NY Post: DA Sex Trafficking Chief Advised Prosecutors to Withhold Evidence

According to Josh Saul in this morning’s New York Post:

The Brooklyn DA’s controversial rackets chief [Michael Vecchione] oversaw a training session in which prosecutors were told not to make written records of early interviews with sex-trafficking victims — so the information could be withheld from defense attorneys, law-enforcement sources told The Post……

Vecchione Stock 2a“When these girls first come in, they often deny they have been hit or pimped. We were told not to write down those statements,” a law-enforcement source said. “The clear inference by everybody in that room was that we were being told not to write down the statements so that we would not have to turn them over.”

Two other law-enforcement sources confirmed that account of the training. After the training session angered many rackets attorneys, who thought they were being told to act unethically by withholding evidence, a remedial training session was held to walk back the instructions.

I reported this story July 6th, with the title, Mikey, We Hardly Knew Ye! Where Has Your Memory Gone? The crux of the story is that Michael Vecchione appears to have committed perjury when he denied remembering that training session. Josh Saul  is to be commended for finding the sources to further confirm the story and for getting a more detailed description of the infamous training session.

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

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

That session matters because Jabbar Collins has a lawsuit about his wrongful conviction by the Brooklyn DA for murdering Abraham Pollock. That conviction, which the courts overturned, cost this innocent man almost two decades in jail. His attorney, Joel Rudin, is trying to establish that Mr. Collin’s wrongful conviction was not merely an accident, but a result of training and supervision at the Brooklyn DA that made such outcomes likely. Hence the importance of what happened at training sessions. Vecchione is especially important because he was the ADA in charge of Mr. Collins’ prosecution.

According to the NY Post story, DA spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer, says, “Nothing wrong happened at that meeting.” In contrast, chief ADA, Amy Feinstein sticks to speaking about official policy and is not quoted defending that particular training meeting. I think Vecchione would have loved a Feinstein defense of his conduct. Unlike Schmetterer, she cannot defend herself down the line by saying” my boss told me that, and I passed it along as I got it.” As I reported, she tried to undo the harm of that session.

Because it appeared in the mainstream media, this story is a bombshell. There will be more pressure on Charles Hynes to force Vecchione to resign. The already shabby ethical reputation of the Brooklyn DA has just gotten shabbier. I suspect that my earlier version of this story is one of the main reasons the DA had Frum Follies blocked by his computer filters. The fact that Josh Saul had three “law enforcement” sources talk to him about this session is yet more evidence that DA employees are rebelling against Hynes and leaking information which will hurt his reelection prospects.

This may all seem like a case of legal quibbling. But remember, Abraham Pollack was murdered in cold blood. Because of Vecchione’s misconduct at the time, the wrong man, Jabbar Collins, went to jail, and the actual murderer was never prosecuted. Abraham Pollack’s blood still cries out for justice.

In this political season, the Jabbar Collins lawsuit matters for both orthodox-Jewish and African-American voters. Jews see that Hynes gulled them when he made believe he was prosecuting the murderer of Pollack. African American voters see that Hynes is indifferent to the plight of falsely accused African American defendants.

See also: Hynes Delivers Scalps to Hasidim, Just the Wrong Ones

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14 thoughts on “NY Post: DA Sex Trafficking Chief Advised Prosecutors to Withhold Evidence

  1. Nice of u to sit 1500 miles away and write up crap on the DA, the sex trafficking victims mostly never will rat their pimps out and if statements are written down the victims can go thru unnecessary hell

    • juhj@yahoo.com:
      Regardless of whether your information re YL sitting 1500 miles away is accurate or not, you are implying that only the cop who lives next door to the murder victim can find the perp.

  2. This corruption simply does not end. If this is what comes out, I simply cannot imagine what still remains successfully hidden.

  3. Mark H. Jay, totally agree, the fun is just starting. Stay tuned……next the fish will move higher. At the moment this is the game. the fish stinks from the head, but the head has a while to go yet, gam zeh yikreh. upward and onward, patience………..
    many levels to go. one at a time….

    • JUHJ, methinks that you totally misunderstood my POV and reference. Perhaps I was unclear. Totally unrelated to Savi, and CSA–, sounds like an organization to which i would strongly consider leaving a substantial bequest. That is unrelated to my previous comment. It seems as if I offended you, totally not intended.. unrelated subjects. Not sure re reason for your misinterpretation. Chill.
      ciao

  4. All statements by any person who may testify at a trial, which are written down by any law enforcement official, must be turned over to the defense prior to trial. This rule (called, “Rosario”), applies no matter when the person made the statement or under what circumstances. So, for example, if you are a cop or DA investigating a recent gangland murder, and you have in your office a possible eyewitness who is scared to death of being killed if he gives information to the police, then you’d have to disclose to the defense later on if you write down that the witness first said, “I didn’t see nothin'”. This is so even if you know that the witness was present at the time of the killing, and that the witness was initially only trying to “stay out of it.”

    For this reason, law enforcement officers (i.e. cops and ADA’s) are trained to thoroughly interview witnesses in an attempt to arrive at the true content of their accounts before reducing any statements to writing. They are NOT trained to avoid writing down damaging information, or even early versions of events. Young, inexperienced prosecutors without proper training do not know how to vet witnesses. This was most likely the substance of the training mentioned in this article. Every DA’s Office and Detective Squad trains on these basic Rosario principles, and there is nothing wrong with doing so. It’s certainly not unique to the Brooklyn DA’s Office. So, this is another example of a non-story made into news by people who don’t really understand how things work, but who know how to make benign things sound juicy and conspiratorial.

    Now, I’m not saying that Vecchione didn’t do some bad things. That may be true. But not remembering an uneventful, typical, run of the mill training session? Of course he wouldn’t remember that. And of course no one is trained to never take notes of any early interviews. Again, outsiders can make anything sound horrible as long as facts don’t get in the way.

    • Brady requires sharing all exculpatory information possessed by a prosecutor whether or not it is written down. A policy of not writing things down, does not changes the obligation of a prosecutor to share it. Instructing people not to write things down in order not to share information is training people to violate Brady obligations specified by the Supreme Court about 50 years ago.

      But thank you, misnamed “truther,” for perfectly illustrating the argument used by Lauren Hersh which led to professional outrage by her staff and the decision to institute an additional training by Monique Ferrel.

      BTW, Rosario is specific to police notes. the obligation is to share all notes regarding witnesses at the trial. We could get into a discussion about your understanding of police obligations. However, period, if a prosecutor has exculpatory evidence whether written down or not, they have to share it with the defense. I defy you to find a competent, ethical member of the US bar who will say otherwise on the record. If you find such a lawyer they will be brought up on charges (unless of course their name is Vecchione or Hersh and they work for Joe Hynes).

  5. When it comes to adverse information, there is and was no “policy of not writing things down” in any DA’s office that I know. If there was, then it would be wrong. You’ve already concluded that DA’s were told to do this in Brooklyn, when that conclusion isn’t clear. Indeed, it sounds to me like some green rookie may have mistakenly taken the training that way, and that the veteran bosses then quickly clarified the law. That’s a good thing. I have no inside knowledge of what happened in this particular case but I was in countless situations like this, and it sounds very consistent with my experiences.

    And by the way, Brady does not require disclosure of every conceivable thing that might help the defense. Of course it would require disclosure if a witness identified a person other than the defendant, for example. But I see no reason to get into a legal argument with a blogger who has in the past made it clear that he “is not an attorney.”

  6. Let me add to Truther’s comments. I’m a former ADA. All DA’s that I know train their people to avoid writing down witness statements as much as possible, so as to avoid producing more detailed discovery for the defense. This sounds fishy but it’s not. In fact, if you call any ADA in the City (any borough) chances are you’ll hear on their voicemail greeting a warning telling the caller not to leave any details about their case in their recorded message. This is so as to avoid creating Rosario material.

    As Mr. Lopin says correctly, this in no way relieves a prosecutor from the Brady obligation, which requires disclosure of exculpatory evidence (even if not written down). But it seems that Mr. Lopin and others are confusing the Vecchione story. Is the claim that Ms. Hersh told ADA’s not to write down witness statements, or that she told them not to disclose information that revealed innocence? The former would not necessarily be wrong. Truther is probably right that we don’t have enough information to know what was really said, and that a newer ADA would likely not understand this nuance. And it’s also a good point to say that if it appeared to bosses that young DA’s were taking it to mean that they should hide adverse information, then they needed to correct that misconception (which the bosses apparently did).

    • Lauren Hersh was forced to resign when it came out that her unit knew of a recantatation within in 24 hours but kept the charge going while Mr. Dula was in jail for most of a year. Vecchione was her mentor/supervisor. He was present when she presented on Brady. I believe more critical facts about that session will emerge in the next two weeks. I believe your questions will be answered definitively then and they will reflect very poorly on Mr. Vecchione and the overall Brady compliance of the Brooklyn DA.

      I am not sure what you are describing is true of the Manhattan DA’s office.

      If prosecutors will hand over all stuff to defense why not keep good records from the get-go. Isn’t overly limited record-keeping an invitation to both sloppy prosecutions and Brady violations.

  7. You may have a point on record keeping, but from a prosecutors’ perspective, the less written material there is, the better. The reason for that is getting the tactical upper hand at trial. The less the defense has to cross examine the complainant or eyewitnesses, the less chance there will be that insignificant inconsistencies will wrongfully impede a witnesses credibility. And, the less the defense gets, the less prepared they will be overall. Sound like “trial by surprise”? It is. That’s the way it works in New York. Scary but legal.

    Of course, when asking yourself how Brady can be upheld in such an environment, one must pre-suppose that the prosecutor can be trusted to reveal exculpatory material. If the DA discloses that a witness was materially inconsistent in the past (note the word “materially”. Not every inconsistency is exculpatory….) then the DA has satisfied Brady, even if notes weren’t taken. If the DA hides a material inconsistency, then it’s a violation and unethical. Sure, writing everything down all the time would help reduce Brady violations, but DA’s will never do it. It’s not required, and it surrenders too much tactical advantage to the defense.

    And you’d better believe that the Manhattan DA does all of this. They’re very strict when it comes to what is and is not legally required of them, no matter how practically unfair it is to the defense. For example, unlike in Brooklyn or Queens (maybe the Bronx and Richmond too, but I don’t know for sure), the Manhattan DA’s office will NEVER provide a shred of discovery material to the defense beyond what is required by CPL Article 220 (which, by the way, is barely anything of substance. It doesn’t include any police reports of interviews with witnesses, identity of any witnesses, DA notes of any interviews, etc. Basically, nothing that will help the defense really prepare to defend its case. That stuff comes…..guess when…..only right before trial. When the jury is sworn, in fact. And as you know, 95+% of cases plead, so defendants pretty much never get to see the real evidence against them because they barely ever go to trial. Sound crazy? Write your legislators to change the law. And ask any defense attorney – he/she will tell you how Brooklyn and Queens believe in giving over tons of stuff long before trial, except in a limited number of very serious cases like homicides, or in a case where the witnesses may be in danger if their identities are discovered. Manhattan is the WORST. They seem to care the least about ensuring a truly fair process for defendants, instead relying on the letter of the law to define what’s “fair.” I other words, their attitude is, “if the legislature passed laws that only make us disclose a paltry amount of information in a criminal case, then that must be what’s fair.” Hynes and Brown very strongly disagree. For more information, ask around how Hynes instituted “open file discovery” in Brooklyn).

    Now, as for Hersh, it sounds like she actually did commit a Brady violation. This often happens when ADA’s are too passionate about their cases and don’t want to see them go down the drain because of wht they see as an unfair technicality. In essence, they make their own judgment as to what’s indicative of the truth. It’s a shame. But this doesn’t mean that Vecchione allowed her to train ADA’s on how to hide exculpatory evidence. As Mike says above, you may be confusing the fine points of Rosario and Brady in this story about the training session. And if Hersh did, it seems to have been caught by the bosses and remedied. I just don’t see how Vecchione can be hung for this one (other things, perhaps, but not this).

    • An unfair technicality? You are calling leaving someone jailed for most of a year when the complaint was recanted the day after given and never reinstated after that, “a technicality.”

      The fact is that DAs in Brooklyn tell me they are mistrained to believe that if you don’t write it down, you don’t have to turn it over. In fact, under Brady, even if the exculpatory material is never written down it needs to be turned over to defense.

      The fact is that Hynes has had many convictions overturned for violations of defendant rights than the other DAs.

      The fact is that his office is regularly criticized for such conduct by judges.

      You seem to be saying Hynes is gentler on his criminals while Manhattan DA does a better job at complying with the law even if they are tougher. Well there are some changes in the law we would all like. But a DA is supposed to obey the law. You seem to be admitting Hynes does not do that.

  8. We’re really not saying very different things at all. I’m saying that it seems that Hersh violated her obligations. So are you. I didn’t say that she was right to see her actions as justified because she justly avoided an unfair technicality – I only said that’s an explanation for why overzealous ADA’s commit these violations. I don’t condineit at all. Don’t misconstrue my words please.

    I am also concerned by the wrongful convictions, as you are. But you are wrong to say that judges “regularly criticize” his office, when it really has been a small number of cases that have happened to have received big time press coverage, again and again. Sensationalism does not equal frequency. There are no hard stats indicating that Hynes’ wrongful conviction rate is any worse than any other office. That’s certainly the perception, but no analysis supports it. Again, it’s a convenient narrative.

    About what ADA’s have told you: I strongly suspect that you do not really understand what they’re saying, or that they are very junior attorneys who themselves don’t understand what they’re hearing, or both. I’ve already explained that it’s common and permissible for ADA’s in this State to be trained that if you don’t write it down, it doesn’t have to be turned over – for ROSARIO purposes. But, if an ADA is aware of actual exculpatory evidence, then that ADA is required to disclose it, whether it was written down or not, for BRADY purposes. Like it or not, this is the way it is Statewide, not just in the Brooklyn DA’s office. I agree with you that this system and mindset can breed Brady violations, but I completely disagree that there is anything unique to Brooklyn or Hynes about it. But, of course, It’s another convenient narrative for outsiders to mold for their own purposes.

    On obeying the law: what I said was that the Manhattan DA hides behind the bare minimum requirements of the law on pre-trial discovery, in order to gain the greatest tactical advantage possible (even if this is unfair to a great many defendants). Hynes and Brown, and i believe the other DA’s too, exercise their discretion in favor of providing more pre-trial discovery than the minimum. There is no law against doing so. Please don’t put words in my mouth to make yourself look clever. Really, your suggestion that Hynes and other DA’s are breaking the law by providing more pre-trial discovery than the required minimum is just strange. It makes me doubt whether you’re serious about anything. Are you in favor of keeping people charged with crimes in the dark? Wow, I hope no one you care about is ever arrested for anything, especially if they’re innocent.

    I know that you would really love to paint me as a blind, idiotic Hynes robot, but you can’t. I’m just someone who really knows how things work. Sorry.

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