by Kristin Iversen (Brooklyn Magazine)
August 9, 2102
Nobody's perfect, right?
Especially our elected officials.
And yet, we keep putting the same ones back in office! Year after year, term after term, we almost always re-elect the incumbent, no matter their flaws. Brooklyn DA Charles "Joe" Hynes has been in place since 1989 and is the perfect example of why voter apathy needs to end.
If it were up to us, Hynes would leave today. In disgrace. He is a disgrace. But at the very least, we hope he loses big if he decides to run for re-election next year. Really big.
So that you can understand why, we've put together a list of some of the worst scandals of Hynes's tenure as Brooklyn DA.
1) Drivers Can Kill Pedestrians Without Facing Consequences
Clara Heyworth was struck and killed by a driver without a valid license and with alcohol on his breath. The Brooklyn DA's office asked for the offender to serve a 15-day sentence, but it was determined this week that the young man will serve no jail time. Heyworth's widower believes this was the judge's message to the DA that the case was unforgiveably mismanaged. Police officer Andrew Kelly killed Vionique Valnord in 2009 while driving drunk and was sentenced to only 90-days in jail. Firefighter Pat Quagliariello was driving and texting when he struck and killed Manuel Tzaj Guachiac in Bensonhurst in 2010. Quagliariello did not stop and refused to cooperate with investigators after they traced the car back to him. He struck a deal with Hynes' office and served no jail time.
2) Brooklyn Is Not a Bad Place to Be a Pedophile, As Long As You Belong to an Important Voting Block
After the widespread sexual abuse that has been running rampant in Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities came to light this past spring, Hynes showed exactly where his sympathies lie. Not with the children who were victimized, but with the perpetrators of both the crimes and the cover-ups. You see, kids can't vote. And Hynes has depended on Brooklyn's large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews to keep him in office. So, rather than follow the protocol that he had set of revealing the names of sexual offenders, Hynes kept these particular names secret. The New York Times helpfully pointed out that "this policy of shielding defendants’ names because of their religious status is not followed by the other four district attorneys in New York City, and has rarely, if ever, been adopted by prosecutors around the country."
3)The District Attorney's Office Is a Safe Place for Fans of Blackface, Stupidity
Embarassing Facebook pictures can be so...embarassing, right? Especially when they involve blackface! And then your boss sees them and the offensive pictures go viral! Oh, well! Bye-bye, job! Unless of course, you work for DA Charles Hynes, who accepted the apology of Assistant DA Justin Marrus and kept him on staff. Probably the fact that Marrus's father is Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Alan Marrus had nothing to do it. Well, maybe it had something to do with it?
4) Woman Recants Rape Testimony But the Men She Falsely Accused Are Tried and Convicted Anyway
In 2011, four men were arrested and charged with having forced a 13-year-old girl into prostitution in 2003. The only problem was that the woman, now 20-years-old, recanted her entire testimony only one day after making the claims. Instead of dropping the case, the DA's office hid the police paperwork in which the woman took back her charges. The men who were arrested spent months in jail as the trial proceeded. The Daily News reported that it was only after a new prosecutor took over and the truth was brought to light that charges against the men were dropped and they were allowed to return to their homes and lives.
5) DA's Office Strong Arms Witnesses, Unjustly Sends Man To Jail for Murder
The man in question, Jabbar Collins, served 15 years in jail before his conviction was overturned and he was released. Based on an anonymous tip, Collins was arrested for the 1994 murder of Abraham Pollock. Gothamist reported that Collins steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and worked tirelessly to prove it over the course of the 15 years of jail time that he served. A judge overturned his sentence in 2010 after finding that the DA's office had never released certain information to the defense. This information included the fact that witnesses were threatened and bribed by the DA's office. Collins returned to his family, including his three children, one of whom was only a year old when her father was first arrested.
6) Charles Hynes Doesn't Care About Special Needs Kids
The Post reported that, in 2009, a judge was forced to toss the case of a "sadistic bus matron" who was both negligent and verbally abusive to an autistic boy in her care. The case was vacated because prosecutors failed to take action on the charges. The father of the 8-year-old boy had this to say, "I did the right thing. I brought it to the Brooklyn DA's Office. And from the day I left there, it was mishandled."
7) Hynes Maliciously Pursues Enemies Through Legal Channels
John Kennedy O'Hara has something in common with Susan B. Anthony. They are the only two people in New York history to have been convicted on an obscure electoral fraud charge of voting in the wrong district. O'Hara was charged in 1997 of voting in his girlfriend's district rather than his own. He believed, and a judge eventually agreed, that Hynes prosecuted him to settle a petty grudge. The source of the grudge was the fact that O'Hara had supported opponents of Hynes. Yeah, it's just that simple and just that petty. The Brooklyn Paper reported in 2010 that, while the charge and conviction were legitimate, a 255-member Committee on Character and Fitness found that "Mr. O’Hara, accurately it appears, claims that the [Hynes’s political] machine went gunning for him and pounced on his change of residency calling it election fraud.” This finding was then "unanimously approved by the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division."
8) Run Against Hynes, Get Declared Mentally Incompetent
When former Civil Court Judge John Phillips decided to run against Charles Hynes in 2001, he didn't get far. Not long after declaring his candidacy, Phillips was the target of an investigation by Hynes. Hynes had Phillips declared mentally incompetent in what the Times said "some thought to be a politically motivated investigation." You think?
There you have it. This is not even the most comprehensive list of the horrible, inexcusable things that Hynes has been responsible for during his tenure as Brooklyn DA.
You might be wondering, how does he keep getting re-elected?
Well, lately he's been running unopposed.
Maybe he runs unopposed because he has his opponents declared mentally incompetent. Who's to say, really?
But next time, he's going to have Manhattan assistant District Attorney Abe George running against him. George has his work cut out for him, incumbents are re-elected almost 100% of the time, especially when running for offices like the District Attorney.
However, we have to hope that George can be successful.
Because with Hynes still in office, the idea of justice in Brooklyn is a joke.
And not a very funny one.