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Friday, September 20, 2013




Sources say that Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, a Democrat, is leaning toward actively running as a Republican for re-election but his final decision will depend on whether his financial advisers think he can raise enough money, said sources familiar with the campaign.
CHARLES HYNES, 78, lost in the Democratic primary to attorney 
KEN  THOMPSON by more than 10 percentage points. After losing, Hynes noted that he was still listed on the Republican and Conservative party ballots but said he would not be campaigning.
But in recent days, as reported first in this space, Hynes has been approached by Republican party officials and others to reconsider, particularly because Democratic areas of south Brooklyn deemed Hynes strongholds didn’t turn out and vote in the primary.

Friday, September 6, 2013


By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica 

The year was 1990. George H.W. Bush was president. The song "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips was number one on the Billboard chart. And Charles "Joe" Hynes, celebrated for his role as a special prosecutor in a racially charged case in Howard Beach, began his first term as Brooklyn District Attorney.
Bush's presidency came and went; his son's did too. Wilson Phillips went on a 10-year hiatus; then got back together in 2004.
Hynes, all along the w ballad instructed: He's held on. He's been Brooklyn's top law man for nearly 24 years, making him one of the longest serving district attorneys in New York City history.
But Hynes's once firm grasp on the position could be imperiled. Buffeted by controversial cases, charges of misconduct in his office, and concerns about possibly preferential treatment for Jewish residents of the borough, Hynes is seen by political strategists to be facing a serious challenge from Kenneth Thompson, an African-American former federal prosecutor. On Tuesday, Sept. 10, voters in the Brooklyn Democratic primary could deny Hynes a chance at a seventh term.
Almost all prosecutors who stay in office for lengthy terms wind up facing a familiar array of complaints – about cases lost, creeping arrogance, political gamesmanship. Robert M. Morgenthau, revered by many across his decades as Manhattan's top prosecutor, had his share of critics and embarrassments, the troubled prosecution of five teenagers for the rape of a woman in Central Park among them.
Some of the complaints about Hynes, then, fit that mold: He's been accused of hiringand firing people based on favoritism and political connections and he's been taken to task for some failed or underwhelming prosecutions. Even his once reliable base of support, the borough's Orthodox Jewish community, has seemed to split, some angered that Hynes has made a series of pedophilia cases against people in their ranks, others disappointed that he was late to the issue and overly lenient in his handling of the cases.
But Thompson, who served in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, has focused his criticism on the question of wrongful convictions and possible misconduct by prosecutors over the years in Hynes's office.
On the campaign trail Thompson, for instance, has cited withering criticism from two federal judges over the way one of Hynes's top prosecutors won a wrongful conviction in a high-profile murder case.
In the last several weeks, Thompson has gained endorsements from the Service Employees International Union, the Citizens Union, and several Brooklyn-based representatives in Congress.
Hynes has defended the work of his office, rejecting any claims that he permits or encourages misconduct. He has campaigned on what he asserts are his myriad novel and effective approaches to fighting crime.
Both the district attorney's office and Hynes's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Little public polling has been done in the race. Turnout could play a role. And Hynes, whatever his arguable travails, has history on his side.
No incumbent district attorney has lost an election in any of New York's boroughs since 1955. A Brooklyn district attorney hasn't been unseated via the vote since 1911.
Here are some issues that may figure into the election's outcome.

Michael Vecchione

Some of Hynes's campaign woes can be traced to the conduct of Michael Vecchione, the head of Hynes's Rackets Bureau. He's a polarizing figure who has drawn heavy criticism for his conduct in and out of the courtroom.
Two federal judges have lambasted Vecchione for withholding evidence and for his handling of several witnesses in a high-profile murder case.
Now the defendant, a Brooklyn man named Jabbar Collins who spent 16 years in prison, is suing the city for millions as part of a far-reaching wrongful conviction lawsuit. His lawyer, Manhattan-based attorney Joel Rudin, is attempting to make the case that misconduct in Hynes's office is so pervasive that Hynes must have actually condoned it.
Vecchione's career in the district attorney's office spans more than two decades. In 2003, the district attorney's office was forced to vacate the conviction of a man they suspected of being involved in at least three murders when a federal court agreed to hear allegations that Vecchione had withheld evidence in the man's trial.
In 2006, Vecchione tried to prosecute former FBI agent R. Lindley DeVecchio for helping arrange the murders of gangsters on behalf of mob boss Greg Scarpa. Hynes called it "the most stunning example of official corruption [he] had ever seen." Butthe case fell apart just days into trial when it became clear that Vecchione's chief witness was unstable and had given false testimony.
More recently, The New York Post reported that Vecchione instructed staff not to preserve exculpatory evidence in sex-trafficking cases during a training session in 2012.
Vecchione has denied all charges of misconduct, and he testified under oath that hedid not remember the details of what took place at the training session for sex-trafficking cases in 2012.
Hynes has staunchly defended Vecchione, who continues to be one of the highest-paid prosecutors in the office. Earlier this year, Hynes allowed Vecchione to be a featured character in a CBS television show called Brooklyn DA.
ProPublica in 2013 has published a series of articles investigating prosecutorial misconduct and the lack of consequences for prosecutors who commit serious violations of the law. Vecchione was the subject of one of those articles.
Hynes's office did not respond to ProPublica's request for comment on Vecchione's history and its possible impact on Hynes's re-election effort.

50 Possibly Troubled Cases

Last spring, Hynes asked a judge to vacate the conviction of a man his office had mistakenly prosecuted for the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi. Hynes blamed a detective in the case for the wrongful conviction, and ordered his office to review 50 cases involving the detective.
The investigation has obvious implications for the now-retired detective, Louis Scarcella, who has publicly denied he ever did anything wrong. But Hynes'sprosecutors had vouched for the detective's work in the cases, using the confessions he had allegedly won or the evidence he had produced to send people to prisons. Two of the prosecutors involved in Scarcella cases have gone on to work as New York State judges; four are now senior officials in the district attorney's office.
Thompson and other critics of Hynes pounced when it became clear that a 12-member panel of lawyers and judges appointed by Hynes to oversee the review of the 50 cases included three people who had donated to Hynes's campaign.
Hynes has said he is convinced of the panel's independence, and that the investigation will go where the evidence takes it.
The New York Times reported Friday that its examination of some of Scarcella's casesshowed that prosecutors either ignored warning signs or made missteps of their own.
Hynes told the Times that the investigation so far had not turned up evidence that would require revisiting the propriety of a conviction. But he did not address the paper's findings about the conduct of his prosecutors.

Detaining Witnesses

Hynes's training procedures and office policies have also come under fire.
A Brooklyn man seeking to have his murder conviction overturned has accused Hynes's office of holding a witness against his will until he agreed to testify as prosecutors wanted in the case.
That case, which is now before a federal judge, has fueled an effort by Jabbar Collins's lawyer to establish that Hynes's office routinely detained and coerced witnesses in violation of the law. The accusation, made as part of Collins's lawsuit against Hynes and the city, deals with a powerful legal tool called the material witness order. The orders are supposed to be used only under rare circumstances, usually when prosecutors fear a potential witness might flee instead of testifying in court.
New York law requires that prosecutors bring any material witness straight to court.
But Collins's lawyer, along with several other defense lawyers are seeking to hold prosecutors accountable for abusing the orders, alleging that witnesses were never brought before a judge or provided with a lawyer, as the law requires.
Hynes has denied allegations that his prosecutors failed to abide by the law in their handling of witnesses.


Hynes's hiring and firing decisions have also proven fodder during the campaign, and Thompson has seized on them.
The New York Post reported this summer that Mark Posner, a lawyer in the office's powerful Rackets Bureau, was caught using his office phone to call prostitutes. The Post article said Posner was found out by his own colleagues, who were investigating a local prostitution ring.
Posner is the son of a longtime ally of Hynes, Charles Posner. The elder Posner had served as Hynes's liaison to Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community, and Hynes had later recommended him for a judgeship. Posner, who died in 2004, served as a State Supreme Court justice for nearly a decade.
Hynes did not fire Mark Posner after learning of his misconduct. Instead, he suspended him for 10 days and transferred him to the Early Case Assessment Bureau, a low-level desk where prosecutors analyze arrests and make judgments on what charges to pursue.
At the time Posner was caught, Brooklyn DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer told the Post that Hynes acted as soon as he learned of Posner's conduct by suspending him, ordering him to seek counseling, and demoting him.
Posner didn't immediately respond to a voice message left at his home. And neither Hynes's office nor his campaign responded to questions from ProPublica.
In January 2012, Hynes hired a woman named Angel DiPietro to become an assistant district attorney. It was a hire with a backstory.
Eight years earlier, DiPietro was a witness in the murder case of Mark Fisher, a Fairfield University student-athlete in Prospect Park South. She was with Fisher and friends in Brooklyn the night he was killed. At the time, a spokesman for the police department told the New York Times that DiPietro demonstrated "a lack of full-hearted cooperation." Police Commissioner Ray Kelly himself described DiPietro and seven of her other friends as "uncooperative."
Eventually DiPietro testified at trial and two people she was with that night were found guilty of the murder.
DiPietro's father, a defense attorney in Brooklyn, had been a regular contributor to Hynes's political campaigns, and in the months after DiPietro was hired, he donated another $3,000 to Hynes's 2013 political campaign.
DiPietro, contacted by telephone, referred ProPublica to the spokesman for the district attorney's office. The spokesman did not respond to request for comment.
James DiPietro, Angel's father, did agree to an interview.
"I wish I could've given him more," DiPietro's father said of his donations to Hynes. He said that his daughter was first offered the job in 2010 and fully deserved it on her own merits. And he asserted that his daughter had in fact cooperated fully in the Fisher murder investigation.

Selective Prosecutions

In 1996 Hynes indicted a Brooklyn political gadfly named John O'Hara. The charge was modest: voting from his girlfriend's apartment, which was outside of his own election district. After three separate trials, O'Hara was found guilty, lost his law license, and was sentenced to community service.
O'Hara has always claimed that Hynes went after him because he'd run for city council and assembly seats against some of Hynes's allies.
Thirteen years later, in 2009, a grievance committee bolstered O'Hara's account. It restored his license, saying there were "grave doubts that Mr. O'Hara did anything that justified his criminal prosecution."
In 2012, The New York Times ran a stinging series of articles on how Hynes's office for years handled investigations of accused sexual predators in the Orthodox Jewish communities. The series established that Hynes had allowed many of the accusations to be handled by rabbinical courts rather than prosecuting the cases himself.
Hynes initially defended the way he handled the sex abuse cases, but eventually pledged reforms and began prosecuting them with more vigor.


The Ugly, Race-Baiting Campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney

BY max rivlin-nadler

  •  Gothamist Daily:

Allegations of racism, sex abuse, and dead chickens. The race for Kings County District Attorney, in which former federal prosecutor Ken Thompson is looking to dethrone 23-year incumbent Charles Hynes, has been marked by the kind of fiery rhetoric and vicious mud-slinging that the mayoral race has lacked.
A string of wrongful convictions, sex abuse cover-ups, as well as a general lack of decorum have made the 78-year-old Charles Hynes, a product of the Brooklyn Democratic machine, vulnerable for the first time since the Giuliani administration. In order to win the Democratic primary on September 10th (there is no Republican challenger) both candidates have worked to win over the single most important and nearly unanimous voting bloc in the borough: The Satmar Jews of Williamsburg.
Advertisements portraying DA Hynes as a chicken to be sacrificed during the Yom Kippur period of atonement have run alongside ads depicting Thompson as snake, coiled to strike the Orthodox community.Both campaigns deny having anything to do with the ads.
For years, Hynes has worked to protect the identities of sex abusers in the cloistered community, a privilege afforded to no other group in the city. In response to Hynes's prejudices, Thompson has launched a campaign promising “fair treatment for all.”
But will that cost him the votes from a bloc that may soon make Brooklyn look more like Rockland County?
"When a Jew is arrested, to whom do you go [for help]?” implores one poster, with a picture of Hynes standing next to the Munkatcher Rebbe, who works to keep Jews out of jail. “To Jewish leaders who act on behalf of the Jewish community,” it continues. Next to Hynes it is written, “He helped us, he helps us, and he will help us some more.”
Critics of the 78-year-old Hynes, who starred in his own reality show this summer, say he's cultivated the support of the Orthodox Haredi community by half-heartedly prosecuting sex abusers from the community. Since the media has brought Hynes’s neglect to light, he has worked to portray himself as tough on sex abusers. But as the election has drawn closer, he’s been eager to play the role of the candidate that will protect the Haredi community.
New York City Councilman David Greenfield, a surrogate for Hynes, has said that Thompson will “target the Jewish community.”
Hynes has not distanced himself from these comments. He also declined to be interviewed for this story.
Thompson, however, keeps pushing his promise to treat all Brooklyn residents fairly.
“The most important thing I’m going to do as District Attorney, is have one standard of justice for everyone in Brooklyn,” Thompson told us. “Joe Hynes has spoken words that are words that divide. Disgraceful words to speak about an entire community.”
Throughout the campaign Hynes has often put his foot in his mouth, first comparing the Orhtodox community to the mafia, and then also telling an Orthodox newspaper that “the black community, by and large, is mine.”
Ken Thompson kicking off his campaign.
Thompson, who is black, wants voters to see these slip-ups as indicative of an older, out-of-touch District Attorney whose department is in a state of disarray. Earlier this year, it came to light that the testimony of an NYPD detective couldhave falsely imprisoned hundreds of people under Hynes's watch.
"What I’m determined to do is to carry out the fundamental role of a DA and that is to do justice," Thompson said. "It is not justice when someone is in jail for a murder they did not commit. Charles Hynes is now investigating 50 homicide cases by the NYPD Detective Scarcella. That is extraordinary—I’ve never heard of that being done by any DA in the city.
“What he is essentially saying is that there are innocent men and women who may still be in prison. How did we get to that point? Detective Scarcella worked hand-in-hand with the Brooklyn DA office. Hynes now has an inherent conflict of interest to not truly investigate those cases.”
Thompson, who grew up in Brooklyn as the son of one of the first female NYPD officers to walk a beat, rose to prominence as an Assistant U.S. Attorney working on the Abner Louima case, prosecuting NYPD officer Justin Volpe. After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office, Thompson went into private practice, most famously representing Nafissatou Diallo, the housekeeper who claimed IMF-head Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her.

While the race has remained tight all summer, it got even closer when a third candidate, Manhattan ADA Abe George, dropped out. He said it was to ensure that Thompson had a real chance to beat Hynes and not just split the vote progressive vote.
“For me, running was all about making Brooklyn better. I pulled out to beat Hynes. There’s a terrible pattern of wrongful convictions. Jabar Collins. William Lopez. Derrick Hamilton,” George told us. “Hynes is not treating neighborhoods exactly the same in Brooklyn. In the Orthodox community, certain defendants, pedophiles, weren’t being treated the same as they were in other parts of Brooklyn. Also, Hynes has been silent on stop and frisk until the very last minute.”
Thompson believes that stop and frisk has a place in law enforcement, but that it has been abused by the NYPD. “I believe that if stop and frisk is done the right way it can help save lives. I have a young family, I have a 9-year-old daughter and six-year-old son, and we live in Clinton Hill. Sometimes we hear gun shots, and stop and frisk helps get guns off the street,” Thompson said, echoing the dubious claims of the mayor and the police commissioner.
“But at the same time we can’t continue to stop tens of thousands of innocent black and Latino young men who are walking down the street minding their own business," Thompson said. "Hynes has said stop and frisk isn’t his concern. I disagree. The Brooklyn DA has a role to play in stop and frisk. My son will be sixteen before I know it, and I shouldn’t have to worry about him being stopped and frisked just going to the store. I want stops based on reasonable suspicion, not race.”
The race, however, will most likely be decided by the ultra-Orthodox voting blocs. Hynes has continued to give the impression that he is protecting ultra-Orthodox sex abusers, most recently prosecuting a Hasidic whistleblower who was ostracized after he pushed for justice on behalf of his son and other alleged victims of sexual abuse within the ultra-Orthodox community. Yesterday, Hynes won the votes of the powerful Ahrony sect, who will now vote en masse for Hynes, a payoff for his long-time protection of the Haredi community.
“In their minds, no Haredi belongs in prison, even if guilty, except for an out of control murderer, perhaps,” Shmarya Rosenberg, an influential blogger who covers the Haredi community, told us.
While Hynes has prosecuted a handful of sexual abusers in the community, that hasn’t been enough to turn the community against him.
According to Rosenberg, Thompson supporters are “Primarily a small number of Haredim who are fed up with the corruption of their leaders and other Haredim who are upset that Nechemya Weberman and Rabbi Baruch Lebovits were prosecuted for child sex abuse.”
Rosenberg adds that many Haredi “will probably vote for Hynes if their rabbis and rebbes signal that they should do so. And many hasidic rebbes and haredi rabbis are, in fact, working to turn out their bloc votes for Hynes. They fear what would happen to their special deals with the D.A. if Thompson is elected.”
Contact the author of this article or email tips@gothamist.com with further questions, comments or tips.

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Monday, September 2, 2013


 History of Labor Day

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Founder of Labor Day

The father of labor day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.