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Queens DA Richard Brown stepping down early due to health concerns

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown -- who

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown -- who in 1977 was the supervising Brooklyn judge in the arraignment of the "Son of Sam" serial killer David Berkowitz -- speaks during an interview in his office on Aug. 9, 2017, in New York.  Credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews

Troubled by the progression of his battle with Parkinson’s disease, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday that he would be stepping down on June 1, six months earlier than he had hoped.

“Given the current state of my health and my ongoing health issues, it has become increasingly difficult to fully perform the powers and duties of my office in the manner in which I have done since 1991,” the 86-year-old Brown said in a statement.

Brown, who has been suffering for years from Parkinson’s said that he would be scaling back his workload and that his chief assistant, John M. Ryan, 70, would be taking over more of the responsibilities of the office and exercising the powers of the position as the borough’s chief prosecutor.

Brown said that the official date of his intended resignation was the 28th anniversary of when he first assumed office. He had announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election.

Ryan, a veteran prosecutor in the office, told Newsday that once Brown officially leaves the job, it would be up to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pick an interim district attorney, who would serve until a new prosecutor is picked in the November election.

Brown was a hands-on prosecutor who made a habit of going to all homicide scenes in the borough, a practice he cut back on as he coped with Parkinson’s, a degenerative and progressive neurological condition.

But when Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano was killed in August 2016, Brown insisted on being taken to the Spring Creek Park crime scene by a special police four-wheeled vehicle, said one staffer. After a suspect was arrested in the Vetrano case in February 2017, Brown, despite his increasingly limited mobility, visited the Vetrano family and was assisted up the front stairs of the Vetrano home.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said Brown was a law enforcement official who would be greatly missed.

“For nearly thirty years, he and his staff stood shoulder to shoulder with New York City police officers and worked tirelessly to reclaim the borough and our entire city from crime and chaos,” said Lynch in a statement. “It would be impossible to count the lives saved and crimes prevented under his watch.“

Brown was known for coming to his office as early as 6 a.m., something he eventually had to change to about 7:30 a.m., said staffers. While unable to move around as easily as he once did, Brown was able to make policy decisions, and track the office’s myriad activities and initiatives, such as those against human trafficking. He worked his office computer and fortified himself during the day from a jar of candy on his desk at the state Supreme Court building in Kew Gardens.

Since Brown said he wouldn’t stand for re-election, would-be candidates have been vying for the nomination of the Queens Democratic party. Among them are former state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak, who once worked for Brown, Queens City Councilman Rory I. Lancman and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

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