Former Manhattan prosecutor Michael Scotto launched his campaign for Nassau district attorney Wednesday, pledging to work to stem heroin overdoses, offer fewer plea bargains to violent felons and more aggressively prosecute political corruption cases.
At a news conference in Mineola, Scotto, 50, of Port Washington, said acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, his opponent in the September Democratic primary, would maintain the "status quo" and "believes that everything is going well here in Nassau."
Scotto criticized Singas for failing to investigate Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) after Newsday revealed she violated state election law by failing to disclose political donors and expenses on campaign finance reports. Gonsalves, who declined to comment about Scotto's remarks, has blamed her treasurer for not filing the reports.
Scotto also criticized Singas for waiting to investigate Nassau's contract award process until after it was revealed that federal prosecutors were probing Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Skelos and his son, Adam, were charged Monday with extortion, bribery and conspiracy. They say they are innocent.
"My district attorney's office will be blind to political, monetary or family ties," Scotto said. "Justice must be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, power or identity."
A Singas campaign spokesman declined to comment.
Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs said "it remains to be seen if Mr. Scotto actually runs based upon his lack of support in the Democratic base and his inability to raise sufficient funds to mount a serious candidacy."
The Scotto campaign said it has raised around $85,000 to date while Singas reported more than $411,000 in contributions in mid-January.
The party is backing Singas, who took over the office after then-District Attorney Kathleen Rice was elected to a seat in Congress last year.
Scotto spent 22 years with the Manhattan district attorney's office, first as an assistant district attorney and later as chief of the labor racketeering unit and rackets bureau. He has been in private law practice since 2012.
If elected, Scotto said he would form a task force with all 20 county law enforcement agencies to tackle the rising number of heroin overdoses.
He also pledged to focus on violent street gangs and create a "complaint room" where all serious cases are seen by an assistant district attorney.
"We need to focus our resources on prosecutions that make us safer and which aren't just about grabbing headlines," Scotto said.
The Nassau GOP is backing Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray for district attorney.Democratic officials criticized Scotto for contributions to GOP candidates. Scotto contributed $250 to Louis Imbroto, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) in 2012, and $150 to Republican Dina Degiorgio, who lost a race for North Hempstead Town Supervisor in 2013 to Democrat Judi Bosworth. Scotto said he has contributed primarily to Democrats and that Imbroto and Degiorgio are friends of his family.
Scotto said he was not registered with any political party until 2010 when he registered as a Democrat. At the time, Scotto said he was contemplating a run for Nassau district attorney if Rice won her race for state attorney general. Rice lost a Democratic primary to now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.