Mud slings in race for Brooklyn District Attorney to the last day
The race for Brooklyn District Attorney has been fraught with accusations of corruption and hypocrisy from the start.
The vitriol only intensified after the primary election, when incumbent Charles Hynes lost to Ken Thompson and opted to switch parties and run on the Republican ticket.
Hynes has been accused of running racist ads, and was quoted at a press conferenced just two weeks ago comparing Thompson, who is black, to a gun dealer, who is also black.
When asked where the gun dealer lived, Hynes laughed and said, “Who are we talking about, my opponent?”
Running on the Republican line, Hynes was also unable to raise the money he vowed he could, raking in only $200,000 after promising to pull in $1 million.
While he steadfastly refused during the primary election to answer questions about who he supported, in accordance with rules barring district attorneys from making endorsements, he appeared at least once at an event with Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and was later found to have contributed to the Bill Thompson campaign.
Ken Thompson has also pointed repeatedly to claims that Hynes has been lenient with members of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Michael Weinstock, who identified himself as a former employee of Hynes’, insisted in an interview a few weeks ago that is not the case. In fact, he said, Hynes’ ability to make inroads in the somewhat insular Orthodox community has enabled his office to reach victims of such crimes who formerly were afraid to come forward.
“I find it incredibly ironic that he’s been accused of impropriety in the Jewish community because what he did was actually ground-breaking,” said Weinstock, a criminal defense lawyer who credits Hynes with giving him his start at the D.A.’s office. (The D.A.’s office did not respond to requests to confirm that Weinstock was a former employee.) ”Hiring Orthodox Jewish workers and support staff so that he could make inroads, so that phone calls would be returned and witnesses would be cooperative.”
“Before Hynes started this program the victims would immediately become uncooperative and stop returning our phone calls,” Weinstock explained. “Then Mr. Hynes hired Orthodox Jewish social workers.”
“He didn’t make any friends in the Orthodox Jewish community by prosecuting high-profile folks in that community,” he added. “He did it because it was the right thing.”
Ken Thompson has also lashed out at Hynes for recent instances involving convictions by his office being re-opened.
Weinstock said this is also unfair, pointing to a Public Integrity Unit Hynes formed in order to examine such cases.
Weinstock called the two attorneys heading up the unit “two of the most ethical people I’ve ever met.”
“It takes a lot of integrity and a lot of honesty to investigate your own office and investigate mistakes that may have been made years ago,” he insisted.
Weinstock recounted his early days in Hynes’ office, when he said Hynes told him: “You have an enormous responsibility. If you ever learn someone has been put in custody without justification or if a witness changes her tune or his tune… I don’t care if it’s three o’clock in the morning, you do whatever’s necessary. No responsibility is more important than making sure someone doesn’t sit in jail even one hour longer if you believe they don’t belong there.”
But the Hynes campaign has been accused of playing dirty, with ads seemingly disseminated on his behalf that characterizing Thompson supporters as the “minority element,” a phrase that the Ken Thompson campaign has said has racist connotations.
The ad, in Yiddish, has been translated as saying Ken Thompson “attracted the minority element that seeks lawlessness.” Hynes has insisted his campaign did not approve the ads and has said if that translation is accurate he will denounce them.
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat