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Brooklyn legal community mourns the loss of Ken Thompson

October 11, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s legal community is mourning the loss of Ken Thompson this week after he passed away on Sunday following a battle with cancer. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

Brooklyn’s legal community is reeling following the untimely death of District Attorney Ken Thompson, who passed away on Sunday following a fight with cancer.

Thompson, 50, defeated incumbent Charles J. Hynes in a September 2013 election that made him the first African-American district attorney for Brooklyn. He quickly became recognized nationally for his conviction review unit and its work in overturning wrongful convictions.

“All of Brooklyn is shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden passing of District Attorney Ken Thompson,” said Hon. Frank Seddio, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. “His leadership in restoring vitality to Brooklyn’s top law enforcement office, and his commitment to justice for all were firmly demonstrated by his fight to free those who were wrongly convicted. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and his colleagues in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.”

Just a week prior to his death, Thompson announced that he had cancer and that during absences associated with his treatment and recovery, his office would be led by Chief Assistant Eric Gonzalez — so the news of his passing shocked many.

“DA Thompson dedicated himself to the betterment of the criminal justice system and the lives of the people of Brooklyn,” said Michael Farkas, president of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. “He was a strong supporter of the Bar Association, demonstrating his commitment to inclusiveness and fairness. His passion and great successes as district attorney will forever define his legacy.”

“In his far too brief time as the first African-American district attorney of King’s County, Ken Thompson was a model of prosecutorial integrity, and his commitment to justice and advocacy for minority communities set an example for us all and leaves a lasting legacy,” said Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas W. Allard. “In life, he was a source of great pride and hope to many; in death, his memory will continue to inspire many more people, including new lawyers who seek to follow his example as a champion of fair and equal justice under the law for all.”

“I am so upset about his death,” said Lisa Becker, past president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association and a former assistant district attorney. “He was such a great person and he really stepped in and changed that office. He cared about doing the right thing; I wish I would have had the chance to work for and with him.”

“The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn mourns the death of District Attorney Kenneth Thompson,” said Dean Delianites, president of the Columbian Lawyers Association. “He was a dedicated public servant. His service to the Brooklyn community will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

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Thompson was considered transformative by many who supported his progressive policies. The fact that he only held the office for under three years has left many wondering how much he could have done, or how far he could have risen, if he had been given the opportunity.

“I think his sudden passing can be described as nothing but a tragedy,” said Arthur Aidala, the immediate past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. “In his short time in office, he showed the promise that he had not only for Brooklyn, but possibly for the city and beyond. It’s sad for all of us that his true potential was never realized.

“If there is anything regarding his career, that I’m sure that he reflected upon proudly in his final days, it has to have been the exoneration of those wrongly convicted,” Aidala continued. “Everyone should be fortunate enough to do such good during the course of their life.”

The legacy of Thompson is felt outside of Brooklyn and other groups, not just from the borough, felt compelled to issue statements.

“DA Thompson was a trailblazing servant leader who was extremely impactful in his career and in his tenure as Brooklyn’s first black district attorney,” said Paula T. Edgar, president of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association. “He was a change agent, disrupter and advocate for social justice.”

“In his short tenure, he was in the vanguard of a new approach to criminal justice, with initiatives such as the Conviction Review Unit and the ‘Begin Again’ program that I and other prosecutors have emulated,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark. “Ken Thompson was a dedicated public servant, and I was privileged to learn much from him during the last year while we served together as district attorneys in the City of New York. I shall forever be grateful to him for his counsel, friendship and words of wisdom.”

Funeral services will be held at the Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Ave. The wake will be held Friday, Oct. 14 from 3 to 8 p.m., and the homegoing service will be Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to noon.

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