Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, now in his sixth term, was first elected in 1989. He is a candidate for re-election in the September 10 Democratic primary.
Hynes recently sat down with The Jewish Press.
The Jewish Press: The policy of your office had been to not release the names of people in the Orthodox community who had been arrested or even convicted of sexual abuse. Then in July, you released 46 names. What prompted the change? Has the Jewish community supported this change in policy?
Charles Hynes: The policy of non-disclosure of defendants from the Ultra-Orthodox Community charged with sexual abuse was grounded in our experience that immediately after the release of the name of an arrested defendant there was a relentless search by members of the community to identify the victim. When the victim was identified there followed systematic shunning of the victim and the family, including being thrown out of the synagogue, having their children dismissed from yeshiva schools and barred from summer camp. These families were denied the opportunity to arrange marriages. The result of my policy of non-disclosure until the following day when the defendant was in Court and part of the public record has been the prosecution of 118 defendants for sex abuse. More than half of these cases have been disposed of with a 73 percent conviction rate.
But there was no rationale to withhold the identity of convicted defendants; their names have always been available upon request. In addition, most convicted sex abusers are listed in the state’s public regisrty of sex offenders, which is available online.
Councilman David Greenfield, a supporter of yours, has said that your opponent, Ken Thompson, would target the Orthodox Jewish community, and therefore those in the community should vote for you. Do you have any comment on his statement?
Obviously I was not present when Council Member Greeenfield heard Thompson’s statement, but after three debates in four days I have concluded that Thompson will say anything without regard to its truth or his ethical obligations as a lawyer.
Your tenure has been marked by a lot of community outreach – to the Jewish community and other communities. If you are re-elected, would that continue?
I am very proud of my strong ties to the Jewish community and other communities across Brooklyn, and I will continue this policy because it fosters public safety.
In the mid 1980’s then Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed you as special prosecutor in the Howard Beach case. Given that your experience with racially sensitive cases dates back almost 30 years, have you seen a change or progression in the black community’s relationship with the police, the city, and the DA’s office?
There has been significant and positive changes within the African-American community, principally through enhanced communication. In addition the NYPD is much more diverse because of Commissioner Kelly. And of course the relations between the frum community and the Caribbean community in Crown Heights is an excellent example of the positive change. Finally, the African-American community trusts my office as a result of all of the programs which positively impact that community.
What do you think of Judge Scheindlin’s opinion on New York City’s stop-and-frisk program?
Will it make it harder for the NYPD to apprehend criminals?
The Federal Judge’s order will be stayed pending the city’s appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Accordingly, nothing will change until then.
If re-elected what changes or new initiatives would you introduce to enhance the work of the DA’s office?
If re-elected I will expand the programs which have significantly lowered re-offending rates and have caused an 80 percent reduction in serious crime in Brooklyn since 1990, when I took office, and an 83 percent reduction in the murder rate over the same period.