Most people who have worked in the office of the Kings County District Attorney (KCDA) during the Hynes years know that Michael (Mike) Vecchione has an “eye for thin young women.” He is known to get romantically involved with his young ones and advance their careers, whether or not they are qualified. Toward that end he is reputed to manipulate evaluations, promotions, demotions, annual salary increments, and year-end bonuses. The man is a pig and KCDA is his piggy bank.
Mike’s memory, like his affection, waxes and wanes. He suffers from periodic outbreaks of PTSD, Post Tryst Subpoena Dementia. When he gets involved he is quite attentive but then he moves on to his next favorite and his next scandal. Down the road when he is questioned he suffers from selective amnesia. This happened with ADA Stacey Frascogna, his main squeeze between 1995 and 1998 (a tryst to which I will return). But first consider his more recent cycle of attentiveness and forgetfulness.
In June, 2010 the KCDA announced the creation of a Sex Trafficking Unit within Vecchione’s Rackets Division. Mike selected his mediocre protégé, ADA Lauren Hersh, to head the unit. By May 2012 she resigned her job in a cloud of controversy after she kept Darrell Dula jailed for ten months awaiting trial on rape and pimping, even though the witness recanted within 24 hours.
As I reported in a previous post, when Lauren headed the unit, staff turnover was high. Vecchione forced ADAs in other parts of the Rackets Division to cover cases. Lauren did a special training for her new draftees in spring of 2012.
One of those sessions became acrimonious when Lauren trotted out Vecchione’s novel, abridged version of a defendant’s constitutional right to be informed of all exculpatory information held by the prosecutor. Lauren insisted at the time, “If you don’t write it down, you don’t have to turn it over.” Others in attendance pointed out, “No Lauren, you have to turn over exculpatory information, like witness recantations, even if they are not written down.”
The stink reached Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy Feinstein who sent out a memo reminding staff of their Brady obligations and scheduled another training session for all staff in Rackets. This time it was done correctly by Chief Counsel to the Rackets Division Monique Ferrell.
When he was deposed under oath a little over a year later, Vecchione suffered from PTSD induced amnesia. Mike was asked: “Were you ever present for a presentation to members of the rackets bureau that Lauren Hersh participated in, concerning Brady or Rosario obligations?”
To spare readers the tedium, I will summarize his replies (which I reproduced completely in my earlier post). Mike could not remember:
- The year in which the session occurred
- Who spoke besides Lauren
- The substance of the presentation
- Whether there was controversy at the time
- Whether he agreed with her comments.
His memory failure is easy to understand. He was being deposed in the Jabbar Collins lawsuit and bad Brady training is an important issue. He did not want to concede he trained his staff to violate defendant rights and he did not want to commit provable perjury under oath. So he settled for lying but in a manner that is hard to prosecute.
It is hard to believe this is the same guy who signed an affidavit in 2006, about his role in the since discredited prosecution of Jabbar Collins for murdering Rabbi Abraham Pollack where he stated, “Although I tried this case in March 1995, more than eleven years ago, I still have a clear recollection of it (paragraph 4).” He described ADA Stacey Frascogna, as “a person and prosecutor of great integrity (paragraph 5).”
Within four years, Vecchione lost his taste for displaying his great memory. In the interim, Jabbar Collins, in his 16th year of in prison for a murder he did not commit was in the final stages of a securing his release from jail. Against all odds he succeeded in proving, as federal Judge Dora Irizarry wrote, there was “compelling evidence” that the DA’s office “had wrongfully withheld a key witness’s recantation, had knowingly coerced and relied on false testimony and argument at trial, had knowingly suppressed exculpatory and impeachment evidence and had acted affirmatively to cover up such misconduct for 15 years.”
By this point in the habeas proceeding there was no question that the conviction would be voided. The only question was whether the KCDA would be allowed to conduct a second trial on the original murder charges. Incredibly, Hynes, at the urging of Vecchione, claimed and still claims that Collins is guilty of the murder of Pollack.
Jabbar’s lawyer, Joel Rudin, had already established outrageous violations of Collins’ constitutional rights by Vecchione. Still the DA, taking his cues from Vecchione, was holding out for the right to try Collins again. Collins was going for broke; he also wanted the rarest of rulings on a habeas petition, not just the voiding of the original conviction, but an order barring a second trial. The KCDA, represented by Kevin Richardson resisted until Vecchione, Frascogna, and others were about to be called as a witnesses. The KCDA then folded and acquiesced to a ruling barring Collins from being tried again.
Vecchione took a liking to ADA Stacey Frascogna around 1995. You can chart her romantic standing by her salary increases. In 1995 she was making $33k. By 1999 she was making $105k, for an average annumal increase of 80%. Then her relationship tanked and the hefty increases ended. In 2010 she was making $113k for an average annual increase over those 11 years of less than 1%.
Arranging those spectacular 80% pay increases was quite a feat. Frascogna, like many of Vecchione’s protégés was thoroughly mediocre. He seems to like his women that way. I suppose those sorts of women are more impressionable and easily controlled. The trouble is that HR requires favorable evaluations.
Stacey was assigned to Blue Zone (which now covers the NYPD precincts 67, 68, 76, 79, and 84 in North West Brooklyn). In late 1994, Michael Vecchione was promoted to head the entire Homicide trial division. ADA Mark Hale was Homicide Deputy Bureau chief. Vecchione was now Hale’s boss and promoted him to be Blue Zone (NW Brooklyn) Bureau Chief.
Stacey Frascogna was in the Blue Zone. Hale was her direct supervisor. She was a very weak ADA with no trial ability. Hale saw her perform and was not impressed with her ability. Upon hearing this, Vecchione became enraged ( because Hale was criticizing his mistress) and in the fall of 1995 he demoted Hale back to a line assistant in homicide. Hale’s demotion was a huge event in the office and was also well known around the courthouse.
After Frascogna could not cut it in the Blue Zone, she went on to work in various bureaus, including domestic violence and crimes against children. During this time period Vecchione often leaned on her bosses to promote her.
Everyone else in KCDA got the memo. The paychecks rose until Vecchione lost his interest in Stacey’s career. Subsequently, she went to truancy work and other lackluster assignments (In 2003 she married and took the last name of her husband, Jamieson). She left the office of the DA around 2010.
Vecchione’s favoritism and his thuggish steamrolling of supervisors to rig evaluations has left a bad taste in KCDA and the surrounding courthouse and police culture. Word of Stacey’s unusually high pay raises got the attention of reporter Leonard Levitt, then with Newsday. He initiated a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in 2000 about Mike and Stacey’s trip to Puerto Rico in February 1995. He reported
The two supposedly traveled there to subpoena witnesses, Adrian Diaz, in the case against Collins. Collins cites the trip in his lawsuit, claiming Vecchione secretly promised Diaz leniency in return for his testimony……
Hynes’ press secretary, Kevin Davitt, wrote to Newsday‘s editor, Tony Marro, threatening legal action “in the event Newsday chooses to publish any of the contents or allegations. Assistant District Attorney Virginia Modest…wrote that the disclosure of the records “would endanger the life and safety of a person and would disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation.” …
Newsday then sued for the hotel receipts and expense reports in Brooklyn State Supreme Court. In March, 2001, Justice Edward K. Pincus issued a written order, instructing Hynes to answer Newsday‘s questions……
Four weeks later, on March 29, Vecchione contacted this reporter, saying he was speaking with Hynes’ approval. He acknowledged that while heading the DA’s homicide bureau, he and Frascogna had traveled to Puerto Rico in 1995…He added that Frascogna, who speaks Spanish, had established a rapport with the witness, whom he didn’t identify, and had proved so “charming” that the man voluntarily returned to testify.
Vecchione added that he and Frascogna had stayed in separate rooms at the San Juan Hilton; that his actions were proper; and that only some months later did he and Frascogna begin a personal relationship that lasted through 1998.
But Levitt points out that according to a footnote in Collins’ lawsuit (p34):
Vecchione claimed, in an interview with Newsday, that Frascogna was useful for her Spanish-language ability and for ‘charming’ Diaz into returning ‘voluntarily’ to New York. However, Diaz spoke English perfectly, as Frascogna certainly knew, from having presented his grand jury testimony. And it was not Frascogna’s ‘charms’ that induced Diaz to come back to New York but rather Vecchione’s promise to take care of Diaz’s probation violation and potential imprisonment, which Vecchione did.”
Returning to the present, Mike Vecchione had another bout of Post Tryst Subpoena Dementia (PTSD) when he was deposed by Collins’ attorney, Joel Rudin on June 21, 2013 about ADA Stacey Frascogna (pp. 270-273):
- RUDIN. · · Why did you bring Ms. Frascogna to Puerto Rico?
- VECCHIONE· · Ms. Frascogna was the individual who put the case into the grand jury, put Adrian Diaz in the grand jury and had developed a rapport with Mr. Diaz from what I was lead to believe, and it was the detective investigators idea to bring her down so that if they had located him, perhaps we could talk him back to New York……
- RUDIN. · · So that was their idea?
- VECCHIONE· · That was their idea, yes.
- RUDIN. · · It wasn’t your idea?
- VECCHIONE· · It was not my idea.
- RUDIN. · · Did Ms. Frascogna speaking Spanish have anything to do with her going down to Puerto Rico?
- VECCHIONE.· · Ms. Frascogna spoke conversational Spanish.
- RUDIN. · · Did you know whether Mr. Diaz spoke English?
- VECCHIONE· · I don’t believe I ever spoke to Mr. Diaz, but I believe he testified – I don’t recall, but I believe he did, that’s what my recollection is as I sit here today, but my recollection is that he was much more comfortable in Spanish.
- RUDIN. · · Well, were you aware whether or not when he testified in the grand jury, he testified in English?
- VECCHIONE· · I don’t recall. · If I had the grand jury minutes, I would be able to tell you, refresh my memory.
- RUDIN. · · Did you ever go on any trip outside New York State on any other occasion to bring back a witness?……
- VECCHIONE· · I don’t recall.
- RUDIN. · · Was your having a relationship with Ms. Frascogna any part of the decision to bring her to Puerto Rico?
- VECCHIONE· · I had no relationship with Ms. Frascogna at that time.
- RUDIN. · · Did you ever have a relationship?
- VECCHIONE· · I did.
- RUDIN. · · And when did that develop?
- VECCHIONE· · Some time after August of 1995, because I separated from my wife in August of 1995 and it was some time after that.
- RUDIN. · · When is the last time you spoke with Ms. Frascogna?
- VECCHIONE· · At my sister’s wake several years
- RUDIN. · · How long did the relationship
- VECCHIONE· · I honestly don’t recall. · A couple of years. · I don’t remember.
- RUDIN. · · During the period that the two of you had a relationship, did you ever did you ever recommend her for a promotion or a raise?
- VECCHIONE· · Not that I can recall.
- RUDIN. · · Did you ever evaluate her while she was at the DA’s office?
- VECCHIONE· · Not that I can recall.
Once again Vecchione’s memory fails him but he still manages to get in some real lies.
- Mike claims not to remember if the witness, Diaz, testified in English or Spanish
- Mike claims it was the Detective Investigators (DIs) who suggested having her on the trip
- He denies they were in a romantic relationship at the time of the trip in February 1995, insisting it started after his divorce in August 1995.
- He can’t remember when their romantic relationship ended
- He denies playing any role in evaluating her while she was in the DA’s office
- He denies playing any role in recommending or securing a pay raise for Stacey Frascogna
- He does not remember whether he ever went out-of-state to fetch any other witnesses
Vecchione has a problem. There are loads of folks around with excellent memory who can establish that his convenient memory lapses are so implausible that they border on perjury. This is what happened with his claim that he did not remember the Lauren Hersh training on Brady.
He said it wasn’t something he remembered but according to the New York Times, “I guess there was a spirited back and forth,” Amy Feinstein, a top deputy, said in an interview on Wednesday.” I am guessing that the Rudin subpoena of Barbara Burke is also doing wonders for refreshing KCDA memories. It is one thing to not remember; it is another thing to be caught not remembering.
There are many people who worked in Blue Zone at the time, with much better memories’ than Mike’s. I am guessing some of them will be subpoenaed and will testify truthfully. In the process of testifying they will help establish that while violating defendant rights is no problem for Mike, there is a pattern of his involvement with evaluations and promotions and it has nothing to do with upholding professional standards.
Mike, PTSD is curable, but you are not going to like the medicine.