer victims witness protection. That does not work in these insular communities,”. Two weeks later on February 7, 2013, Hynes announced the 55 years sentencing of the principal of a Jewish religious school Emanuel Yegutkin. Yegutkin was convicted of abusing three brothers at their home over the course of a decade.
This came after the The New York Jewish Week labeled Hynes "The Reluctant DA" in a November, 2008 award winning editorial written by Larry Cohler Esses, then editor at large. “For several years Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has been treating the issue of child sexual abuse in certain Jewish communities with a stance ranging from passive to weak-willed,” read the editorial. “Victims brave enough to contemplate going to the authorities — with its attendant social costs — are left wondering if their information will be acted on seriously if they come forward.” several other cases during Hynes' tenure have been both high-profile and controversial. Hynes’ competence or political will in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing involving prominent institutions and individuals in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community is also reportedly questioned by sexual abuse survivors and their advocates. They charge that Hynes fears political retaliation from the powerful rabbinic leaders and their bloc-voting Orthodox voters. Hynes denies this.
Among the controversial high-profile cases arising these questions, was the 2008 case of Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a Brooklyn yeshiva teacher charged with improperly touching two first-graders in 2006, but later entering a plea bargain agreement for a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. Kolko was sentenced to three years probation and counseling but was not required to register as a sex offender. 
Hynes has created a program called Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice), aimed at Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community which encourages victims of sexual abuse in that community to come forward to law enforcement but his varied claims of successful prosecutions through this program have been repeatedly challenged. On November 11, 2011, the Jewish Daily Forward reported that Hynes claims to have arrested 89 men on child sex-abuse charges in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn since 2009 but declined to provide any details. Mr. Hynes has been accused of "Cooking the Numbers" and using the program to disseminate misinformation about his track record with prosecuting child sex abuse within these politically powerful communities.
In an article titled "For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules" the New York Times reports that Rabbi David Zwiebel, an attorney and Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, "came last summer to the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, with a message: his ultra-Orthodox advocacy group was instructing adherent Jews that they could report allegations of child sexual abuse to district attorneys or the police only if a rabbi first determined that the suspicions were credible." "The district attorney expressed no opposition or objection, the rabbi, Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, recalled." Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes said “D.A. Hynes did meet with Zwiebel and told him he wouldn’t interfere with someone’s decision to consult with his or her rabbi about allegations of sexual abuse, but would expect that these allegations of criminal conduct be reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.” The Times reported that "In fact, when Mr. Hynes held a Hanukkah party at his office in December, he invited many ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the advocacy group, Agudath Israel of America. He even chose Rabbi Zwiebel, the group’s executive vice president, as keynote speaker at the party."
In a May 15, 2012 Huffingtonpost article which compares the Jewish ultra-orthodox Hasidic community to Catholic clergy, the former NYC Mayor Ed Koch wrote that unless District Attorney Hynes announces that he will release the names of all defendants, including those of ultra orthodox Jews charged with any child abuse, sexual or otherwise, and will pursue criminally anyone who engages in obstruction of justice, advising someone not to assist the police in their investigation of a child abuse incident, the governor should supersede him in these cases and appoint a special prosecutor to handle them.
Allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions 
Hynes has also been dogged by charges of prosecutorial misconduct  and is facing lawsuits from several wrongfully convicted men. In a cover article titled "Brooklyn Deserves a New D.A.", the Village Voice reported that U.S. District Judge Frederic Block sharply criticized Hynes: "I'm disturbed by Hynes's behavior", he added. "This is horrific behavior on the part of [Michael] Vecchione [Hynes' head of the Brooklyn Rackets Bureau]." "All of this is going to be uncovered," Block replied. "I kid you not. . . . I'm just puzzled why the district attorney did not take any action against Vecchione," he said. "To the contrary. He seems to ignore everything that happened. And an innocent man has been in jail for 16 years." The New York Times reported that Judge Dora L. Irizarry, of the United States District Court in Brooklyn, went on the record, stating “It is indeed beyond disappointing, it is really sad that the district attorney’s office persists in standing firm and saying that it did nothing wrong...,” the judge said. She described the district attorney’s office as “shameful”.
Hynes sent the Village Voice a lengthy letter in response to its story about his reign as Brooklyn District Attorney, concluding it was "highly biased journalism" and "totally one-sided."
On January 16, 2013, Brooklyn Federal Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis issued a Memorandum and Order tossing out the conviction of a Brooklyn man, William Lopez, who has spent 23 years in prison for the murder of a local drug dealer, calling the case "rotten from day one" and ruling that the trial prosecutor was “overzealous and deceitful" and that “The prosecution’s evidence was flimsy to begin with, and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after trial.” According to the New York Times, "a spokesman for Charles J. Hynes...declined to comment in detail." Judge Garaufis’s opinion described in detail a case that first went awry because of bad witness testimony. The prosecution relied on two witnesses; one was Daisy Flores Lopez, who worked as a courier at the crack house. She testified that the gunman was a “tall, dark, black man” about six feet three inches in height. In one hearing, which was conducted outside the presence of the jury, a prosecutor asked Ms. Flores Lopez to look around the courtroom and identify the gunman. She said she did not see him, even though the man she had accused, Mr. Lopez, was sitting at the defense table. The other witness, Janet Chapman, an unemployed woman with a $200-a-day habit who lived in the basement of the crack house, had just finished a drug binge when the killing occurred; she said she saw Lopez kill Surria. It was later revealed that Ms. Chapman had discussed a cooperation agreement with the prosecution, under which she would testify in exchange for a reduced sentence on a drug charge. Years later, Ms. Chapman recanted her testimony, writing in an affidavit, “I attended William Lopez’s trial and testified against him when I knew my every word was pure fabrication.” She continued, “The district attorney told me never to tell anyone that we cut a deal about my testimony, in exchange for my freedom.”. The Brooklyn DA's office said Lopez is guilty and that it intends to appeal Garaufis's ruling. In a statement, Jerry Schmetterer, director of public information for the DA's office, said, "Our Conviction Integrity Unit will conduct further investigation of this case, including the credibility of a witness whose first statement about the case was made more than 23 years after the murder. If necessary, the People will re-try the defendant on the pending murder charges." Judge Garaufis gave prosecutors sixty days to show they had taken concrete steps to retry Lopez. In a Memorandum and Order issued on March 20, 2013, Judge Garaufis ordered the case against Lopez dismissed. Thompson Reuters reported that Garaufis said that the Brooklyn district attorney's office had offered no proof of any steps taken to retry Lopez, other than to arraign him again in January on the outstanding murder indictment and blocked the Brooklyn district attorney's office from retrying Lopez. "Its silence these past 60 days speaks volumes," he wrote in barring the state from retrying Lopez. Garaufis ordered Lopez to be released from state custody and dismissed the pending indictment against him. He also ordered the state to expunge Lopez's conviction. "Given the unique and troubling nature of this case, 'law and justice' require extraordinary measures," Garaufis wrote. The Brooklyn district attorney's office has appealed Garaufis's January ruling. "This decision does not affect our resolve to ask the appellate court to reverse Judge Garaufis," a representative for the office said Wednesday.[when?] The Reuters article reported that this case is the latest setback for Charles Hynes, who is running for a seventh term as district attorney. Hynes has come under fire from his opponents, who say he has not done enough to investigate cases of individuals claiming they were wrongfully convicted.  The New York Law Journal reported that Judge Garaufis criticized the Brooklyn ADA for making a "false" representation that she never discussed a "contract" with Chapman to win her testimony and identify Lopez after she was arrested on an unrelated charge. Chapman recanted in a post-trial affidavit that was never notarized and then she disappeared. The judge also credited alibi witnesses offered by Lopez in support of his petition and said, "The court will not permit Lopez to be subject to the uncertainty and negative connotations associated with being an indicted murder suspect awaiting trial any longer." The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office had asked Garaufis to delay a ruling until they appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit his January grant of habeas corpus. But Garaufis, who ordered Lopez released in January 2013 with conditions, on March 20, 2013, ordered that Lopez be unconditionally released, the indictment against him dismissed, there can be no retrial, and his conviction expunged from the records. The judge said in Lopez v. Miller, 02-CV-3988, that the prosecution had failed to abide by his order to take "concrete and substantial steps" to retry Lopez within 60 days and that arraigning him on an open indictment was not enough and granted Lopez's petition on the grounds that he never should have been imprisoned in the first place the judge said, "Given the unique and troubling nature of this case, 'law and justice' require extraordinary measures."  
The New York Times reported that Hynes was expected to ask a court to reverse the 1990 conviction of David Ranta, citing new evidence that suggested he may not have committed the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi for which he was imprisoned. And in 2010, Jabbar Collins, who spent 16 years in prison for shooting his landlord, was freed after a judge found compelling evidence that Brooklyn prosecutors had relied on false testimony and threatened a witness to secure his conviction. Collins has brought a wrongful conviction lawsuit against New York City, which is slated to go to trial in the fall.
In a Memorandum and Order issued on February 15, 2013, Judge Frederic Block of United States District Court in Brooklyn ruled that Jabbar Collins, who was incarcerated for 16 years for a now-vacated murder conviction, can proceed with his lawsuit against the city based upon claims that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and the NYPD were "deliberately indifferent" to the misconduct that secured his conviction. The New York Times reported that in his opinion denying the city’s request to throw out the case Judge Block pointed to significant misconduct by both the police and prosecutors. “The court concludes that Collins’s allegations regarding Hynes’s response — or lack thereof — to misconduct by Vecchione and other assistants make plausible his theory that Hynes was so deliberately indifferent to the underhanded tactics that his subordinates employed as to effectively encourage them to do so,” Judge Block wrote in the opinion. According to the NY Times Judge Block scheduled an April trial for Mr. Collins’s lawsuit, making it probable that testimony against Mr. Hynes and his office could come out in the middle of what promises to be a heated reelection campaign for Hynes. He faces two well-financed opponents in the Democratic primary, Kenneth P. Thompson, a lawyer in private practice, and Abe George, a former prosecutor in Manhattan. A lawyer for Collins, Joel B. Rudin, said in a statement that he planned to take depositions of Hynes, Mr. Vecchione and other prosecutors. The New York Law Journal reported that Judge Block declined to dismiss civil rights claims against the city by Jabbar Collins because he said Collins had adequately pleaded allegations against the municipality in Collins v. The City of New York, 11-CV-766. However, the judge "reluctantly" dismissed claims against the prosecutor who tried Collins, Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, saying that he was shielded by absolute prosecutorial immunity. Collins alleged in his $150 million suit that Vecchione—now the bureau chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Rackets Division—fabricated evidence and did not reveal a witness' recantation, among other things. Hynes is not a defendant in the suit but has praised Vecchione and defended his conduct in the Collins case. Block observed that, at this stage of the litigation, Collins was entitled to argue that Hynes' support of Vecchione reflected a "tacit" policy to condone any actions his subordinates thought necessary to achieve a conviction. "The Court concludes that Collins's allegations regarding Hynes's response—or lack thereof—to misconduct by Vecchione and other assistants make plausible his theory that Hynes was so deliberately indifferent to the underhanded tactics that his subordinates employed as to effectively encourage them to do so," Block said. An article in the Wall Street Journal reports that Judge Block stated "that theory is bolstered by "scores of cases," Messrs. Collins and Rudin have presented to the court.
The New York Times reported on March 20, 2013 that David Ranta, a small-time thief and drug dealer convicted in May 1991 for the murder of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger and has been incarcerated at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, N.Y., is almost certainly not guilty of the murder. The “Slain Rabbi” was front-page tabloid news in 1990 and Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes, stood shoulder to shoulder with Satmar hasidim, watching as they rocked back and forth and wailed as the pinewood coffin containing Rabbi Wertzberger's body was carried out. Hynes vowed to bring the killer to justice and targeted Ranta. In the decades since the jury convicted Ranta of murder, nearly every piece of evidence in this case has fallen away. A key witness told The New York Times that a detective instructed him to select Ranta in the lineup. A convicted rapist told the district attorney that he falsely implicated Ranta in hopes of cutting a deal for himself. A woman has signed an affidavit saying she too lied about Ranta’s involvement. No physical evidence ever connected Ranta to the murder. Ranta is expected to be released from prison. Joseph Astin, a convicted felon who an anonymous tipster told police to question about the crime, was later accused of being the real killer, but Astin died in a police chase crash two months after the murder. The New York Law Journal reported that acknowledging that its case had been "significantly eroded", the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office moved to drop the indictment against Ranta, who spent some 23 years in prison after his conviction for murdering a prominent rabbi. The proceedings came as Hynes faces two challengers in a September Democratic primary. Both have questioned the district attorney's credibility, pointing, in part, to wrongful convictions. One of the challengers, Kenneth Thompson of Thompson Wigdor, said Hynes "should have thoroughly investigated this case from the outset shortly after Mr. Ranta was arrested in 1991, and especially after the trial judge questioned the veracity and tactics of the case detectives… The D.A. cannot wait for an election year to free innocent men and women." Through a spokesman, Hynes said, "Apparently Mr. Thompson did not read the New York Times report completely to understand that Ranta would still be in prison had I not formed the Conviction Integrity Unit." Abraham George, who is also challenging Hynes, said "no commendation" should be given to Hynes for the dismissal of a case that "had problems with the police officers and the evidence from the very beginning." The case was a "terrible tragedy" for Ranta, said George, but it also underscored in his mind "the real need to scrutinize many cases that have been brought under Mr. Hynes' watch."  The Associated Press wrote that the Brooklyn District Attorney's office told the judge they want the murder indictment dismissed, since they "no longer have sufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." 
In a follow-up article, the New York Times reported that many questions linger, not least why prosecutors clung with such tenacity to a case troubled by flaws. In 1996, Theresa Astin testified — during a new hearing — that her husband, Joseph Astin, a cocaine addict who specialized in armed robbery, had committed the murder. Her husband, she said, came home distraught the day of the murder; she found him dismantling and sawing down his pistol in their bathroom. “He was upset, he was crying, he was scared,” she testified. “He prayed every day and went to church that the rabbi would live.” Detective Scarcella said this week that he knew Mr. Astin as Jewelry Joe, given his taste in robberies, and acknowledged that he had been a prime suspect. Prosecutors aggressively challenged Ms. Astin in court, depicting her as a shoplifter (which she was) with a drug problem (which she had). They said that Mr. Ranta’s former defense lawyer had helped place her in a drug rehabilitation program. The New York Post reported that Louis Scarcella, the NYPD detective "whose corner-cutting investigative work, combined with a community’s blood lust for quick justice, put an apparently innocent man in prison for 23 years insists he’s being scapegoated by the very district attorney who pushed for the conviction. “They threw me under the bus,” Scarcella told The Post after DA Charles Hynes indicated he’d asked a judge to vacate David Ranta’s conviction, more than two decades after Ranta was found guilty of murdering a prominent rabbi in Williamsburg. Detectives in Brooklyn at the time said there was enormous pressure to close the case. Within hours of Werzberger’s death, Hynes made a visit to the 90th Precinct, sources said. “I still had my coat on, and in walked Hynes,” a retired detective recalled. “The DA never came out on a case. The pressure didn’t let up until we made an arrest.” Six months passed before Ranta was arrested. The Post reports that despite a lack of physical evidence and a witness who insisted Ranta wasn’t the killer, he was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. The New York Observer reported that Brooklyn D.A. candidate Ken Thompson blasted incumbent Joe Hynes. “The people of Brooklyn deserve a DA who will insist from Day 1 that every case is investigated and prosecuted fairly and with integrity—and not just in an election year, because the legitimacy of the criminal justice system is at stake. DA Hynes must explain what he knew and when he knew it, why he authorized immunity for the man now believed to have framed Mr. Ranta, and why his office waited so long to investigate a case that was so flawed from the very beginning,” he said in a statement. 
On March 21, 2013, David Ranta walked out of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn a free man. Mr. Ranta was escorted by guards into a courtroom. His hands were bound in handcuffs, linked by a chain to a brown leather belt around his waist. Justice Miriam Cyrulnik said “To say that I’m sorry for what you have endured will be an understatement and grossly inadequate, but I say it to you anyway,” she said to him softly, her eyes red-rimmed. “Sir, you are a free man.” The NY Times reported that John P. O’Mara, who oversees Mr. Hynes’s Conviction Integrity Unit, offered no regrets, noting that he was not involved in the original case. And he suggested, without offering evidence, that Mr. Ranta still might have committed the crime. Mr. O’Mara said his unit examined only cases referred to it. It does not, he said, independently comb through old cases.  The New York Post reported that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes — had asked that the indictment be dismissed. They said they “no longer have sufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Ranta's release from prison received extensive media coverage.        
Upon Ranta's release from prison, Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said, “Justice has been served.”  On his second day of freedom after serving 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, David Ranta suffered a serious heart attack. "The toll that his years in prison have taken on David is great," his lawyer, Pierre Sussman, told reporters.  
The Jewish Week reported that the problems with the Ranta case—all of which was known to the defense at the time of the trial--include the fact that there was no physical evidence connecting Ranta to the crime, and that a key eyewitness insisted Ranta was not the culprit. The main witness linking Ranta to both crimes was a crack-addicted jailhouse informant who received immunity for his crimes and a sweetheart deal on his own numerous pending charges in exchange for his false testimony. In addition, the lead detective on the case removed potential suspects from prison and entertained them. The article suggests that Hynes’ release of Ranta in 2013, without acknowledging any culpability on the part of his own office, was timed to burnish his reputation in what is shaping up to be a potentially tough re-election fight later this year. Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School and a leading expert in prosecutorial misconduct, asks: “Should Hynes take credit for exposing this terrible miscarriage of justice? His office brought the case initially, allowed dishonest cops and witnesses to testify, and steadfastly and aggressively, even desperately, sought to preserve the conviction for nearly 20 years and did absolutely nothing for 20 years to investigate the case to help Ranta gain his freedom." “It was entirely the work of Ranta’s lawyers,” Gershman continued, “as is usually the case.” In an article in the Huffington Post, David Protess, President of the Chicago Innocence Project, noted that "some have alleged that D.A. Charles Hynes freed Ranta for political reasons" and that the high-profile exoneration last month of David Ranta in the rabbi slaying case, is "noteworthy also because the prosecutor who initiated the review was personally involved in Ranta's unjust conviction." 
The New York Times reported on May 11, 2013 that The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has ordered a review of some 50 murder cases assigned to Detective Louis Scarcella, an acclaimed homicide detective, in an acknowledgment of mounting questions about tactics and the legitimacy of the convictions of cases prosecuted by DA Hynes' office and his predecessor. The development came after The New York Times examined a dozen cases involving Scarcella and Brooklyn DA Hynes' office and found disturbing patterns, including the prosecution's reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions and delivery of confessions from suspects who later denied saying anything. At the same time, defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have contacted the district attorney’s office to share their own suspicions about Mr. Scarcella. Scarcella insisted that he was being unfairly singled out, saying that “I have to be a pretty smart guy to lock someone up, get it through the D.A.’s office, get it through a trial and jury, and convict a guy,” he said. “I’m not that smart. It’s not a Louie Scarcella show.” “People will look for blame,” said John O’Mara, who leads the DA Hynes' Conviction Integrity Unit. “Our goal isn’t to look for blame. Our goal is to correct injustice. Mr. O'Mara had earlier insisted that he believed David Ranta to be guilty of the crime despite being freed because the prosecution's case had crumbled. The New York Post reported that Scarcella welcomed the investigation of the 50 cases and insisted he will cooperate with the DA's Office, but expressed sadness at "being treated this way." "I’m angry. I’m standing up for myself because it’s the truthful thing to do.” Scarcella said every move in the Ranta probe included top-to-bottom cooperation between cops and Brooklyn prosecutors: “We worked as a team.” The Post reported that despite Scarcella’s involvement with Ranta’s questionable conviction, he still has strong supporters in the department and DA’s office.” 
In a follow-up article, the New York Times reported that "renewed scrutiny has also focused on the role prosecutors play in what turn out to be wrongful convictions, and whether they should be held responsible when justice goes awry." "Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years behind bars for the rape and murder of a woman in Westchester County that he did not commit, vowed that a foundation he established would conduct its own review of Mr. Scarcella’s work, to find out if anyone else had been wrongfully convicted. “Considering that Scarcella was working in tandem with the prosecutors, relying on the D.A. to do the investigation is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse, particularly when exposing the cases would mean exposing prosecutorial complicity,” Mr. Deskovic said." The Times reported that Mr. Hynes’s office had said it would not review Scarcella’s cases, but it backtracked in the face of mounting questions about the detective’s tactics. Legal experts said that DA Hynes' office is playing the role of a champion against injustice after spending decades defending weak cases under Hynes and his predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman. “The disturbing thing is the way they are making this look like a rogue detective, when a lot of detectives in the late ’80s and ’90s were operating that way,” said Joel Rudin, a lawyer who sued the city on behalf of Jabbar Collins, a man exonerated after serving 16 years for a Brooklyn murder. Prosecutors “knew what was going on and took advantage of it to get convictions.”
The Gothamist reported that The Brooklyn DA's office's review of 50 murder convictions involving retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella, who helped wrongfully convict a recently released man who served 23 years for a murder he didn't commit, was the result of the New York Times' reporting on the issue of wrongful convictions involving DA Hynes' office working with Scarcella. Previously the DA's office said they had "ruled out" reviewing Scarcella's cases, but the Times seems to have forced their hand after plunging into Scarcella's shocking record and finding that the detective used the same crack addict as a witness for at least six different murders.
The New York Times reported that in the case of Alvena Jennette, who spent almost 21 years in prison, writing appeals that pointed out irregularities in his murder case, such as how the chief eyewitness changed her story and contradicted another onlooker, in each instance, the office of Brooklyn district attorney Hynes fought back against his claims. But now his is one of some 50 murder convictions that the office is reviewing after the lead detective, Louis Scarcella, was accused of misconduct that put at least one innocent man in prison for 23 years. “The same people who were rejecting my arguments all those years are going to review them?” said Mr. Jennette, 49, who was released on parole in 2007. “When a Delta plane crashes, Delta doesn’t do the review — the National Transportation Safety Board does,” said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA evidence to fight wrongful convictions. “It is essential to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.” “There needs to be independent oversight of all prosecutors,” said Steve Banks, attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society, which said it handled several cases of Mr. Scarcella’s that were overturned. “Public confidence needs to be restored, regardless of who is at fault.” Mr. Hynes’s office said an outside review was unnecessary and stressed that he had the support of the president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. “The D.A.’s position is that there is no basis to appoint a special prosecutor,” said the office spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer. “He’s very serious and committed to remedy any injustice that has been done.” Although members of the defense bar laud Mr. Hynes for creating the Conviction Integrity Unit, which investigated Ranta’s case, they question his sudden interest in wrongful convictions when his office spent two decades fighting appeals for men like Mr. Ranta. “We were screaming about Scarcella and his one-witness cases for 20 years,” said Mr. Ranta’s trial lawyer, Michael Baum. “Maybe Charles Hynes should step down from this review. That would show that he really cares” about wrongful convictions. Bruce Green, a legal ethics expert at Fordham University School of Law, said Mr. Hynes was not wrong to insist on doing the job for which he was elected, but said the issue underscored the need for greater reform. “Can a D.A. clean up his own mess?” Mr. Green said. “That’s the bigger question.” 
Pro Publica published a major investigative report highlighting several wrongful prosecutions by DA Hynes' office and calling into question the ethics and conduct of Michael Vecchione, head of Hynes' Rackets Bureau and widely considered to be Hynes' right hand man and the most powerful ADA in the Brooklyn DA's office. The report notes that "after his election, Hynes came to be criticized by some as just another political animal. He had populated his ranks with highly paid assistants, and lost a handful of the office's most seasoned and respected prosecutors. Some of those who left said Hynes had a vengeful side, and that he rewarded loyalty above all else. "He's another politician on the make, and his office is run in service to that," Alan Broomer, a former prosecutor in Manhattan and State Supreme Court Justice in Brooklyn told The New York Times in 1994. "He's used the office for his own ends." "In that office, Vecchione was a man on the rise, winning promotions and raises, and moving into Hynes' inner circle of strategists and confidants. His missteps did not seem to cost him. In 2001, in response to a Newsday reporter's persistent inquiry, Vecchione, the divorced father of two sons, publicly admitted that he had had an affair with a subordinate — his trial partner on the Collins case, as it turned out. But his power in the office only increased. Current and former Brooklyn prosecutors said in interviews that Vecchione had made clear to Hynes that if the boss wanted an indictment won and a case made, he was the man to do it." "According to people who worked for Hynes, conviction rates were a major factor in determining raises and promotions. "Joe [Hynes] was the kind of guy who made it immediately clear that statistics were important and you were accountable for your conviction rate. Every Bureau Chief had to regularly report convictions and pleas and there was certainly a keen desire to meet target rates," said one former Brooklyn prosecutor, who did not want to be quoted by name because of ongoing work in the courts. In 1995, 30 prosecutors in Hynes' office were fired. "Those of us that were asked to leave left because our stats were not what they wanted them to be," said one of the prosecutors who were forced out. Vecchione never had issues with conviction rates." 
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Augustus A. Beekman
|New York City Fire Commissioner
Joseph E. Spinnato
|District Attorney of Kings County, New York