7/29/12

George: Hynes Talks a Better Game than He Plays

In a BRJ interview, Abe George, the veteran Manhattan assistant district attorney challenging 20-year incumbent Brooklyn DA Charlie Hynes to a Democratic primary next fall, said that, in so many words, he thinks Hynes does a better job managing his media presence than fighting crime.

During his early years in the Manhattan DA's office, George was assigned to the narcotics gang unit in the special narcotics office, investigating long-term gang-related drug cases city-wide under special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

Each borough, George said, has its own unique drug crime profile.  Because street dealers doing under 200 transactions a day dominate the action in Brooklyn, effectively policing drug crime here depends on getting felony pleas and longer sentences from street-level dealers, he said.

But Brooklyn narcotics officers who brought cases to Manhattan special narcotics during his time there, he said, complained that the Brooklyn DA's office was a "revolving door" for street-level dealers:  too many misdemeanor plea deals; too many short sentences.

Brooklyn dealers knew to ask whether they'd be charged in Manhattan or Brooklyn, he said, because they'd be facing a felony conviction and a lengthy sentence in Manhattan for a crime that, in Brooklyn, would end in a misdemeanor plea deal and minimal jail time.

While street-level dealers can become the foundation for undercover investigations, he said, many of Hynes' drug conspiracy cases, which usually culminate in mass arrests, end a year or two later with misdemeanor convictions or time-served sentences.

While serving as a Manhattan ADA, George sat on both the permanent hiring board, where he helped screen job candidates, and the diversity recruiting committee, which identifies non-traditional candidates across all job titles in the office. He co-chaired the office's pilot mentoring program, which matches new hires with more senior assistants; and headed a team of attorneys and paralegals in the early case assessment bureau (ECAB) screening Manhattan felony and misdemeanor arrests. He was also deeply engaged in the office's community outreach efforts, including giving talks on stop-and-frisk and gang violence to student groups and parent associations.

During his eight years of service in Manhattan, George worked under both retired Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau and current Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance.  Assigned a felony caseload his first year on the job, he has tried roughly twenty-five felony cases during his career, including larcenies, narcotics, robberies, shootings, and homicides.

If elected, George said, he would focus on proactively fighting crime by developing an in-office intelligence unit that would take the existing zone system into the 21st century by creating information-gathering and sharing capabilities where none currently exist.

He would also enhance and expand the information-gathering and sharing capabilities inherent in the Brooklyn DA's existing zone system, he said, designating a prosecutor as intelligence coordinator in each zone.  The intelligence unit would serve as liaison to each of the zones.

As part of the intelligence unit, he said, he would mandate full implementation of the Arrest Alert system, an offender tracking system that alerts the prosecuting ADA when a defendant is re-arrested anywhere in the city.  Arrest Alert is not yet fully implemented in the Brooklyn DA's office, he said.

Asked how he would approach managing a 500-attorney office, George said the DA doesn't try every case or manage every staff member, relying on qualified professionals to manage daily office operations.  The DA's role, he said, is setting the vision and direction of the office and deciding where to allocate the available resources.

The Brooklyn DA's office under Hynes, he said, is like the leaning tower of Pisa:  top-heavy, with more than 25 units and 25 chiefs earning high six-figure salaries.

Given the tough fiscal times and rising violence in Brooklyn, he said, he would want to make sure that every unit and every chief in the Brooklyn DA's office was essential to its mission.

More about Abe George from India West.

Hynes makes a gang bust [New York Times.] 

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