Brooklyn Heights

Hynes, Thompson square off in debate at St. Francis College

August 15, 2013 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Incumbent Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes and challenger Ken Thompson squared off in a candidates’ forum Wednesday evening at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights.

The forum, sponsored by VOCAL-NY, the Brooklyn Reform Coalition and the Brooklyn Young Democrats, focused on issues of public safety, drug policy, public health and civil rights.

The first question posed to the candidates involved stop-and-frisk, the hot-button issue surrounding the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping individuals merely because of a reasonable suspicion that someone has committed or is about to commit a crime and frisking them for contraband.  

“The overuse of stop-and-frisk has to be changed,” said Hynes. “But as DA, you have no control over police policy.”

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Thompson replied that he would “look at police precincts in Brooklyn that lead in stop-and-frisk and talk to the officers as to what ‘reasonable suspicion’ actually means.”

The candidates took jabs at the other’s perceived lack of ability to control his partners and/or employees. Hynes noted that Thompson and his law firm Thompson Wigdor are being sued by his former law partner Scott Gilly for $600,000, which amounts to Gilly’s share of the firm’s 2012 Manhattan federal court settlements. According to the New York Law Journal, Thompson Wigdor was fined $15,000 by a federal judge for allowing a client, Gilly and a now-departed associate represented in an employment discrimination case to conceal that she had been hired at a new company for more money.

Thompson admitted that he was being sued but promptly noted, “I fired my improper partner, as opposed to Hynes with Michael Vecchione.”  

Vecchione, the Brooklyn DA’s Rackets Bureau Chief, has been accused of widespread prosecutorial misconduct. In a case against New York City for the wrongful conviction of a Brooklyn man, Jabbar Collins, for the murder of a rabbi, it has been alleged that Vecchione threatened a witness with bodily harm and prosecution if the witness did not testify to false statements. Brooklyn Federal Judges Dora Irizarry and Frederic Block called this alleged behavior “shameful,” and called Hynes’ lack of response  “deliberately indifferent.”

Hynes shot back at Thompson during the Wednesday debate by stating that if any of the judges had direct information as to misconduct but Vecchione they had “an obligation to report it to the disciplinary board.”

During the debate, Thompson alleged that those who run against Hynes “wind up dead, broke or indicted” — a statement that was not received well among the audience in the St. Francis College auditorium. At another point, after Hynes was booed, Hynes asked Thompson if he “trained” the naysayers to boo Hynes’ statements.

There was much that both candidates agreed on, including public financing of elections, clean syringe exchanges, the continuation of the Conviction Integrity Unit and adhering to a “no condom as evidence” rule, whereby possession of condoms may not be introduced as evidence of a prostitution related offense.

The candidates will face each other again Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Remsen Street.

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