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Queens Chronicle

Katz enters the fray to be Queens DA

Borough president touts an ‘aggressive agenda’ for county prosecutor’s office

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2018 10:30 am

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced her candidacy on Tuesday for Queens County district attorney in 2019.

Katz, 53, made her announcement in McDonald Park in Forest Hills with her sons, Carter and Hunter, and more than 100 supporters.

She said she will pursue an aggressive agenda including bail reform and more stringent prosecution of hate crimes, sex crimes and domestic violence.

She also wants to address gun crime as a public health concern. Her campaign released a list of 300 political and civil leaders who have endorsed her.

Katz joins Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and recently retired Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak in seeking the office that has been held by DA Richard Brown since 1991.

He was appointed to fill a vacancy by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo — district attorney is a state position — and has been repeatedly re-elected with few serious challengers. But he does have known health issues.

Brown, in an email to the Chronicle, declined to comment on the race directly.

“My present term does not expire until December 2019 and I will make no decision about the future until sometime next year,” he wrote.

“The District Attorney’s Office needs to be more involved in the community,” Katz said. “Things aren’t the same as they were 25 or 30 years ago.”

Katz, a former state assemblywoman, member of the City Council and attorney in private practice, has never worked as a prosecutor.

But she said her record shows her to be capable of delivering justice for both victims and defendants.

Katz spoke of her own experience, one she says she seldom talks about.

“My mother was killed by a drunk driver; someone who decided to break the law and devastated our family,” she said. “It affects you and you want justice, and you want it very badly.”

Katz wants to eliminate cash bail for low-level, nonviolent offenders, saying the present system allows well-heeled defendants to secure their freedom while those of lesser means can languish in jail for years over as little as $500.

“Justice shouldn’t depend on your nationality or skin color or income,” she told the crowd. “If it does, we have failed ...”

Katz said alternatives to cash bail include ankle monitors, mandatory electronic check-in procedures and better prescreening of those who have been arrested to more accurately assess who is a flight risk.

“You’re either a risk for showing in court or you’re not,” she said.

Katz said she would not prosecute for low-level amounts of marijuana — which would be moot if the state Legislature eases or eliminates existing laws in its 2019 session, as many expect

She also believes that the DA’s Office should be involved in preventing crime before it happens through education and outreach. She mentioned initiatives such as those aimed at young gang members or those at risk of joining.

“Show them there’s another way,” she said. Katz also said programs and services must be expanded for those who are cycling out of the correction system.

“That’s how you reduce recidivism,” she said.

The press conference was briefly interrupted by a protester screaming his disapproval of the government deal to bring Amazon to Long Island City.

He was not arrested, but police officers escorted him a short distance away from the gathering, still within the park.

Lasak, who was a longtime assistant district attorney in the borough before ascending to the bench, appeared ready for a primary.

“I welcome Borough President Katz to the growing field of career politicians running for District Attorney,” he said in an emailed statement. “As the only non-politician in this race, I look forward to putting my decades-long record of fighting crime and freeing the innocent up against anyone else’s.”

Lancman, in a text to the Chronicle, preferred to discuss his own qualifications.

“I’ve been delivering real criminal justice reform as a Councilman, and that’s what I’ll continue to do as our next District Attorney — protect women from internet harassment and sex trafficking, homeowners and tenants from being defrauded out of their homes and working people from being cheated,” he wrote.

Katz said she would stay on as borough president through Dec. 31 of next year should she win.

Brian Browne, assistant vice president for government relations and a political science professor at St. John’s University, said the race could prove an interesting one.

“As the first real competitive race for Queens District Attorney that the borough has experienced in almost 30 years, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting political year,” Browne told the Chronicle.

He pointed out in an email that Katz would be the first woman to serve in the office in Queens.

“Melinda Katz is a proven vote-getter in the borough who has served in city and state government and, thus far, as the only female Democratic candidate in the race her campaign could be unique,” the professor said. “How Melinda distinguishes herself from a growing field of candidates and how exactly she approaches the role of district attorney will be one to watch.”

Browne also said the way the contest appears to be shaping up has potential pluses for all candidates.

“Many voters don’t quite interact with the Office of District Attorney, so as a candidate Melinda Katz and the other declared candidates have an opportunity to help to define their vision for the job, as they describe themselves,” he said.

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1 comment:

  • ConcernedZ posted at 8:29 pm on Thu, Dec 6, 2018.

    ConcernedZ Posts: 1

    Melinda Katz wants to bring jail to Queens Kew Gardens as part of closing Rickers to house 1500 inmates in the midst of highly populated residential area with schools 2 blocks away from the proposed site