Suffolk District Attorney-elect Timothy Sini said Wednesday that before he takes over his new office, he needs to investigate it.
Sini, 37, was elected Tuesday to succeed Thomas Spota, who is leaving office Friday after his indictment on federal obstruction of justice charges. Spota has pleaded not guilty.
Sini said the transition will be “extremely orderly,” but acknowledged it will complicated by his refusal to deal with anyone in the office who may have committed ethical or criminal violations.
“That transition team is going to have an investigative component to it,” said Sini, a Democrat.
Sini said he will set up a mechanism for current employees to report wrongdoing, and if his transition finds criminal activity in the office, he will present evidence to a grand jury and prosecute those responsible.
In his first interview since his victory over Republican defense attorney Ray Perini, Sini of Babylon spoke of his plans at a small table in a village coffee shop, while nursing a latte and a bottle of mineral water.
He said he naively hoped to have a free day Wednesday to focus on his family, but a deluge of phone calls and text messages soon made that impossible. He fielded congratulations from residents as he talked in the coffee shop.
Sini outlined a number of changes in how he will run the state’s largest district attorney’s office outside New York City.
He criticized what he called a culture in which a small number of defense attorneys can trade on personal connections to prosecutors to get favorable plea deals for clients.
“There have been instances where plea deals have been based not on the facts of a case, but on a relationship with the district attorney or a particular assistant district attorney,” Sini said.
He promised “significant personnel changes” in the office, but declined to say who would stay or go. Some have called for him to dismiss all bureau chiefs and deputy bureau chiefs, but Sini said he would not make a blanket determination.
“We need to do an honest, top-to-bottom assessment of the office,” he said. “It’s going to be team of decency, experience, talent, great integrity.”
Sini has promised to establish a conviction integrity bureau that would look for wrongful convictions. He said Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. have offered him advice.
He also said he hopes to expand the use of treatment courts, which provide programs designed to help teenage defendants, veterans or those with addiction problems.
Sini said he sees an opportunity to use technology to make both the office and the courts function more efficiently. The office has been plagued, for example, by failures to turn over evidence to defense attorneys when required. Sini said a cloud-based, electronic discovery system would make evidence available more quickly and make it clearer when evidence was turned over.
And he said he wants to make use of the experience in the office to train and mentor younger trial attorneys, who would then be better able to negotiate pleas or try cases on their own.
Sini, who is now Suffolk’s police commissioner, takes office Jan. 1.