Eric Gonzalez officially sworn in as Brooklyn’s district attorney
Eric Gonzalez was officially sworn in as Brooklyn district attorney during a posh ceremony in Brooklyn on Sunday which makes him the first Hispanic DA in the borough and state.
“Growing up, my dream was to serve as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn DA’s Office,” Gonzalez said. “That’s it. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that one day I would be sworn in as the district attorney. I am humbled and honored beyond my ability to express.”
Gonzalez was joined by politicians, members of the judiciary, current and former prosecutors and plenty of friends and family as he was officially sworn in by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore at The Weylin in Williamsburg on Sunday.
“I want to thank you all for being here today to share this special moment,” Gonzalez said. “I believe, and I know that all of you in this room believe, that we can keep our communities safe while treating people who come into contact with the system — victims, witnesses and people accused of crimes — with fairness and respect. During my campaign for DA, I saw that the clear majority of Brooklynites share this belief.”
Gonzalez, 48, has served in the Brooklyn DA’s Office for most of his career. He was never a political figure or seen as a person who would eventually take over the office, but after more than 20 years as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn he rose to the rank of senior assistant district attorney and eventually the previous DA’s, the late Ken Thompson, second-in-command. After Thompson’s death, he was thrust into the top leadership role and eventually would run to rid himself of the “acting” title.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a prosecutor,” Gonzalez told the Brooklyn Eagle just prior to announcing that he would run for DA during the 2017 election.
Gonzalez described the ceremony as bittersweet because he likely would not have gotten the chance to rise to the office’s top position had it not been for the untimely death of Thompson, whom he referred to as “a friend and mentor.”
“I know that Ken would be so proud of where the Office stands today, of how the staff held together to carry on his legacy of reform. We stand tall today on Ken’s shoulders, and we look forward to a bright future because of the groundwork he laid in the far too short time he held the Office of Brooklyn District Attorney.”
Gonzalez used his speech to outline his plans for the next three years, called his Justice 2020 Initiative. That initiative’s goal is to continue to implement progressive changes to the local justice system that will lessen the burden of racial disparities within the criminal justice system.
“This week I will be announcing the members of the Justice 2020 Launch Committee, whom I will task with making recommendations in keeping with my vision,” he said. “The committee will be made up of community leaders, criminal justice experts and reformers, service providers, prosecutors and defense attorneys, representatives from the police department and formerly incarcerated people.”
Another program, named Brooklyn CLEAR, was mentioned and is expected to launch soon. That program aims to divert drug possession cases into treatment before they are charged to help people avoid criminal records. “We will treat drug addiction as a health issue and not a crime,” Gonzalez said.
The politicians to make appearances and speeches at the event included Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Actor and former Marine combat veteran J.W. Cortes served as the master of ceremonies. Willie Colon gave a special salsa performance.
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