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Ex-DA Hynes accused of diverting funds for campaign

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes speaks during a

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes speaks during a news conference in Manhattan on Aug. 19, 2013. Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, defeated for re-election last year, is facing misconduct allegations lodged by the city's Department of Investigation, an agency led by a past political rival.

Investigation commissioner Mark G. Peters ran against Hynes in 2005 and last year donated $500 to Kenneth Thompson, the challenger who defeated Hynes.

DOI, the city's anti-corruption agency, accused Hynes on Monday of using money seized from drug dealers and other criminal defendants to pay for a political consultant for his campaign.

In a 27-page report, it concluded that Hynes may have committed criminal offenses for allegedly misspending more than $200,000 in the seized funds. DOI referred the allegations to the state attorney general.

The report also found that the city's administrative judge of criminal courts, Barry Kamins, violated the code of judicial ethics by giving Hynes political and legal advice and discussing cases Hynes' office was prosecuting. Kamins has been relieved of his duties.

At least five senior members of Hynes' DA staff performed political activity related to his campaign while on city time, the report charged.

Hynes, who served as DA for 24 years, could not be reached for comment. Kamins' lawyer, Paul Shechtman, said Hynes and the judge, friends for 40 years, "have talked politics for much of that time" and his client did nothing "to compromise a pending case or to alter the course of justice."

The case began in November -- before either Peters, or the man who appointed him, Mayor Bill de Blasio, took office -- when the first of two unnamed government entities referred the matter to the agency, the report said.

A former campaign aide to Hynes who spoke on condition of anonymity said he believes that Peters has a conflict of interest because of their 2005 campaign battle. Asked about the claims of a conflict, Peters spokeswoman Diane Struzzi said: "The facts in this report are overwhelming and anything else is a distraction."

During an August 2005 debate, Hynes ridiculed Peters, one of several candidates, as someone who "acts like Eliot Ness" and "who would like to be Eliot Spitzer," according to an account in The New York Sun. At one point, Hynes called Peters "an irresponsible young man."

NYU law professor Oscar G. Chase, an expert on lawyers' ethics obligations, said he doesn't think Peters' past posed a conflict of interest, given how long ago he ran against Hynes and how small amounts of money Peters donated.

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