Is Vecchione on a Career Deathwatch

Word from sources in the Brooklyn DA office is that Vecchione is looking just plain terrible. Gone is the confident dapper Michael Vecchione, Head of the Rackets Division. For years he has weathered accusations of misconduct with arrogant aplomb. Not any more.

Vecchione Stock 2aHe has been battered with a lot of bad news, but insiders suspect he is afraid that much worse will yet come out. Perhaps he is sensing that his subordinates are no longer willing to cooperate with his alleged hair-brained illegal schemes to cover up previous illegal schemes. Perhaps he is afraid of whistleblowers who have been leaking to various media and blogging outlets.

Perhaps Vecchione realizes that Charles Hynes could lose this election and he will be out of a job and tainted in the eyes of other prospective employers. Hynes’ election prospects have been seriously dented by recent developments favoring his opponent in the September primary, Kenneth Thompson. Abe George dropped out of the race and threw his support to Thompson. The powerful SEIU/1099 union, with over a 100,000 members in Brooklyn, endorsed Thompson and will be deploying its get-out-the-vote apparatus on his behalf. Orthodox Jewish NYS Assemblyman, Dov Hikind, also came out strongly for Thompson and denounced Hynes for his prosecution of Samuel Kellner. Last month, Thompson was endorsed by two Brooklyn US House Representatives.

Charles Hynes photo by Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2012

Charles Hynes photo by Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 2012

In the last weeks of the campaign, newspaper endorsements will matter. I suspect the New York Times, which has run a number of critical stories about Hynes, will not endorse Hynes. For all of the bravado by partisans of both candidates, I don’t think anyone really knows which way the election will go. But a few months ago, most observers assumed Hynes would win again. The momentum now favors Thompson. Others who have been sitting this one out, may finally decide to take sides and back Thompson.

Stay tuned. I will cheerfully report future developments as they unfold.

12 thoughts on “Is Vecchione on a Career Deathwatch

  1. Similarly, in the days leading up to Yudi Kolko’s arrest, the blogger Boog commented: “Hey Kolko, I saw you mulling around Weinfeld’s shul. You look like dreck”

  2. When Vecchione decided to attack Litwin he crossed a line that offended many career prosecutors. He was willing to attempt to invalidate many other prosecutions just to buy time until the Kellner case is dismissed. Folks now realize he isn’t just an over-zealous, unscrupulous, prosecutor; he is a loose cannon willing to bring down the whole edifice to cover his own behind. People in rackets has taken garbage and carried out garbage for Vecchione for a long time. But loyalty or timidity only go so far. They realize that Mike will, even if he is disbarred, still have a future in Hollywood. Some other folks in that office don’t have any easy tickets out, especially if they get brought up on ethics charges.

  3. A person in Michael Vecchione’s position, a top-level deputy DA in a place like Brooklyn, a highly-experienced trial lawyer with a successful record, would normally have no trouble finding another job, and a very good one, if his boss were not re-elected. If Vecchione is afraid, it is a safe bet that this is not what he is afraid of.

    • Kevin in Chicago, not if he is disbarred on ethics charges and facing mega lawsuits. Prosecutorial immunity does not cover the DA acting in an investigative capacity. The entire sham investigation of Kellner was managed by Vecchione. Moreover, Hynes might fire Vecchione to distance himself from his misconduct. Being fired by an honest DA is embarassing. Being fired for corruption by Hynes would be worse than that.

  4. I said that if Vecchione is afraid, it’s not because he fears Hynes will not be re-elected. True, high-profile civil suits in which he is named as a defendant will not enhance his employment prospects, but although you are correct that prosecutors do not have absolute immunity from civil damage suits for misconduct in their investigative capacity, probably ADA’s are indemnified against having to pay out-of-pocket. But as Vecchione well knows, there are things worse than losing one’s job. A prosecutor who willfully deprives a criminal defendant of the due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution, or who commits perjury in connection with a federal court proceeding (including civil rights suits and habeas petitions), has committed a federal crime. It’s very rare for a prosecutor to be prosecuted, but it’s possible. Looking forward to your cheerful reports.

  5. Vecchione is toxic. Hynes supporters–including people VERY close to him–are begging him to throw Vecchione to the wolves.

    While rare, prosecutors have been indicted. The scandal ridden Brooklyn political machine needs to demonstrate they have some shred of integrity left (they don’t) and Vecchione is the perfect make an example of. And hopefully he’ll return the favor by turning on them. Time for a house cleaning.

    • NY defense lawyer Scott Greenfield, in his blog Simple Justice (November 18, 2012), mixed a nice metaphor, writing that “Vecchione’s too high up on the food chain to throw under a bus.” Observing from Chicago, America’s political ethics capital, I understand that to mean that Vecchione provides Hynes with something he needs to survive, and the usual needs are money, votes and deniability, i.e., making the buck stop somewhere else. If Hynes’ political supporters have urged him to dump Vecchione, it points to the last of the three.

  6. For much sleazier, bawdier shenanigans at the Brooklyn DA during the same period, no division took a back seat to Major Narcotics, where Lawrence Oh, now featured on the ‘Brooklyn DA’ show, was Bureau Chief.

    Between 2007 and 2010, Oh’s right-hand prosecutor was Maria Haymandou, who slept with at least three of the married DA investigators whom she routinely put on the stand as witnesses in grand jury presentations that resulted in hundreds of indictments and guilty pleas. They even trysted in a motel where one of their targets was conducting his drug business.

    Dozens of prosecutions of major drug conspirators would have been threatened because of the appearance of impropriety.

  7. Ex-U.S. prosecutor faces murder, other charges
    By George Anastasia
    Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
    Nov. 23, 2009

    He used a restaurant in Newark, N.J., as a front for a cocaine-distribution network.

    He traveled to New York City to oversee a $1,000-an-hour call-girl ring.

    He had a witness killed in one drug case and hired a hit man to rub out another.

    And he did it all out of his law office.

    That’s the picture federal authorities have painted in a 39-count racketeering indictment charging prominent New Jersey defense lawyer Paul Bergrin with being the leader of a criminal enterprise that used violence, intimidation, and deceit to generate millions of dollars.

    Bergrin, a former federal prosecutor, is to be arraigned today with seven codefendants in U.S. District Court in Newark.

    • This case — like the Clifford Minor case — involved prosecution for crimes committed by a former prosecutor, not criminal prosecution for prosecutorial misconduct in office. According to a 2011 Yale Law Journal article my haphazard browsing turned up, “Although it is difficult to comprehensively determine exactly how many prosecutors have been subject to criminal sanctions for official misconduct throughout U.S. history, the number is surely extremely low.” D. Keenan, D.J. Cooper, D. Lebowitz & T. Lerer, The Myth of Prosecutorial Accountability After Connick v. Thompson: Why Existing Professional Responsibility Measures Cannot Protect Against Prosecutorial Misconduct, 121 YALE L.J. ONLINE 203, 218 (2011). The authors cite a 2005 article noting that only one prosecutor has ever been convicted under 18 U.S.C. 242 (willful deprivation of constitutional rights), and also mention as a “rare exception” the 2011 guilty plea of a Michigan prosecutor to subornation of perjury.

      But one can hope, particularly since it looks like the Collins civil case (and others?) is serving up evidence for indictment tastefully arranged on a platter, and two federal judges have already harshly criticized Vecchione and the DA’s office over the Collins case.

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