News & Politics

Snyder Attack Ads Cost Her a Backer

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Leslie Crocker Snyder’s no-holds-barred attack ads on rival
Cy Vance Jr. for serving as attorney for “murderers,
mobsters and white collar criminals” are backfiring – at
least among some lawyers.

Snyder lost one of her most prominent backers this
afternoon when veteran defense lawyer Michael F. Armstrong
said that he was so bothered by Snyder’s mail and TV ads
attacking her opponent that he had decided to switch his
allegiance to Vance.

“Leslie is a friend and I called her and told her that this
is a pretty fundamental issue and that I’m going to have to
switch because of it,” Armstrong told the Voice. “Politics
is politics, but lawyers have a right to defend clients.”

Armstrong, who was counsel to the legendary Knapp
commission
that probed police corruption in the 1970s, has
represented a string of high-profile defendants, most
recently Brian McLaughlin, the ex-assemblyman and labor
leader who pled guilty to stealing $2 million.

“I think there is a problem in accusing lawyers of being
bad guys because they defend bad guys,” he said. “It’s
something that resonates with the public, but in the
business we are in everybody knows it is absolutely not
true. We all know — including Leslie — that you can’t
ascribe attributes of a client to a lawyer just because he
agrees to take a case. The problem is that the public
doesn’t know that and I don’t think it is a good idea to
play on that ignorance.”

Along with 19 other lawyers, Armstrong also co-signed a
letter to
Snyder today complaining about the ads. “In
multiple mailings to voters, a television ad, and in your
remarks at debates and in interviews, you have demeaned
Cy’s qualifications to be District Attorney because Cy has
defended ‘criminals’,” the letter states. “We are deeply
troubled that you would denigrate our obligation as lawyers
to defend the accused.”

Most of the signers of the letter were already backing
Vance. One of them, Robert Gottlieb, said that he was hit
by a similar blast of anti-defense lawyer ads when he ran
for DA in Suffolk County in 1989. “I’ve seen first hand how
this sort of attack can be effective,” he said. “It is the
worst kind of pandering. When it happens here you have to
speak out especially in a race for DA that is supposed to
reflect justice.”

Armstrong said that when he spoke to Snyder, the former
judge sought to persuade him of the need for the ads. “I
had a personal conversation in which she defended herself
and I did not find the defense persuasive,” he said. “I
will let her provide her own explanations.”

Snyder’s spokesman has yet to respond.

The former judge has aimed most of her fire at Vance,
virtually ignoring the third candidate in the race, anti-
handgun activist Richard Aborn who has sought to remain
above the fray.

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