Brooklyn Deserves a New D.A.

Why the 23-year reign of Charles Hynes must end

"He [Vecchione] has a right to defend himself, but the process needs to start," Barket says. "There ought to be an inquiry with an adjudication into his conduct. It seems to me outrageous that these things keep happening."

Jabbar Collins

Yet keep happening they do. Vecchione was lead prosecutor in the murder trial of Jabbar Collins, who was convicted by the testimony of three witnesses in the 1994 slaying of Rabbi Abraham Pollack:

Jabbar Collins, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, says he was railroaded by Hynes’s office.
Courtesy NY1
Jabbar Collins, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, says he was railroaded by Hynes’s office.
Attorney Mark Bederow relentlessly pursued justice for Ronald Bozeman in the face of constant gamesmanship by Hynes’s office.
bederowlaw.com
Attorney Mark Bederow relentlessly pursued justice for Ronald Bozeman in the face of constant gamesmanship by Hynes’s office.

Angel Santos claimed he saw Collins running from the scene. He later said under oath that Vecchione threatened to hit him with a coffee table and make him stay in jail unless he testified.

A second witness, Edwin Oliva, had claimed he was present when Collins plotted the murder. But a retired detective later said Oliva recanted the story in police interviews—information Vecchione never turned over to Collins's defense lawyer, as he is required to do. According to claims in Collins's lawsuit, Vecchione also got Oliva's work release from prison revoked and threatened to keep him in prison until he testified against Collins. This alleged extortion also was not disclosed to the defense.

The third witness, Edwin Diaz, said he got a deal in which he would testify against Collins if the prosecutors helped him in clearing a probation violation. This, too, was withheld from the defense.

Collins served 16 years for a murder he did not commit. When no one would listen to his pleas of innocence, he taught himself legal procedure and eventually found his way to freedom with the help of lawyer Joel Rudin, who says the evidence shows a "pervasive pattern of continuous misconduct by every assistant district attorney who touched this case over 16 years."

Of course, remarks like that might be expected from a plaintiff's lawyer, but a little more than a month ago, during a hearing on Collins's wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city, U.S. District Judge Frederic Block made a similar statement from the bench. After bemoaning the fact that, under the rules, Vecchione will "regrettably" get "total immunity" from being personally sued, Block sharply criticized Hynes's support of Vecchione: "Hynes praises Vecchione as one of his wonderful prosecutors. He's said he's done nothing wrong at all. . . . There are serious things that Vecchione did here."

"I'm disturbed by Hynes's behavior," he added. "This is horrific behavior on the part of Vecchione."

Block then questioned why Vecchione didn't testify in an earlier proceeding on his role in the case. The city attorney explained it was the D.A.'s decision. "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."

In his complaint in the case, Rudin cited 56 cases of prosecutorial misconduct in Brooklyn stretching from the mid 1980s to last year. These cases demonstrate, he wrote, "Mr. Hynes's continuous, deliberate indifference to similar misconduct in other cases," and show "direct evidence of unlawful office-wide policy and practice."

Hynes has repeatedly promoted Vecchione over the years, including after the problems with the Collins prosecution came to light.

Brooklyn City Councilman Lewis Fidler, who was Hynes's campaign manager in his first run, in 1989, says much of the criticism of his old boss is unfair. "You just named half a dozen cases—how many felonies do you think he handled in that period? You need to judge the man by the body of his work."

There is no doubt that the volume of cases in Hynes's office makes "screwups" inevitable. But the patterns that emerge from the "body of his work" are increasingly difficult to ignore. As one Brooklyn elected official puts it, "The office has become stale, insular, and arguably corrupt in the manner in which it selectively pursues certain prosecutions but declines to pursue others."

As a prosecutor, Hynes is supposed to be aloof from politics, above pandering to the mob or the media. But he has frequently been criticized for doing just that. Take, for example, the case of former city child-abuse case workers Chereece Bell and Damon Adams.

Bell and Adams were responsible for overseeing the family of four-year-old Marchella Pierce. When Pierce died in 2010 as a result of years of neglect, Hynes charged her mother and grandmother with murder and manslaughter respectively. The case became a major story, and the media and public outcry grew over whether the entire city child-welfare system itself was also at fault.

Even though no caseworker had ever been charged in the death of someone in the system, Hynes convened a grand jury in 2011 and indicted Bell and Adams for criminally negligent homicide. They had, he said, failed so egregiously to do their jobs, the girl had died. "Baby Marchella might be alive today had these [Administration for Children's Services] workers attended to her case with the basic levels of care it deserved," he said at the time.

To some, it appeared he was caving in to public pressure. "Hynes is pandering for political reasons," says Anthony Wells, of Local 371, the union that represents caseworkers, during a December 14 hearing. "All these two people did is go to work and do their best in a difficult environment."

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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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