D.A. Candidate Ken Thompson To Hynes: Fire Prosecutor After Pattern Of Wrongful Convictions And Serious Misconduct
Hynes' Top Aide Was Deposed In Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit; Now Another High-Profile Vecchione Prosecution Has Collapsed
Thompson: We Need Accountability For Prosecutorial Misconduct Under Hynes' Watch
Federal Judge Blasts D.A's "Underhanded" And "Horrific" Misconduct, Was "Disturbed" That Hynes Refused To Punish ADA Vecchione
(Brooklyn, NY – July 9, 2013) – As another high-profile prosecution has fallen apart under D.A. Hynes' watch, former federal prosecutor and candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson called on the D.A. to fire Michael Vecchione, the embattled prosecutor who has overseen these cases, as one step towards restoring integrity to the office. In a "dramatic reversal," Hynes told a judge this week, in a court appearance in a case involving an Orthodox man accused of paying a child to falsely testify that he was a victim of sexual abuse, that the prosecution's key witness was not trustworthy after evidence emerged that the witness had received money from supporters of the accused sex predator.
"With a record tarnished by wrongful convictions and unprecedented condemnation from judges, D.A. Hynes has become the nation's number one example for prosecutorial misconduct," said former federal prosecutor and D.A. candidate Ken Thompson. "There is something very disturbing about Hynes' judgment when he promotes a prosecutor who has botched one case after the next, and whose alleged misconduct — including the coercion of false testimony, lies in court and intimidation of witnesses — caused a man to have been likely wrongfully imprisoned for over 15 years. Enough is enough. If Hynes has any interest in protecting the integrity of our criminal justice system, he would fire ADA Vecchione immediately. As Brooklyn D.A., I will fight to ensure that innocent New Yorkers are not locked up for crimes they didn't commit, and that prosecutors are held accountable – not promoted – when they violate the public trust."
In recent weeks, ADA Vecchione testified that potentially criminal conduct occurred in the D.A's office, including the repeated unlawful forging of his signature in affidavits, in a $150 million lawsuit that reportedly unearthed "damning evidence of misconduct by prosecutors in the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes." The D.A. himself will face questions in a deposition next month.
Now new details have emerged in a separate botched case. D.A. Hynes has been attempting to prosecute Sam Kellner, a father who accused a prominent Hasidic cantor, Baruch Lebovits, of sexually abusing his son and other children in the orthodox community. After Lebovits' conviction, Hynes then prosecuted Kellner after allegations emerged from a victim who testified against Lebovits that the witness had testified only because Kellner paid him $10,000.
Lebovits's lawyers used the Kellner prosecution to have his conviction overturned. Now Hynes' case against Kellner, overseen by ADA Vecchione, has fallen apart as a result of evidence that the witness who had made the accusations against Kellner had accepted payments from Lebovits's supporters. According to reports, "that money went to paying for his lawyer; his travel to and from Israel, where he is a student; his apartment; and his school fees."
In addition, according to news reports, Lebovitz's attorney Arthur Aidala "is a campaign contributor to Mr. Hynes and the vice president of Mr. Hynes' nonprofit foundation" and "has boasted to prosecutors about his access to and influence with Mr. Hynes and Mr. Vecchione."
Jabbar Collins Case
The Kellner case is not the only recent example of D.A. Hynes allowing senior prosecutors engaging in misconduct.
A separate civil lawsuit against Hynes was filed by Jabbar Collins, who served 16 years in prison for a murder he likely did not commit and was released after providing evidence that ADA Vecchione coerced false testimony to secure his conviction. Despite extraordinary criticism from a federal judge, who called ADA Vecchione's conduct "horrific" and said that he was "disturbed" and "puzzled" that the D.A. did not punish him, Hynes not only praised his top aide, but had promoted him to chief of the office's Rackets bureau. He now stars along with Hynes in a CBS reality television show.
According to reports, in the Collins case:
- A key witness that initially claimed that he had seen Collins running from the scene had admitted under oath that ADA Vecchione threatened to hit him with a coffee table and make him stay in jail unless he testified.
- A second witness had recanted his claim that he was present when Collins allegedly plotted the murder, but ADA Vecchione never turned that information over to Collins' defense lawyer.
- ADA Vecchione also threatened to keep that second witness in jail unless he testified against Collins.
- A third witness claimed ADA Vecchione cut him a deal in which he would testify against Collins in exchange for clearing a probation violation. This, too, was withheld from Collins' defense lawyer.
- Following the release of Jabbar Collins, Hynes issued a press release addressing the reversal of the conviction. In that press release, Hynes announced that Vecchione would not be investigated or punished because, in Hynes' opinion, he had done nothing wrong.
Just weeks ago in the same lawsuit, a former investigator revealed in a sworn deposition that, under the guidance of D.A. Hynes, law enforcement officials from the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office held witnesses in hotel rooms against their will and without judicial intervention. The filing also revealed that prosecutors used forged, falsely "sworn" applications to obtain warrants to then arrest and detain individuals who were merely prospective witnesses.
These practices could potentially constitute a violation of a wide range of criminal statutes, including forgery, filing of a false instrument, fraud by a notary, as well as the aiding and abetting of these crimes. In addition, these practices may have run afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which prohibits arrest warrants without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.
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