Suffolk County district attorney contenders Timothy Sini and Ray Perini clashed Wednesday in a News 12 Long Island debate over how to fight gangs and drugs as well as how to keep politics out of the prosecutor’s office.
Sini, a Democrat who serves as Suffolk police commissioner, touted his department’s “gang eradication strategy.” He said the effort has resulted in arrests of 300 MS-13 gang members and resolution of eight gang-related homicides.
“As district attorney I will make it my mission to finish MS-13 once and for all,” Sini said.
Perini, a Republican and criminal-defense attorney who once ran the Suffolk DA’s narcotics bureau, attacked Sini for saying in campaign mailings, “He’s the man who took MS 13 down,” after the March 2017 arrests in the murders of two high school girls.
Perini noted that the mutilated bodies of four young men were discovered in a Central Islip park in April.
“You don’t declare victor in your campaign when haven’t accomplished it,” Perini said. “You don’t leave a job half done. MS-13 is still there..”
The taped debate is available for viewing on News12.com and Optimum channel 612.
On the issue of opioid abuse, Perini said he would use what is known that the “Kingpin” statute to get penalties of 25 years to life for drug sellers he said were responsible for 400 overdose deaths last year. “The guys who sell these poisons have to singled out and prosecuted,” Perini said.
Sini said the police department has increased narcotics arrests by 17 percent and drug search warrants by 240 percent since he took over as commissioner.
“We need to treat drug dealers like murderers,” Sini said.
Sini said that if elected, he wants to employ “data driven” methods he has used in the police department to better target those who commit crime and “not plead out cases on the cheap.”
Sini also said it is “absolutely critical” to remove politics from the DA’s office by “putting the right people in the right spots for the right reasons and make sure politics does not affect personnel decisions.”
Sini noted the federal corruption conviction of former Police Chief of Department James Burke, before he took over as police commissioner. Newsday has reported that Christopher McPartland, the district attorney office’s top corruption prosecutor, is under federal investigation for possible obstruction of justice as an outgrowth of Burke case.
“I have experience walking into an office under investigation — I know how to get the job done,” Sini said.
Perini said he has fought to remove politics from the district attorney’s office, waging a Republican primary in 2013 to undo party cross-endorsement deals that benefitted incumbent DA Thomas Spota, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election.
Despite their differences, Sini and Perini said they would take a hard line against police brutality, ensure the rights of minorities, and bolster environmental prosecutions.