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Brooklyn’s Democratic Congress members back Gonzalez for DA

Reps. Say Gonzalez Can be Trusted to Fight Back Against Trump

August 3, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Eric Gonzalez (at podium) gained the endorsements from local Democratic Congress members because they believe that he will help in the fight against President Donald Trump’s policies. From left: U.S. Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Hakeem Jeffries and Yvette Clark. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has some of the biggest endorsements out of the six candidates running for district attorney in Brooklyn, and he got four more big ones on Wednesday when the borough’s four Democratic U.S. representatives all announced that they were backing him in September’s primary.

U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velázquez, Yvette D. Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries all stood beside Gonzalez at a press conference in DUMBO on Wednesday and cited his resistance to President Donald Trump and his administration as one of the biggest reasons for supporting him.

“At a time when people across the political spectrum recognize the need for criminal justice reform, Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants more mandatory minimums and more policies that unfairly target low income people and people of color,” said Velázquez.

“The Trump administration has created a climate of fear in immigration communities around the country and here in New York,” Velázquez continued. “People are afraid of an old warrant coming back to haunt them and putting them at risk of deportation.”

Gonzalez first spoke out against Sessions in an editorial he wrote in May that claimed the success his office has seen proves Session’s policies wrong. The members of Congress also pointed to his work with immigrants and the drug-addicted as well as his continued efforts with the gun buyback program and the recent dismissal of approximately 143,000 old summonses in Brooklyn as proof that he will stand with them against Trump.

“[Gonzalez] is pushing back against the Trump agenda by treating drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue,” Nadler said. “Eric is providing drug addicts with the treatment they need to provide addicts with the help they need.”

Gonzalez has hired immigration attorneys to advise assistant district attorneys on how to handle cases to avoid collateral charges for immigrants that could lead to deportation. He has also spoken about the need to keep U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from interfering with the local justice system.

Jeffries also pointed to the fact that Gonzalez’s Conviction Review Unit, which was started with his help under late DA Ken Thompson, has become a national model.

“All of the candidates are claiming to stand upon the legacy of Ken Thompson, but only one took Ken Thompson’s vision of a conviction integrity unit and implemented it so that it became the most successful in modern prosecutorial history in the USA,” Jeffries said.

When asked about some of the criticism Gonzalez’s DA candidates have for Gonzalez, each of the representatives said that they wouldn’t second guess Gonzalez’s decisions on individual cases when it came to holding prosecutors accountable or even when Thompson recommended no jail time for police officer Peter Liang, who was convicted of killing Akai Gurley.

“Some of those individuals responsible for some of these wrongful convictions have long left the DA’s office, long left the police force, and the statute of limitation has long expired,” Jeffries said when he was asked if he was satisfied that Gonzalez had appropriately sought to hold former ADAs accountable for wrongful convictions. “The fact that people are attempting to use this as some sort of political weapon is disingenuous when you look at the law and the facts.”

Jeffries admitted that the law does need to be changed to better hold prosecutors accountable for wrongful convictions.

Gonzalez said that what made him most proud of the endorsement of the four Democratic U.S. representatives was the fact that they had previously backed his predecessor, Ken Thompson.

“They do so much fighting for us in Washington, D.C. against Trump’s agenda because they understand that mass deportations and this call back to the old ‘tough-on-crime’ days that led to mass incarceration is wrongheaded and they need to stand for us,” Gonzalez said. “You can treat people with respect, fairness and dignity in the criminal justice system and still be an effective prosecutor’s office.”


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