Brooklyn Deserves a New D.A.

Why the 23-year reign of Charles Hynes must end

There is no denying that Hynes has done good things. In certain ways, he has proved himself an enlightened district attorney. But when you start talking to people dealing with him today, you discover a man they perceive as disengaged—at best—from the daily operations of his office, one who appears to have fostered a culture in which winning at all costs is acceptable, even if that cost is measured in prison time for an innocent man. As another longtime Hynes watcher told the Voice, "He's not so deeply involved in the management of the office as he used to be. He's a fundamentally decent guy who has been cruising. And the longer you do something, the more likely you are to screw up."

A leadership vacuum in any bureaucracy tends to yield several by-products, including fear and ambition. At the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, the fear is of displeasing the boss, and the ambition, presumably, is about replacing him. Taken together, the result has been toxic, according to Andrew Stoll, a Brooklyn criminal and civil lawyer. Stoll says Hynes's prosecutors "are totally afraid of exercising any discretion, of standing up and saying: 'This case is bullshit. I'm not prosecuting this.' The idea of going to a Brooklyn prosecutor with compelling evidence of innocence is ridiculous. They will never dismiss anything. They want to seem like they are tough on crime. Everyone is afraid of the next New York Post headline."

Stoll says the tension between wanting to appear aggressive and knowing they are pushing weak cases plays out in prosecutors' constant adjournments or continuances. "They make believe they are prosecuting," he says. "They ask for a one-week adjournment, and it turns into a month and a half. The purpose is to wear defendants down and get them to plead out, and make it appear as if the prosecutors are working. People's lives get destroyed."

Some view Hynes’s indictment of child-welfare caseworker Chereece Bell as a case of pandering to the media spotlight.
Courtesy NY1
Some view Hynes’s indictment of child-welfare caseworker Chereece Bell as a case of pandering to the media spotlight.
Ronald Bozeman spent a year in jail wrongly accused of a robbery in a case rife with errors and stonewalling.
Wire image
Ronald Bozeman spent a year in jail wrongly accused of a robbery in a case rife with errors and stonewalling.

Here are some of those people:

Darrell Dula, Damien Crooks, Jawara Brockett, and Jamali Brockett

In the spring of 2011, Hynes's office charged the four African-American men with torturing and sexually abusing an Orthodox Jewish girl for nine years. "If you are a pimp, we will catch you, and when we do, we will aggressively prosecute you and seek the maximum sentences," Hynes announced at a press conference on June 29, 2011, where the indictments were unveiled.

That bluster was gone a year later when Hynes was forced to dismiss the charges after it became clear that his prosecutors had failed to tell the defense that the victim had recanted her claims. His office also apparently failed to fully check out the victim's background before indicting the men.

Dula has since sued Hynes. His lawyer, Jonathan Sims, tells the Voice: "Certainly it concerns me that he was up there saying those things. Was he aware that there was a recantation? If he was aware of evidence that had not been turned over, that has to be investigated."

Lauren Hersh, a prosecutor in the case, resigned. Dula and Crooks were released 10 months after their indictment.

Jerry Schmetterer, Hynes's spokesman, contends prosecutors actually uncovered the errors themselves. "As soon as we learned there was a problem with this case, we asked the court to release Dula, and we eventually dismissed the case," Schmetterer says.

Sims is skeptical of this claim. "Someone in that office would have had to have known about it around the time of indictment," Sims counters. "You would have had to be willfully blind not to have known about it."

Teshonn Hendrix

Convicted in the October 1, 1997, murder of Kendall Isler, during a drug-deal-turned-robbery, Hendrix is also suing Hynes's office. In this case, prosecutors relied entirely on the word of Damien Toler, a career criminal who had been arrested 20 times in 10 years and was facing charges for an unrelated gunpoint robbery.

A jury in December 2010 needed less than 30 minutes to acquit Hendrix. He had been jailed for nearly 600 days, was injured in three fights, and sustained a serious infection of his left foot.

"They indicted him solely on Toler's word," Hendrix's lawyer Gregory Zenon wrote. "There was no other evidence. . . . A simple and proper investigation would have revealed my client was innocent."

Jeffrey Marshall

No one personifies the loyal Hynes lieutenant better than Michael Vecchione, a longtime member of the Brooklyn D.A.'s office and now chief of the Rackets Division. In 2003, a federal judge ordered the release of Marshall, who had served 10 years for robbery and murder, when it emerged that Vecchione made a secret deal with a key witness but never disclosed it.

Bruce Barket, Marshall's lawyer at the time, says the witness was claiming Marshall had made a jailhouse confession in the case. Vecchione pulled him out of jail and promised a deal if he testified against Marshall at trial that day.

The witness, Cicero Murphy, and Vecchione denied there was any secret deal that day or in two subsequent trials involving Marshall. Barket later found a signed agreement between the two men that led to a favorable plea deal for Murphy.

As Barket recalls it, he was cross-examining Vecchione in a habeas corpus hearing when the judge, Edward Korman, cut him off. "He says, 'Wait a minute,' takes the documents, and says to Vecchione, 'Counsel, how do you reconcile this?' And Vecchione shrugs and says, 'It is what it is, judge.'"

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15 comments
laindia1011
laindia1011

that is  so so so true,what this reporter wrote about the D.A' s office.   as a parent i spent so much money (my pension) to  prove my son's innocent due to that fact that the D.A.'s  office held very important information.regarding  my son's innocent(  Three(3) years worth of going to court (very stress ful and broke)  Their has to be an oversight committee put in place it's call accountability.

jake68jake1
jake68jake1

Cindy - what a huge and unpleasant surprise you're in for if Hynes is not re-elected. You think that a new DA will take it easy on your community? (You're obviously Hasidic). A new DA will swiftly and strongly show how " different" he is from Hynes by indicting and prosecuting as many Hasidim as humanly possible. He will cloak the effort under the guise of "finally doing justice." You and your ilk are so naive and limited by your egocentric, sheltered and arrogant worldview that you can't see any vision of reality. Hynes has been nothing but fair in his approach to these prosecutions, but what does he get for it? Vilified by victim's advocates when his efforts to bring cases are thwarted, and lambasted by Hasidic community leaders when he brings cases. It's a lose-lose that's been turned into a political issue by his rivals. Keep being naive and You'll get what you deserve.

taospark
taospark

@jake68jake1 Wait, so your rationale for letting Hynes stay in office despite valid criticisms is because a potential rival is going to persecute one of the most powerful voting blocs in Brooklyn?


In what realm of possibility is that anyone's realistic expectation?

CindyTown
CindyTown

Charles Hynes our DA, is see through,  when he wants the Orthodox votes, he tampers evidence and gets someone imprisoned for killing a Rabbi, that guy proved he wasnt the one and he is out of prison . 

Now he wants to show a small minority that he is anti orthodox, he illegally indites, Yigutkin and Weberman and stands behind the clown N Rosenberg. 

Hey DA, your off the track, wait until you are either taken down or beaten by landslide.   Hey Guys,,, Thompson or Gorges time to take over.  Youll get the orthodox in a full bloc and throw him right over.  Instead of giving a fair trial ,Charles Hynes to show he is not on orthodox side,  arraigns and indites and influences  illegally . In between there are other cases to  show.    What a fool of a person who finally reached  an old age.  DA imprisoned people and he sits on the victory of it.  Did he particularly make sure its without reasonable doubt? Or does he want to show that he is  not treating  Orthodox unfairly? 

You can do it the righteous way not the uncaring way.  Sorry your tripping on your own garbage.

If the Media is reporting half heartily,  only so that there is a good listen  and follow, understandable (although it isnt fair) But a District Attorney is irresponsible, if he does it, and should be toppled over. 

If you want to reach the orthodox and campaign against Charles Hynes, ask the village voice to contact me , and Ill check out if you are for real.


Cindy T


Vincenzo
Vincenzo

Graham:
Thank you for penning this piece. Just wanted to add my two cents:


The mention of John O'Hara's troubles with Hynes could have been elaborated upon a bit more, especially since the issue wasn't so cut and dried. You neglected to mention an ancillary issue - the case of the Kung-Fu Judge, who was stripped of his wealth, his properties and eventually, his life. Being declared "incompetent" and getting remanded to an entity purporting to be an assisted care living facility that acted more like a remote wing of San Quentin would hamper your chances of putting up a successful campaign of running for the office of the District Attorney of Brooklyn, I imagine.


A second issue which I think would have really put the icing on the cake is the "Grid Kid" slaying, also known as the case of John Giuca in the murder of Mark Fisher. From the issue of witnesses who should have been suspects, to the issue of juror misconduct, I wonder how mention of this case dropped between the slats.


I did learn about many other cases, thanks to your article, but I think adding this information would have really made your article a home run. As it is, I'd like to see this double play steal third base, with no outs.

http://www.r8ny.com/blog/1020

jake68jake1
jake68jake1

Oh yeah, Hynes panders to Jews by putting their leaders in prison.  Good one.  What - you say that he just recently started doing that, just to cover his ass?  Well why don't you ask any defense attorney who has handled a sex crimes case in Brooklyn in the last 15 years, how many prosecutions against Jews (or anyone else) have they seen "let go" or swept under the rug - the answer will be ZERO.  In fact, such cases are over-prosecuted.  They go after such defendants mercilessly, often too much so (because not every defendant is actually guilty).  The reality here is far different from the perception.  It's just easy for idiots without first-hand knowledge to say, "yeah, Hynes is in bed with the Jews, they control everything, they get their cases swept aside."  It's total nonsense.  The sex cases against Hasidic Jews that ended in probation or dismissal did so because the victim (or his/her family) wanted it that way, to avoid a public trial.  It's their community's fault for intimidating or ostracizing the victims, and for making it virtually impossible for Hynes to indict anyone for tampering.  Get some direct experience, learn some facts, and let go of the casual conclusions and rumors.

Bklynsfinest
Bklynsfinest

@jake68jake1 Jake Tell the truth here, do you work for Mr. Hynes, Or are you applying for a soon to be opening in his office.

XProsecutor
XProsecutor like.author.displayName 1 Like

Mr. Hynes panders to the Jews. No Lie. No Bullshit. No justice . Politics

jake68jake1
jake68jake1

This is all a disgusting effort to ruin a good man, who works himself to the bone for the people of Brooklyn and has demonstrated unprecedented success, year after year. You should be ashamed of yourselves for cherry picking negative isolated incidents, making conclusions on innuendo, and ignoring the other side of the stories.

Bklynsfinest
Bklynsfinest

@jake68jake1 So even if they were isolated incidents, what! We must turn a blind eye because he did well in the past. Someone must be held accountable for the crimes against these innocent people. These cases had obvious evidence showing their innocence and it was covered up, these are crimes. How do these people sleep at night knowing they placed innocent people in jail for 20 years and sometimes life?

BrooklynKnows
BrooklynKnows like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Thank you Graham for a well written summary of the heinous acts committed by Brooklyn DA Hynes and his henchman Michael Veccione.  Sadly this article merely touches on the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more and worse stories to tell.

One hopes that the reporting will continue and force this man to retire. Or force the federal government to step in and hold him and Veccione accountable for their actions.

The sad part of this story is that while Veccione has always been a thug, Hynes was once a good prosecutor who had respect for the law.  Look at him now.

jake68jake1
jake68jake1

John Doe - you've just described every DA's Office in the City, from the perspective of a career and bitter defense attorney (although you have more of a point when it comes to the Manhattan Office, much more so than Brooklyn). The objective fact is that no DA has instituted the kinds of programs and reforms that Hynes has and continues to do (see the Drew House program and Project Redirect, for example). Offices all over the country didn't emulate his programs because they play politics or trample due process. You have ample right to be pissed over ADA's mishandling cases or failing to "do the right thing" when you think it's "obvious", but you're dead wrong to think that Hynes' office or approach cultivates such behavior to any unique degree. And, by the way, I am not an ADA. Just an informed and involved Brooklynite. It's amazing what happens when you're objective and know the facts.

JohnDoe
JohnDoe like.author.displayName 1 Like

@jake68jake Your punctuation and grammar lead me to believe you are one of his little green robot prosecutors.  That office has been a joke for years and everyone who practices in
Brooklyn, including the judges, knows it.  Untrained and incompetent ADAs with no understanding of due process or that the job of a prosecutor is to seek justice.  They simply lie, hide and climb that pathetic little ladder over there.

jake68jake
jake68jake

This article is an entirely one-sided attack ad, making noi effort to explore the other side of the stores and citing a few "allegations" and innuendo as evidence of widespread "corruption" or "misconduct." There is no effort to seek the actual truth, or review the literally thousands of achievements by DA Hynes or the dozens of nationally recognized programs that he conceived and successfully implemented. Comically, the article, in an ultra liberal newspaper, starts off criticizing Hynes for his extensive social service work - all of which has resulted in historic reductions of crime and, more importantly, recidivism - and then turns to attacking how aggressive Hynes' office has been in prosecuting felons. The author is obviously in bed with Abe George, a rookie with barely any experience as a prosecutor who thinks he can run one of the largest DA's Offices in the nation. And quoting Gershman, a wholesale lawbreaker and ethics violator infamous for his time under Maurice Nadjari, is another big laugh. All of this is a joke. The people of Brooklyn are very fortunate to have, and to have had, DA Hynes implementing the kind of groundbreaking programs that turn crime around, and exhibit the fearlessness it takes to challenge and prosecute establishment corruption such as the party bosses, Hasidic community enforcers, etc. With only a bit of even handedness, the truth would be obvious. No one ever accused the Voice of caring about such things, though. Talk about an agenda...

1sensei
1sensei

Why don't you investigate Cy Vance. He seems to run a very political organization

 
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