I wish a Happy and Healthy holiday season and best
wishes for 2013 to my fellow Brooklynites and all our
neighbors. Thank you to everyone who
helped to make 2012 such a productive year for my office
and our community. This was a
difficult year for many of us, especially evident in the
aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But we
responded the way we always do. We
reached out to those who needed help.
We offered resources and reassurance.
I am very proud of the people of Brooklyn.
My office received many honors this year, we
implemented new programs to help crime victims, and we
got dangerous individuals off of our streets.
In addition, we reduced the number of guns on the
streets, joined others in rallying against violence, and
took great efforts to make Brooklyn a safer place to
live and work. We look forward to an
even more successful 2013!
Recently the tragic
mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where a gunman ran
into an elementary school and shot and killed 27 people
including 20 young children shocked America. My heart
goes out to the victims and their families.
This is an example of the inexplicable, senseless
violence that has become all too common, and it has to
I wrote the following Letter to the Editor, published in the New York Times, about appointing a national commission to review our country’s gun laws:
Published: December 17, 2012
President Obama should move swiftly to avoid a repeat of the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Before the end of this year, he should appoint a
national commission to review our country’s gun laws.
The commission should be made up of experts from the
fields of law enforcement, school safety, mental health,
academia and sociology and include a representative from
a respected hunting organization. In short, a group of
people with no political agenda who can quickly review
the available data and recommend a course of action for
Congress to take by the spring of 2013.
The commission should study, among other things, the
prospect of prohibiting interstate transportation of
guns, requiring background criminal and psychiatric
checks before gun purchases at gun shows, a ban once
again on automatic weapons, and on high-capacity
ammunition magazine — all of which could be approved by
Congress and not violate the Supreme Court’s
interpretation of the Second Amendment.
formed a commission after 9/11, one of the last times
our country’s conscience and faith were shaken. I urge
the president not to let this incident pass without his
My office continues to work towards
reducing gun violence. We recently
had a Gun Buyback at two local churches where people
could turn in their operable guns and receive a $200
bank card. We took 134 working guns
off the streets. We had two other Gun
Buybacks earlier this year. In
January, we collected 108 weapons. In
September, 85 guns were collected.
Once again, we have shown the effectiveness of
innovation and creativity in law enforcement.
In October, I indicted 11
individuals for the illegal sale of 154 firearms to
undercover officers during three separate sting
operations. Pistols, assault rifles
and semi-automatic handguns, including a machine gun and
a weapon that had been used in a homicide were
Overall, Brooklyn leads the city in the reducing of shooting incidents and shooting victims this year. Brooklyn had 102 fewer shooting incidents this year compared to last year, down 15.96%. Brooklyn also had 151 fewer shooting victims than last year, down 19.46%, better than any other borough.
The most difficult problem in getting sexual predators off the streets and keeping victims safe is getting these victims to come forward, and this obstacle is compounded in insular communities such as the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. Too often when victims come forward with sex abuse allegations, they are shunned and subject to intimidation by others in the community. My office spares no effort to conceal and protect the identities of sex crimes victims, regardless of their cultural or religious background.
To battle this problem, in 2009, I
created Project Kol Tzedek (Voice of Justice), an
outreach program for Orthodox Jewish sex-crime victims
to help them report abuse. Victims
who call the Project Kol Tzedek hotline, (718)250-3000,
will speak with a culturally sensitive social worker and
a prosecutor from the Sex Crimes Bureau.
Prosecutors and social workers are available to meet
with victims in a safe anonymous environment to discuss
their cases. Project Kol Tzedek’s strength
is based on its partnerships with community
organizations, such as the Metropolitan Council on
Jewish Poverty, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services
and Tikvah at Ohel, and Jewish Board of Family and
Children’s Services. Since Kol Tzedek was created, we
have made over 100 arrests for sex abuse in the Orthodox
Jewish community. Prior to Kol Tzedek, we
were able to prosecute only a handful of such cases.
Prior to Kol Tzedek, we were able to prosecute only a handful of such cases.
This month, we convicted Nechemya
Weberman, an unlicensed therapist sexually
abused a young girl over a period of years.
The victim’s parents hired Weberman to provide
counseling for their daughter, beginning in 2007, when
she was 12. From then, until 2010,
Weberman sexually abused the girl multiple times, mostly
in his office.
The victim showed great courage to come forward
in a very difficult time. Hopefully,
this verdict will lead to the understanding for other
women that we will protect them as they seek justice.
We indicted four men who tried to
impede prosecution of the case by trying to intimidate
and bribe the victim with $500,000 to drop the charges.
It is important to protect the
identity of sex crime victims. The
Weberman trial was disrupted when we charged three men
with criminal contempt for taking pictures in court of
This month, we also convicted a principal of a private Jewish high school, Emanuel Yegutkin, for sexually abusing three young boys over the course of 10 years. This sexual predator faces a at least 25 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 8.
These sex crimes convictions are a
perfect example of how Kol Tzedek provides for the
people of Brooklyn and enables victims to come
forward so their abusers can be brought to justice.
In January, a grand jury indicted
eight individuals for fraudulently collecting over
$500,000 in welfare and other benefits for which they
were ineligible, by falsifying applications.
In reality, these defendants had substantial
income, and owned their own businesses and properties.
One of these individuals made regular purchases
from high-end retail stores, like Brooks Brothers, and
donated $10,000 to a non-profit organization.
In March, 12 individuals were
charged for their participation in seven different cases
of mortgage fraud and real estate crimes,
including one case in which a defendant was charged with
hate crimes, for targeting an elderly victim because of
Another of these defendants, Sal Lauria, obtained a reverse mortgage in the name of his 81-year-old victim, who met him after the victim responded to a television commercial for debt assistance. He set up a false bank account in both his name and the victim’s name, into which he deposited $350,000, which represents proceeds from a reverse mortgage.
Recently we have noticed the use of
social networking sites like Facebook where gang members
brag about their crimes. Along with NYPD
Specialists, we have
utilized undercover officers on these sites to “friend”
the gang members, which enabled us access to information
which helped us take these gangs down.
In January, we arrested 43 gang members from two warring gangs, the Wave Gang and the Hoodstarz, in “Operation Tidal Wave”. The gangs were terrorizing Brownsville, committing murders, assaults and robberies.
In September, we took down the
Rockstarz and the VCG/Weez Gang, who committed most of
their crimes, including murders and assaults, in East
New York, over the course of three years.
The gangs cooperated with each other to prevent
witnesses from testifying against members of either
gang. VCG members were charged with multiple shootings,
including two that struck innocent bystanders.
One occurred in September 2010, when VCG member
Quashawn Smith fired a gun into Miller Park, which was
claimed by the Rockstarz, and struck a 10-year-old boy
in the neck, while he sat watching television in his own
home. Another shooting occurred in
May when VCG member Darnell Jones hit an innocent
bystander, while attempting to shoot a member of the
In December, we indicted 41 members of the Bushwick TBO Gang on charges including murder, conspiracy and robbery. This gang was different than other gangs we have investigated and prosecuted in the past because of how organized their hierarchy is. Once again we saw young gang members using social media to boast about murder and mayhem, and once again we had officers “friending” them to help end the violence.
A documentary film, created by
participants in my YCP (Youth and Congregation in
Partnership) program, “Charge it to the Game” was chosen
to be screened at several film festivals this year
including the NYC Independent Film Festival, the Big
Apple Film Festival and the Global Peace Film Festival.
The documentary addresses the
effects of gun violence in Brooklyn, especially among
young people. The film opens with the
striking statistic that approximately every two days a
life is taken by gun violence in Brooklyn.
Charge it to the Game details the
consequences of gun violence on the families of both the
shooter and the victim with interviews from members of
the community who have been affected.
This year, we prosecuted 23 people for distributing 550 cases of untaxed cigarettes, evading over $2 million in city and state taxes. “Operation Buttlegger” was an eight-month undercover investigation conducted by my Money Laundering and Revenue Crimes Bureau, targeting distributers of untaxed cigarettes with a retail value of $4,290,000.
Some of the most admirable people
in the world live in Brooklyn.
In March, I recognized 33 women as Brooklyn’s Extraordinary Women. One of the women honored mentors families of children with Down Syndrome. Another woman is a victim of breast cancer who spreads awareness and encourages others with the same illness and even formed a non-profit organization for young women with cancer. One of these Extraordinary Women founded an organization that has helped over 1,000 survivors of strokes and brain injuries.
I am also proud of some of my
staff who were honored this year. In March,
Deanna Rodriguez, the Chief of my Gang Bureau, was
selected by El
Diario newspaper to receive a 2012 “Mujeres
Destacadas Award” as one of the most outstanding women
in the community.
In June, the
Spectator newspapers honored the Chief of my Crime
Prevention Division, Teri Fabi, as one of the “Top
Brooklyn Women in Business” at their first annual Top
Brooklyn Women in Business Networking Awards Dinner.
In September, my First ADA Anne Swern was honored by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association for her accomplishments including running many of our innovative programs.
Lance Ogiste, Counsel to the DA, was honored with the prestigious Thomas E. Dewey Medal by the New York City Bar Association in December. The Medal is awarded annually to outstanding Assistant District Attorneys in New York City’s five boroughs. He was recognized for his exemplary service as an exceptional prosecutor and program leader.
Special mention goes to Detective Investigators James Russell and Vito Maniscalco were on an undercover assignment, conducting surveillance in the Bronx, when they noticed a woman standing on the corner, screaming for help while holding the limp body of a six-week-old baby boy. The baby was blue due to a lack of oxygen. The boy’s father was also present, trying to hail a livery cab. The Detective Investigators risked blowing their cover as D.I. Maniscalco called to the couple to get in the back of his car. D.I. Russell took the baby from his mother and began administering CPR to the baby in the front passenger seat of the car while Det. Maniscalco raced, with emergency lights and sirens on, through congested midday traffic, to Bronx Lebanon Hospital, approximately two miles from the scene.
At the hospital, the baby was handed over to trauma team personnel in the pediatric emergency room. They were able to get the baby breathing on his own. The two Detective Investigators were honored by the Daily News as their Heroes of the Month.
Each year, I recognize other outstanding law enforcement officers in Brooklyn. This year, I honored 21 officers from the New York Police Department, New York Fire Department, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Brooklyn Criminal Court, and the Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association at my 22nd annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Awards ceremony.
An attack on a police officer is an
attack on all of us. In May, my office got a
conviction and life sentence for George Villanueva, who
killed Police Officer Alain Schaberger. Responding
to a domestic dispute, Officer Schaberger attempted to
handcuff Villanueva outside his building’s front stoop,
when Villanueva pushed the officer over a railing onto a
concrete basement stairwell. He fell to his death.
In July 2011, Levi Aron abducted
Leiby Kletzky on the street after Kletzky got lost
walking home from school. Aron then took the child
to his apartment, dismembered him and killed him.
Aron pled guilty to murder and is service 40 years to
Life in prison.
In November, Salvatore Perrone was
indicted for killing three clothing-store owners.
The indictment charges ballistic reports conclude the same .22-caliber
semi-automatic rifle was used to kill the three men.
My office also received a $103,000 grant from Brooklyn State Senator Martin Golden to enhance programs for at-risk youth and victims of domestic violence. Thanks to this generous grant, for the first time, we can have one dedicated social worker who will not only assist victims in the two Integrated Domestic Violence courtrooms, but will also form the bridge connecting the court parts to the Brooklyn Family Justice Center. Part of the grant will help fund the seventh year of Project Re-Direct, designed to offer an alternative to incarceration for young gang members who enter the criminal justice system.
Bullying comes in many forms and occurs daily in our schools, school yards, homes, and on the Internet. Victims of bullying who do not get help have, on occasion, tragically taken their own lives.
In an effort to curb bullying, my office launched an anti-bullying video contest for students in the fourth through ninth grades in Brooklyn.
This year’s contest resulted in a tie with two exceptional videos. Both winning videos came from students at P.S. 186 in Bensonhurst.
The videos were judged by Assistant District Attorneys as well as law, college, and high school interns. The winning videos can be seen by clicking the following links:
The winners will get to be “DA for the Day” at a later date, where they will spend the whole day with District Attorney Hynes, attending meetings and conferences.
The Eastern seaboard was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Many people in our community, including members of my staff, were hit hard. Some people lost their homes, along with many of their possessions. As disastrous as it was, it was also encouraging to see so many people in our community helping each other. My office got involved by holding clothing/supply drives and toy drives for kids who lost all their toys during the hurricane. We also used our website to announce various places people could go to receive help and also donate items. We posted distribution locations, helpful phone numbers and the locations of shelters.
There are approximately 250,000 outstanding warrants in Brooklyn for charges including Loitering, Littering, Consumption of Alcohol in Public, Failure to Have a Dog License and Unlawfully Being in a Park After Hours. If they go unresolved, these people with the outstanding warrants and summons will have difficulty applying for jobs or getting a driver’s license. They could end up in jail. It is important to take care of it as soon as possible.
We made it easier for people to
take care of these warrants and summons and have their
cases adjudicated by implementing
took place in April and again in December. In
April, we ran
Operation Safe Surrender at Mount Pisgah Baptist
Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant with their Reverend Johnny
Ray Youngblood, where we resolved 765 summonses.
In December, 482 people attended Operation Safe
Surrender to close out open warrants and summonses, at
Brownsville’s Mt. Sion Baptist Church.
At Safe Surrender, a court is set up in church with a judge, court officers and clerks. Clergy, pastors, Lay Members and Defense Attorneys from the Legal Aid Society and Brooklyn Defender Services are on hand to help.
Prior to this month’s Safe Surrender, 1,500 people had taken advantage of the program, since it was launched in 2010. Operation Safe Surrender enhanced public safety by reducing the chances that someone who cannot enter the job market at a higher level as a result of an open arrest warrant might turn to criminal activity.
December is a festive time with many holiday parties, and friends and family exchanging gifts. But it is also a special occasion when people give to those who are less fortunate. This month, my office participated in several toy drives, held a Christmas party for child crime victims, and, as we do every year, we “adopted” a Christmas family. In conjunction with the St. John’s University School of Law Alumni Association, we collected unwrapped toys for the needy children of St. John’s Parish in Bedford Stuyvesant. We also participated in a toy drive in collaboration with Bushwick’s Progress High School for children affected by Hurricane Sandy as well as children at the Woodhull Hospital Pediatric Ward.
This year, we “adopted” a family in Brownsville with four children, who live in a shelter with their mother. My office donated gifts for the three girls, one boy, and their mother, including clothes, shoes, toys, books and puzzles. And once again, our annual Christmas party for child crime victims was a tremendous hit!
Again, I wish you all a HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!