2016-1-6 / Front Page

DA Brown Sworn In For Record Seventh Term

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown was sworn in for his seventh consecutive full term as District Attorney of Queens County – extending his record as the longest-tenured District Attorney in Queens history.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at the District Attorney’s Office located at 125-01 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.  Administering the oath was the Honorable Joseph A. Zayas, the Administrative Judge for the Criminal Division of Queens Supreme Court. Among those in attendance were members of his senior staff.        

 “Since 1991, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as the District Attorney for Queens County and look forward to continuing to work to improve the lives of its 2.2 million residents during the next four years,” said District Attorney Brown after being sworn in. 

“Through the years I have been able to help prevent crime and to build stronger and safer communities.  Nothing has been quite as rewarding to me as knowing that I have been able to make a difference.”
Based on preliminary statistics published by the New York City Police Department, Queens County was again among the City’s leaders in crime reduction in 2015.  The downward turn includes an overall 7 percent decline in serious crime from the previous year, led by a 19 percent drop in burglaries, a 12 percent drop in auto thefts and a 6 percent drop in murders.
According to the NYPD statistics, Queens County led the city in 2015 in reducing crime in three major categories – murder, burglary and auto theft.  Overall, Queens County saw serious crime drop 7 percent as opposed to 2 percent citywide.
District Attorney Brown said, “My office has steadfastly committed itself to ensuring a safe environment for those who live, work and visit in Queens County. Through our law-enforcement initiatives and the utilization of an array of cutting-edge interventions and prevention programs, we have made tremendous progress in accomplishing that goal which, in turn, has contributed greatly to New York City’s historic decline in serious and violent crime. Over the last twenty-two years, overall crime in Queens is down by approximately 80 percent.  Murders – a stalwart benchmark for both prosecutors and police – have fallen 79 percent, robberies are down more than 80 percent, burglaries are down 84 percent and felony assaults are down 41 percent.” 

District Attorney Brown continued, “Here in Queens County auto theft has also long been considered a benchmark in measuring our effectiveness in combating crime. Since becoming District Attorney in 1991, my office has been at the forefront of the battle against auto crime. I have devoted significant resources to ferreting out criminal organizations that profit from the illicit trafficking in stolen autos, auto parts and insurance fraud – and with great success. As a result, we have seen car thefts dramatically drop from a high of approximately 52,000 cars being stolen annually in 1991 to just less than 2,200 last year.

Chief among the major new initiatives introduced in 2015 by District Attorney Brown was the establishment of an Office of Immigrant Affairs within the Queens District Attorney’s Office to assist members of Queens County’s various immigrant communities – regardless of their immigration status – in navigating and accessing the criminal justice system.
“Queens County is the most ethnically diverse urban environment in America, with 47 percent of its 2.3 million population foreign born and nearly 140 different languages spoken here,” said District Attorney Brown. “As such, our office handles many cases annually in which members of immigrant communities are victimized – both by crimes of violence and crimes of financial exploitation. In some cases, immigrants are specifically targeted because they are immigrants.”
The District Attorney continued, “While these cases have been aggressively prosecuted in
a number of different bureaus throughout our office in the past, we recognize that with immigration policy changing and evolving on all levels of government there is an opportunity to do more and so we found it fitting to establish an Office of Immigrant Affairs in an effort to provide better coordination of these prosecutions and facilitate greater outreach to all of the affected communities.”

In other areas, District Attorney Brown continued his zero tolerance policy in 2015 against individuals who failed to recognize that a motor vehicle is a deadly weapon and that driving is a privilege and not a right by bringing felony reckless endangerment, vehicular assault, manslaughter, murder and other charges against drivers who seriously injured or killed pedestrians or caused vehicular crashes. For example, a 25-year-old Astoria man who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and failure to yield the right of way was sentenced in November 2015 to up to four years in prison for going through a stop sign and fatally striking a female pedestrian in a marked crosswalk. In another instance, a Florida man who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated was sentenced to up to eight years in prison for driving drunk and striking and killing a male pedestrian who was crossing the street outside of the crosswalk.
Two major sports betting investigations came to a conclusion in 2015 with the indictment in January of five individuals for unlawfully operating a sports betting enterprise in Queens County that annually took in hundreds of thousands of dollars in wagers on various professional and college sporting events. The takedown was followed in October with the indictment of seventeen individuals in New York, Nevada and California on charges of unlawfully operating a highly sophisticated sports gambling enterprise that stretched westward from Queens County and utilized offshore-based gambling websites. The enterprise, which is alleged to have annually booked more than $32 million in bets, is also accused of laundering its criminal proceeds by depositing and withdrawing large sums of cash from various banks throughout the United States.
Other significant long-term investigations into criminal enterprises conducted by District Attorney Brown’s Investigation Division that concluded in 2015 included the indictment of members and associates of two violent Far Rockaway street gangs separately charged with attempting to murder rival gang members; the dismantling of two large-scale auto theft rings; and the takedown of a forged credit/debit card ring based in Queens County that utilized stolen credit and debit card account information bought online to make purchases at department and other stores in the greater New York City-metropolitan area.
District Attorney Brown said, “We continue to be, I believe, among the best and busiest prosecutor’s offices in the country.  Last year our office handled more than 77,000 arrest cases – cases running the gamut from quality of life offenses to serious violent felonies.  And, by any standard, we handled those cases efficiently and judiciously.  We have a presence in all of the diverse communities of our county in seeking to prevent crime and in helping to turn young lives around.  In sum, we continue to have the respect of our law enforcement colleagues and the confidence of the people of Queens County.”
District Attorney Brown continued, “In pursuing the office’s core mission to increase public safety and reduce crime in 2015, we have vigorously pursued hate crime cases against those individuals who chose their victims based on religion, sexuality, the color of their skin and other factors.  We have aggressively gone after illegal cigarette traffickers, organized trademark counterfeiting rings and legitimate businesses and franchises that annually cheat the government out of millions of dollars of much needed State and City revenue. We continue to do our part in protecting our younger residents by going after on-line child pornographers, as well as sex traffickers and sexual predators who attempt to meet underage children on-line for sexual relations.”
District Attorney Brown added, “The Queens County District Attorney’s Office has long been recognized as a nationwide leader in the number of court-authorized wiretaps that we handle. Our Special Prosecutions Division runs a host of crime prevention, school-based and community outreach programs and staff members attend our precinct council and community board meetings.  We have dedicated Child Advocacy and Family Justice Centers – and a Domestic Violence Bureau that maintains the highest domestic violence conviction rate and the lowest dismissal rate in the City and which takes more pre-indictment pleas than the rest of the City combined. We statistically maintain the  best arrest to arraignment time in the City and because of our assertive bail jumping program – in which defendants are indicted if they fail to appear in court for their felony cases – we have the lowest failure-to-appear in court rate  in the city.”
District Attorney Brown said that among the office’s successful prosecutions in 2015 were:
• People v. Erika Menendez.  Menendez, who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, for shoving a man to his death as a number 7 subway train roared into the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside, was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
• People v. Ronald Giddens.  Giddens, who was convicted of murder and other charges, was sentenced to 36 years to life in prison for lying in wait and pummeling a romantic love rival to death.
• People v. Ernest Mattison.  Mattison, who was convicted of the 1980 strangulation murder of an elderly Flushing man during a burglary at his residence, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  In 2008, the Statewide Automated Fingerprint Identification System (SAFIS) generated several possible fingerprint matches in its database and a subsequent forensic analysis determined that Mattison’s prints matched those found on three of the jewelry boxes ransacked at the crime scene.
• People v. John F. Thomas.  Thomas was convicted of attempting to murder a New York City police sergeant during a pursuit.  Thomas is facing up to 40 years to life in prison when sentenced.
• People v. Cedric N. Simpson.  Simpson, a Queens barber convicted of first-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for fatally stabbing a teenage customer who had sold him a pair of headphones for which Simpson had not paid him.

• People v. Maurice McArthur.  McArthur, who was convicted of assaulting a police officer and other charges during a high-speed chase from Queens to Manhattan and back again, was sentenced to five years in prison.
• People v. Malik and Devonee Wilkerson.  The Wilkersons were each sentenced to 20 years in prison on their guilty pleas of second-degree kidnapping for abducting a Harlem woman, who died following a brutal beating by them.  The victim was leaving the pair with whom she had an ongoing sexual relationship for years.
• People v. Melchor Evangelista.  Evangelista, who was convicted of sexually abusing two young sisters – ages 6 and 10 – in their Ozone Park residence, was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
District Attorney Brown concluded by saying, “The reason why I have so much enjoyed my tenure as District Attorney over these many years, why it is that I’ve found those years to be so rewarding, and why I look forward to continuing to serve as the District Attorney of this county for many years to come, is the successes that we have enjoyed in lowering the level of violence in our County and improving the quality of life of the people of our great county and because of the dedication and professionalism of those with whom we work. I am optimistic that by continuing the very successful strategies that we have employed over the years we, together with our law enforcement colleagues, can make Queens County even safer in 2016.”

Biography – District Attorney Richard A. Brown
 District Attorney Brown first took office on June 1, 1991, when then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo appointed him the interim Queens District Attorney to succeed John J, Santucci. At the time, District Attorney Brown was serving as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department – the State’s second-highest court.  He was elected to his first full four-year term as District Attorney at the general election held in November 1991 and was re-elected at the 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections.
 During his last term, District Attorney Brown became the longest serving District Attorney in Queens County when he surpasses the record set by District Attorney Benjamin Downey more than a century ago.  Under District Attorney Brown’s leadership, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office has attained an extraordinary reputation as one of the finest prosecutors’ offices in the State.
 District Attorney Brown has spent more than fifty years of his entire legal career in public service.  Prior to becoming a member of the judiciary in September 1973, he spent nine years serving in various important legal positions on behalf of the leadership of the New York State Senate and Assembly and at the 1967 New York State Constitutional Convention. District Attorney Brown also spent four years as New York City’s Legislative Representative in Albany where he managed the City’s Albany office and supervised its legislative program.
 After serving as a Judge of the New York City Criminal Court for less than two years, District Attorney Brown was appointed the Supervising Judge of the Brooklyn Criminal Court and assumed full administrative responsibility for the operation of that court and supervision of all judicial and non-judicial personnel. In January 1976, District Attorney Brown was designated an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.  In November 1977, Judge Brown was elected a Justice of the Supreme Court in Queens County.  At the end of the following year he returned to Albany as Counsel to Governor Hugh L. Carey where he served as the governor’s chief legal advisor.  On March 3, 1981, District Attorney Brown returned to the Supreme Court and the following year was designated by Governor Carey as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department. He was thereafter twice re-designated as a member of the Appellate Division by Governor Cuomo.
 Judge Brown is a past president of the New York State District Attorneys Association and a member of the New York State Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the Queens County Bar Association, among others. In addition, he serves as Chair of the Albany-based New York Prosecutors Training Institute.

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