Eric Gonzalez made history becoming the first Latino elected to serve as District Attorney in New York State in November 2017. His historic election followed his appointment by Governor Andrew Cuomo a year earlier to finish the term of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, following his tragic death from cancer on October 9, 2016. DA Gonzalez had been Mr. Thompson’s Chief Assistant District Attorney and was sworn in as Acting District Attorney in October of 2016.
Mr. Gonzalez began his legal career in 1995, as an assistant district attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, thereby fulfilling an ambition that he had harbored since college.
After spending several years as a junior and then senior assistant in different bureaus within the office, including the Sex Crimes and Special Victims Bureau, Domestic Violence Bureau, Orange Zone Trial Bureau, and Green Zone Trial Bureau, Mr. Gonzalez was promoted to supervisory positions in the Green Zone. Both before and after his promotions, Mr. Gonzalez tried a full range of violent crime cases, including homicides.
In 2011, Mr. Gonzalez became the Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Green Zone. Under his leadership, the Green Zone attained a record of being one of the most successful and productive trial zones in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. He instituted regular “brown-bag lunch” training sessions for his Bureau, and regularly liaised with community members and precinct commanders as part of a “community prosecution” approach to law enforcement.
Promoted by District Attorney Thompson to Counsel to the District Attorney in March of 2014, Mr. Gonzalez was especially instrumental to the office’s smooth transition during the change of administrations. Additionally, Mr. Gonzalez successfully guided the launch of several key initiatives, including the creation of the Conviction Review Unit and the office charging policy regarding the possession of marijuana, which he framed and implemented. In October of 2014, Mr. Gonzalez was appointed as Chief Assistant District Attorney, the first Latino to hold that position in Brooklyn.
Since his appointment to lead the office Mr. Gonzalez has implemented his own trailblazing initiatives, including a bail reform policy and an immigration policy. The bail reform policy instructs ADAs that in most misdemeanor cases the default position is not to ask for bail, but to consent to release.
DA Gonzalez hired two immigration attorneys to advise in cases to avoid the disproportionate collateral consequence of deportation for undocumented immigrants, which can tear apart families and destabilize communities and businesses. The policy allows for a plea to a different section of the penal law to avoid deportation for a minor non-violent crime.
In addition to his trial and supervisory experience, Mr. Gonzalez has taken an active role in interagency trainings conducted by the office and has served on a number of internal and external committees. He is a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and also sits on the Board of Directors of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association. He has frequently participated in panel discussions and continuing legal education courses, including those that have focused on racial inequality in the criminal justice system and on the role of minorities in the legal profession.
Mr. Gonzalez grew up in East New York and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and attended John Dewey High School in Coney Island. He graduated from Cornell University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a dual major in government and history. In 1995, he received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was president of the Latino Law Students Association.
Mr. Gonzalez’s insight, enthusiasm, wise counsel and leadership have helped propel the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to the forefront of criminal justice reform.
Mr. Gonzalez resides in Brooklyn with his wife and three boys.