Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes is defending himself against charges that his office railroaded three men exonerated of violent crimes and released from custody over the past year.
In an interview with The New York Times, Hynes [pictured with aide Michael Vecchione] insists that his office got it right in the cases of William Lopez, Jabbar Collins, and Ronald Bozeman. The long-serving DA is facing a potentially tough reelection battle in November, and one issue in the race has been the wrongly convicted.
One case involved William Lopez, who served 22 years in prison based on the word of a crack-addicted prostitute who recanted her claims. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered his release, writing, “The case of William Lopez began 23 years ago. It was rotten from Day 1.” Garaufis added, “The prosecutor’s evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after trial.”
The most shocking thing about the conviction of Lopez might be that Hynes’ office fought his release for well over a decade after the prostitute recanted verbally and in writing three times.
Lopez’ alibi witnesses weren’t called. The physical description didn’t match. Prosecutors knew before trial that the prostitute had recanted to a Rikers cellmate, but didn’t tell the defense until after jury convicted Lopez. And his appellate lawyers found a witness to the shooting who was sure Lopez was innocent.
Amazing, Hynes tells the Times he’s still considering an appeal of Garaufis’ decision. Of the judge, he tells the Times, “Second-guessing is what was going on. It had serious problems as many trials do.”
This is a curious comment because it makes one wonder why he didn’t drop the case or move for Lopez’s release much sooner if it had such “serious problems.”
Hynes continues to attack Garaufis: the judge “didn’t like the case. The test is not whether you didn’t like it.” Why appeal? “Because you’re supposed to uphold the rule of law.”
The Times writer, Michael Powell, seems puzzled by Hynes’ logic.
Next, Hynes answers a question about another fatally flawed prosecution, that of Jabbar Collins, who served 16 years for a murder he didn’t commit. “We believe he did it,” Hynes says, ignoring the wealth of evidence which led another federal judge to conclude he did not, amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against Vecchione.
And of Bozeman, a case that the Voice has written about at length, Hynes claims, “It was our investigation that revealed the problems.” Once again, Hynes ignores the actual chronology of the case.
As the Voice reported, Bozeman’s lawyer Mark Bederow had been raising serious questions about the case for months, but Hynes’ prosecutor stonewalled his demands for documents.
Meanwhile, Hynes’ press office reported that Eion Klass, a man convicted of shooting a liquor store clerk to death in a 2010 robbery, was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Klass had pleaded guilty earlier this month to manslaughter and attempted robbery. Klass was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbing an ex-girlfriend’s husband. That sentence will run concurrent to the robbery sentence.
And the DA’s press office reports, a jury convicted school janitor Ambiorix Rodriguez, age 34, for rape and sexual abuse of a eighth-grade girl multiple times in a stairwell and in the basement of the school. The abuse took place when the girl was 12 and 13 years old.
Rodriguez will be sentenced on February 20 before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Sheryl Parker where he faces up to life in prison.