April 11, 2019 By Thomas Laforgia
Outgoing Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s interim replacement pushed back Tuesday against criticism from candidates running for Brown’s job.
Chief Assistant DA John Ryan accused the candidates of making “misstated or distorted” claims to portray the office as disconnected from modern approaches to criminal justice.
“To hear some of the candidates running for Queens District Attorney, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the Queens DA’s Office was stuck in the 1970’s,” he wrote.
In a lengthy rebuke, Ryan listed a number of progressive bona fides enacted under Brown’s watch, including alternative schooling for young offenders, support services for domestic violence victims, and treatment programs for drug offenders.
He did not address any candidate by name in the fiery missive, and said he would neither endorse nor oppose any of the contenders.
But Queens DA hopeful and current City Council Member Rory Lancman responded Wednesday, accusing the current regime of “complicity in over-policing and mass incarcerating communities of color.”
“It frankly revels in its obstinate refusal to enact common sense criminal justice reforms,” he said.
“Queens is the only office that refuses to establish a wrongful conviction review unit,” Lancman wrote, calling it “particularly self-serving” as its prosecutors have seen more than 100 convictions overturned since 1985.
Lancman also accused Brown’s office of refusing to ease up on marijuana and fare-evasion prosecutions, despite trends to the contrary.
Major crime has dropped sharply citywide since Brown, New York’s longest-serving DA, first took office 28 years ago.
Murders in Queens have dropped by 77% since 1993, while burglaries and robberies in the borough are down 89% and 84%, respectively.
Brown, 86, was a Brooklyn appeals court judge in 1991 when then-Gov. Mario Cuomo named him interim DA. He was elected to his first four-year term later that year, and has won re-election six times since. He is stepping down in June as he battles Parkinson’s disease.
Lancman’s opponents in the race to succeed Brown include Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, former Civilian Complaint Review Board chief Mina Malik, retired Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak, public defender Tiffany Cabán, and longtime prosecutor Jose Nieves.