District Attorney Thompson explains his position on special prosecutor
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Wednesday that appointed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a special prosecutor in cases involving people who have been killed by the police. What that means for Brooklyn is that District Attorney Ken Thompson loses power — a move he’s not too fond of, but one he understands is for the greater good.
“I understand that folks in not just the city, but across the country, are losing faith and losing trust in our criminal justice system, so I get it,” Thompson said during a Q&A at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on Thursday. “I also believe that the people of Brooklyn shouldn’t be denied their prosecutor in being able to bring those cases.”
Thompson came out strongly against the idea when it was first floated in December, but seems to have softened his stance a bit since his initial reaction, especially after hearing who Schneiderman appointed to the new Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit — Alvin Bragg, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan.
“I stated my position, but now we have a special prosecutor and I know that the attorney general is an outstanding public servant,” Thompson said. “He announced who will handle his cases. It will be a gentleman I know — Alvin Bragg, who is an outstanding prosecutor and a person of integrity and I intend to work closely with him to keep the people of Brooklyn safe.”
Still, Thompson can’t help but think that New York state is a lot of land for one special prosecutor to cover and he wonders if the prosecutor will give cases the attention they deserve.
“It is going to be a challenge for the attorney general to hover over 62 counties,” Thompson said. “If somebody is killed in Buffalo, they’ll swoop down to Buffalo and then, God forbid, somebody is killed in the Bronx a week later, they can’t just grab their stuff and say, ‘Bye Buffalo, I gotta be back in the Bronx.’”
Thompson also questioned whether or not a special prosecutor is even necessary and noted that there have been cases in which police have been indicted successfully in the past.
“At the end of the day, people have short memories,” he said. “They forget that in the Sean Bell case, [Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown] indicted him.”
However, according to an analysis done by the Daily News back in December, there have been 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD officers in the past 15 years, and just three indictments and one conviction. In the same time frame, 80 officers have been killed in the line of duty, including those who died of illnesses related to their work after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, according to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
“I don’t think I’m the issue, but I get it — I get that folks are upset,” Thompson said. “I’m just concerned about whether this is workable. I’m going to do everything I can to support the attorney general and Alvin Bragg because those are men of integrity, and we have to make it work.
“I understand why they called for a special prosecutor; I just disagreed with respect to Brooklyn.”
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