Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney in December.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney in December. Credit: William Reece

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has created a new team dedicated to prosecuting gang crimes and gun violence following an uptick in gang related shootings across the county last year, the district attorney's office announced Thursday.

The Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau will include 15 prosecutors and five investigators, who will be tasked with prosecuting crimes alleged to have been committed by members of street gangs, as well as defendants accused of human trafficking, Tierney said in an interview.

"We're going to look at what’s happening on the streets as far as violence and use our intelligence and our investigators to determine who is driving that violence, which gangs, and assign particular assistant district attorneys to the particular gangs, and we’re going to look to build larger conspiracy cases against those drivers of violence," said Tierney, who as a veteran federal prosecutor won convictions against MS-13 and other gang members accused of murders, assaults and other crimes.

Suffolk police have reported a 23% increase in shootings, some gang related, as of September. Tierney said last year there was a "slight uptick" in crimes committed by MS-13 gang members, but a "significant uptick" of criminal activity attributed to traditional New York street gangs like the Crips and Bloods.

"We’re going to get the video, get phone warrants, and listen to what’s going on in the jails," he said.

Tierney, who took over the office of 225 prosecutors on Jan. 1 after defeating former Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini in November, also announced members of his leadership team and a reorganization of the office's bureaus.

Tierney picked Allen L. Bode, a veteran of the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, which has offices in Brooklyn and Central Islip, as the office's chief assistant district attorney. Bode, who as a federal prosecutor had worked as the deputy chief in the Long Island Criminal Division and most recently was the chief of the International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section, will oversee the bureaus within the newly created Conviction Integrity Division, which includes the Appeals and Training Bureau and the Conviction Integrity Bureau.

Christopher J. Clayton, an assistant district attorney in Suffolk from 1992 to 2001 who for the last 21 years has been in private practice, was named as Special Counsel to the District Attorney and as Division Chief for the Special Investigations Division.

Jed L. Painter, a veteran of the Nassau County District Attorney's office who most recently was general counsel to the Nassau DA, will serve in that role in the Suffolk DA's office.

Richard Zacarese, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD, was named chief investigator.

"I think we share a vision going forward for the office," said Tierney of the team. "They’re highly competent and accomplished prosecutors and they're best able to implement my vision for the office, which is to be fair, aggressive and keep people safe."

James Slattery, who recently worked prosecuted gang cases in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, was named chief of the newly created Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau. Tania Lopez, a veteran journalist who previously worked for Newsday and since 2016 was a deputy press secretary for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, was named director of communications.

Tierney also selected several veteran prosecutors who have worked in the office for decades as part of his leadership team, including: James G. Chalifoux, as trial division chief; Megan O’Donnell, as division chief for the Criminal Investigations Division and the Intake and District Court Division;

Leslie B. Anderson, as an executive assistant district attorney for Community Partnerships and Engagement; Catherine Loeffler as special adviser to the district attorney; and Kevin Ward as bureau chief of the Public Integrity Bureau.

Tierney said about 20 staffers resigned or were asked to resign as part of his transition, which typically occurs when a new district attorney takes office and selects their own leadership team.

The resignations included13 prosecutors out of a total of 225, six investigators out of a total 54 and others who held positions of press spokesperson and overseeing government liaison.

"I’m excited about the team that we’ve been able to assemble thus far," the district attorney said.

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