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Full responses from Kathleen Rice’s spokesmen

Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Rice’s campaign, 10/24:

On why Rice is declining the interview

Summarizing an award-winning, 22-year career by handpicking and focusing solely on a few unproven smears while omitting discussion of the thousands of cases that counter this slant is a disservice to the public. Adding the DA’s voice to that questionable reporting process would only enhance the credibility of a story that we believe is deeply misleading to readers.

DA Rice has been involved with several troubled cases and has faced credible accusations of misconduct, but has dismissed such challenges as motivated by politics and without substance.

It isn’t surprising that accused criminals and lawyers who are paid to attack prosecutors’ credibility make wild and wholly unsubstantiated allegations to aid their cases. What is naïve and deeply misleading is to summarize an award-winning, 22-year career by handpicking and focusing solely on these few unproven smears while omitting details on the thousands of cases that don’t fit this slant.

DA Rice has described her tenure under Charles Hynes as formative, and she hired at least five top prosecutors formerly of the Brooklyn office to work in Nassau: Teresa Corrigan, Meg Reiss, Sheryl Anania, Mitchell Benson and Albert Teichman. But in recent years, that administration has been tainted. More than 100 convictions are being reviewed and nine have been overturned this year.

The Brooklyn DA’s office has nearly 1,000 prosecutors. When Kathleen became Nassau DA, she hired only five of them, and only one who was a policymaker. She’s hired just as many from the Queens DA and she kept even more of Denis Dillon’s prosecutors. While insinuations to the contrary may be more sensational, the facts make clear that she’s run a completely different office and that the recent problems in Brooklyn have nothing to do with her.

Experts we spoke with suggested that DA Rice has exhibited a pattern of violating Brady law.

This is a potentially libelous suggestion that does not fit any objective, comprehensive view of Kathleen’s 22 years as a prosecutor. Newsday refused to share the identity of these accusers with us so we’ve got no idea how, or with what bias or background they have come to these opinions. Readers can judge the credibility and fairness of these opinions and this reporting process for themselves.

Former Supreme Court Justice Amy Herz Juviler said she once dismissed one of DA Rice’s cases in the interest of justice – a rape case where information that the alleged victim was wanted on felony charges had been withheld. DA Rice previously has said she knows of no such case, and her campaign dismissed the allegation as a political smear. However, statistics concerning DA Rice's tenure in Kings County show that she had one case dismissed in the interest of justice.

This is a former judge with a delinquent attorney registration who has a long history of coming out of the woodwork when Kathleen’s in the news. Readers should wonder why she won’t tell us the name of this case or why she didn’t take action against Kathleen at the time of this alleged incident.

Jose Gutierrez

A judge sanctioned Rice for not turning over Grand Jury testimony in the 1997 homicide trial of Jose Gutierrez. She was accused of severe misconduct by the defense attorney in that case.

The judge did not find the issue significant enough to alter the course of the trial, and Kathleen subsequently convicted the defendant of murder. The convicted murderer’s defense attorney was upset with Kathleen because she wanted him to go to prison for life and the defense attorney thought rehabilitation was more appropriate. The public can decide who was right.

Antowine Butts

Except for the fact it ended with an acquittal, the case fits the profile of the cases currently scrutinized by the review unit. Dets. Scarcella and Chmil were the first on the scene, and the investigative focus on Butts was a result of a canvass by Scarcella.

DA Rice and detectives suggested that they found statements from 2 key witnesses – Mitchell and DeBerry – to be at least partially untrue or "strange". Yet the prosecution was centered on their testimony.

Mitchell later testified under oath that Rice coerced him into testifying against Butts. Butts’ attorney would also allege that Rice coerced DeBerry. 

Rice has publicly maintained that she was certain that Butts was guilty, but in her deposition she acknowledged doubts.

The investigation bypassed a suspect who matched the shooter's profile, and the murders remain unsolved.

As has been extensively reported, these allegations are 100 percent false. There’s never been a shred of proof or legal finding that Kathleen was in the wrong on this case and she believes wholeheartedly that she and her prosecutor colleagues had the right man. Readers should know that this individual’s attorney is a sworn political enemy of Kathleen’s and that his client, after asking for millions of dollars in a lawsuit, accepted pennies on the dollar from a city that didn’t want to incur the trial costs of exonerating its prosecutors in court.

Carlos Ramos

In 1992, DA Rice's conviction of Ramos for sexual abuse was overturned on appeal because she and two other prosecutors had not given him detailed information on when the abuse occurred. Ramos had a documented alibi for the date in question. A judge did not rule on prosecutorial misconduct. An expert interviewed by Newsday said that DA Rice's defense that she had not ascertained such a central fact to the prosecution was either "incompetence or dishonesty."   

As has been extensively reported, Kathleen was unaware of this single piece of information on one case of thousands she’s handled in the last 22 years. The judge found no fault with her and the defense attorney even praised her performance during the trial.

Alfonzo Coward

When DA Rice was a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, an appeals court overturned her conviction of Alfonzo Coward, a felon sentenced to 68 months in prison after he was caught with a pistol in his car, because she had failed to reveal why Coward was pulled over in the first place.

DA Rice’s colleagues defended her by saying she was “relatively inexperienced.” Two judges rebuked DA Rice’s conduct and denied inexperience as an excuse. 

More than a decade ago, Kathleen made a procedural error with regard to one piece of evidence in a single hearing within one of the many successful trial convictions she obtained as a federal prosecutor. It was her first federal hearing of this type and in defending her skill and experience, the court cited her subsequent conviction of the defendant.

 

Shams Tarek, spokesperson for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, 10/23:

You referred to an op-ed the DA wrote saying that she'd fire any prosecutor found to willfully commit a Brady violation.  We respectfully disagreed with the judge's finding that this was Brady material, and a thorough investigation found that there was no willful wrongdoing on the prosecutor's part.  Our finding is reinforced by statements the judge had already made in court, quoted in italics below.  The DA has the strongest prosecutorial policy around on this sort of thing and this was investigated thoroughly.

Remarks by judge as per the court transcript (in your document file and we had it too): "Well, I can tell you this and this is just a matter of personal observation, I think: Mr. Meaney and I have served together in the district attorney's office.  That's how long I know him.  I cannot but believe what he tells me.  I have known him that long and have that high a regard for his honesty and integrity.  So if he tells me something, I'm going to believe him... No, no but he told me what you just reminded me that he said, he didn't know of it until whenever the date was that he told me he knew about it.  I take him at his word."

 

Tarek 10/24:

“This office's overall conviction rate in more than 17,000 felony cases during the last eight years is more than 94 percent, and that's the figure that truly represents this office's record in prosecuting serious crimes, not a narrow look at a few hundred trials.”

I’ve attached two spreadsheets: one with #s from DCJS showing this 94% overall conviction rate and another from DCJS that shows that the #s you have do NOT represent “felony cases that went to trial,” as you wish to report.

You said in your inquiry email that “in the eight years before Rice took office, the acquittal rate for all felony cases that went to trial was 21.1%.  In the eight years since, the acquittal rate has been 30%.”  This is, simply put, a false statement.  You are using the wrong numbers from DCJS.  To accurately report felony trial conviction rate requires removing the misdemeanor trials from your accounting.  As I said, a number of those trials that you have in your spreadsheet are actually misdemeanor trials, because charges sometimes get knocked down after arraignment but before trial.  The attached spreadsheet, which is different from what you have and which was sent to us directly by DCJS, does this subtraction for you for Nassau County.

I invite you to confirm all of these numbers with DCJS yourself.

 

 

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