Jay Jacobs throws Rice under bus in Dale case

Nassau DA Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police Commissioner Nassau DA Kathleen Rice and Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Dale announce the results of "Operation Flush the Johns" in Mineola. (June 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

With his scathing, 11-page letter criticizing District Attorney Kathleen Rice's continuing investigation of a political controversy in Nassau, county Democratic chair Jay Jacobs tossed his party's star candidate under a bus.

Jacobs' assertions that the investigation was incomplete, that it didn't reach out deep or far enough, and that it, as yet, has resulted in no criminal witness tampering charges, very publicly calls Rice's competence -- on this case, at least -- into question.

That's never a good thing for a prosecutor.

In 2004, Jacobs personally recruited Rice to return home to Nassau and run against Republican DA Denis Dillon, who had held a lock on the office since 1975.

"I don't see anywhere in the rule book where a party chairman can't have a disagreement with an elected official from his party," Jacobs said in an interview Wednesday.

And he pushed back against the assertion that his criticisms could end up costing Rice her popularity, and her job.

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"I thought she was great when I recruited her," Jacobs said. "I still think she's great and that she's done a great job, except in this case."

Jacobs said he and Rice talked a few times once Democrats had lodged a complaint alleging politically motivated policing after Thomas Dale, the county's former police commissioner, ordered that Randy White, a witness in a politically charged election case, be arrested on a minor bench warrant.

Jacobs said he was told the investigation would take time. Jacobs said he was all right with that -- even after his county executive candidate, Thomas Suozzi, was crushed in the race against incumbent County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican.

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Jacobs acknowledged receiving criticism for aggressively pursuing the allegations once the campaign ended.

"Look, it's not about politics anymore because the campaign is over," he said. "This is about the kind of abuse of power that is never acceptable under Democrats or Republicans."

As for Rice, "to say our relationship is frayed is an understatement," Jacobs said. "People keep calling me to say that hell hath no fury like a DA scorned, but I feel like I did what I had to do."

Rice's political spokesman Eric Phillips said, "The DA is an independent prosecutor and that makes partisan players with political interests upset at times. But that professionalism and integrity also make her politically popular and I expect that the independence she's showing in this ongoing case will keep it that way."

Fallout from the Rice investigation could have an impact on her fortunes.

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Jacobs initially had pressed for her to be the party's standard-bearer against Mangano.

Rep. Steve Israel, of Huntington, head of the House Democrats' campaign committee, has touted Rice as a strong possibility for some future run for the House. Jacobs said his view of Rice, her value to the party and her future prospects have not changed as far as he, as party chairman, is concerned.

"This is an investigation that she should turn over to someone else," he said. "She needs to step out, to step away."

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