Brooklyn Deserves a New D.A.

Why the 23-year reign of Charles Hynes must end

Bell and Adams have now been schlepping in and out of court for nearly two years. Meanwhile, the indictments have sent a chilling effect through the system, say current and former caseworkers. "The overwhelming feeling is that no matter what you do, no matter how many times you visit, it's not good enough," a caseworker tells the Voice.

According to the Brooklyn pol, the Bell case is "perceived as law-enforcement overreach in order to chase headlines in a case that caught the country's attention. These two individuals should have been disciplined, but prosecuting them to the full extent of the law seems excessive and unlikely to occur outside the glare of the media spotlight. If that is the standard, then you can do that to judges, who release suspects on bail who then go out and commit a heinous crime."

But the Bell case is not the first time Hynes has been accused of using his office for political gain. He pursued charges against a campaign foe, John O'Hara, on the ground that he didn't live in the borough. He indicted his former patron, Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman, not once but four times, after public opinion turned against him.

The Kingpin: Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes assumes the position during a December press conference. In his sixth term, he has become mired in controversy.
Caleb Ferguson
The Kingpin: Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes assumes the position during a December press conference. In his sixth term, he has become mired in controversy.
Hynes was excoriated by a federal judge for protecting prosecutor Michael Vecchione in the midst of misconduct allegations.
Courtesy CNBC
Hynes was excoriated by a federal judge for protecting prosecutor Michael Vecchione in the midst of misconduct allegations.

"What we have right now is not a D.A., but a politician," says George, one of Hynes's opponents in the coming re-election campaign.

That accusation seems to dog Hynes's decisions. In a borough full of brown people, for example, he has acquired a reputation for being particularly solicitous of white ones, especially in the ultra-Orthodox communities that have given him tremendous support.

Back in 2002, Hynes agreed to a lenient plea deal for Isaac Chehebar, son of a prominent family of merchants and a member of the Sephardic Bikur Holim synagogue. Chehebar was accused of vehicular manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide after killing two sisters and seriously injuring their mother while out joyriding in a friend's Porsche. Hynes, who had earlier won a second-degree murder conviction in a similar case—thundering that he was sending "a clear message to these high-octane terrorists on the Belt Parkway and everywhere in Brooklyn"—offered Chehebar a deal allowing him to serve just four months in jail and two years of house arrest. Subsequently, some $80,000 in contributions from Chehebar's family, associates, and congregants ended up in Hynes campaign coffers. His 2005 campaign opponents suggested there was some kind of deal, which Hynes denied, but clearly he has a great deal of financial support in the community.

Those political ties have also been cited to explain Hynes's handling of sex abuse among the Hasidim. In a 2008 editorial, The Jewish Week described Hynes's attitude toward such cases as "ranging from passive to weak-willed." In May, The New York Times published an analysis of Hynes's performance, suggesting that his efforts to rein in ultra-Orthodox sexual predators have been reactive at best and in many cases altogether reluctant. Hynes famously agreed, for instance, to rabbis' requests to let them handle the cases internally and has repeatedly declined to make public the names of the accused—even after they were convicted. Not coincidentally, perhaps, the Times reported that in his razor-thin 2005 victory over John Sampson, he won by a landslide in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

Hynes rejects any suggestion that he has buckled to ultra-Orthodox rabbis in exchange for political support. He cites cases made by a special unit he created, Kol Tzedek ("Voice of Justice" in Hebrew). And he recently won a conviction against Nechemya Weberman, a Yeshiva counselor accused of sexually abusing an Orthodox teen. After winning the Weberman conviction, Hynes told reporters that once and for all, the "veil of secrecy" had been lifted.

Hynes counts the Weberman case, and a second conviction—against Emanuel Yegutkin, a principal of a private Jewish school in Brooklyn—as significant victories. "Those cases support our position on how we've been handling this issue," says his spokesman, Schmetterer. Fidler likewise insists he's "astonished that Hynes is taking criticism" for handling of Orthodox Jewish cases. "He has taken one of the most difficult nuts to crack in today's society and has done his best to crack it. He deserves tremendous credit."

But Kol Tzedek wasn't formed until 2009, in the face of strident public criticism. The Times analysis concluded that "some of Mr. Hynes's claims about the Kol Tzedek program appear to be inflated."

On August 26, 2011, a supermarket worker named Ahmed Awardeh came out of a Flatbush Avenue bank carrying a pouch containing $9,000; as he walked toward an SUV carrying his boss, a man pushed him into the car at gunpoint and a second jumped into the back seat. The gunman struck Awardeh repeatedly, grabbed the pouch, and forced the worker to walk down the block before letting him go.

Ronald Bozeman, a 64-year-old ex-con, was arrested for armed robbery in December, after police discovered his DNA profile on a white cloth inside a bag left behind by one of the robbers. As a convicted felon, he faced life in prison.

Five days after Bozeman's arrest, Lauren Silver, an assistant district attorney in Hynes's office, took the case to a grand jury, where both Awardeh and his boss identified Bozeman as the gunman. The grand jury voted to indict Bozeman.

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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.

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.

XProsecutor
XProsecutor

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.

BrooklynKnows
BrooklynKnows

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

@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

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?

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.

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?

 
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