Attorney General

Schneiderman Hires For Syracuse And Suffolk County Offices

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman has filled posts in two regional offices, turning to aides with ties to labor as well as County Executive Steve Bellone, his office on Friday announced.

Trisha Botty will become the central New York director for intergovernmental affairs in the AG’s Syracuse regional office. Botty has worked for 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, Assemblyman Sam Roberts (who now works for the Cuomo administration) and was most recently the political director for SEIU Local 200United.

TJ Hatter will become Schneiderman’s Suffolk County director for intergovernmental affairs. Hatter has worked in local government for the last 10 years, serving as a citizen advocate for Brookhaven Supervisor Brian Foley, and most recently was an aide to Bellone, the Suffolk County executive.

Vacco Questions Executive Order For Police-Involved Killings

vaccoRepublican former Attorney General Dennis Vacco questioned on Thursday granting current AG Eric Schneiderman the power of special prosecutor when it comes to cases in which police kill civilians, calling the executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo “unnecessary.”

“I think that it’s a bit of an overreaction,” Vacco said. “Some may think it’s not bit of an overreaction. It’s an overreaction to a problem that does not exist here in New York state.”

Cuomo issued the executive order last month after state lawmakers could not agree on a package of criminal justice reform measures that had been called for after a series of incidents in which civilians died in interactions with law enforcement both in New York and nationally.

Cuomo granted Schneiderman the authority to investigate and prosecute the cases as a precaution against concerns raised that local prosecutors are too close with the law enforcement officials they often have to work with on other cases. More >

Cuomo Issues Executive Order For Turner Case

cuomonaacpGov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Monday issued an updated executive order to empower Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to review, investigate and potentially prosecute law enforcement officials in connection to the death of Raynette Turner.

Turner, a 52-year-old Mount Vernon woman, died in a holding cell on July 27 while she was awaiting arraignment.

Schneiderman earlier in the day on Monday announced he would investigate the death of Turner under the powers of an executive order Cuomo issued earlier this year that supersedes the local district attorneys when it comes to the deaths of civilians related to police and law enforcement. More >

Schneiderman’s Office To Investigate Death Of Mount Vernon Woman (Updated)

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Monday announced it would investigate the death of Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old black woman who died on July 27 in a Mount Vernon holding cell.

The investigation is the first Schneiderman’s office is launching since Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order granting the attorney general special prosecutor status in police-related killings.

The executive order, which has been staunchly opposed by local district attorneys, gives Schneiderman’s office the authority to investigate and prosecute law enforcement-related deaths of civilians.

“My office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, consistent with Executive Order No. 147 and a conforming order to be issued by the Governor at my request,” Schneiderman said in a statement

More >

After Libous Conviction, AG Renews Ethics Reform Call

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office had a hand in the investigation that led to the conviction yesterday of now former Sen. Tim Libous, called the Binghamton Republican’s political demise “sad,” and said it should reignite calls for additional ethics reform in Albany.

“These cases are always sad cases,” Schneiderman said of his former Senate colleague during a CapTon interview last night. “To have someone who is supposed to be in public service, swears to uphold the public trust, found to be guilty of a crime, it’s never happy.”

“And it really is, again, another reminder, in my view, that the structure in Albany has to be dramatically changed if you’re going to change the culture,” the AG continued.

“It’s really something that has been happening way too often, and it’s not going to stop. I proposed some very drastic reforms myself, proposed legislation. And I think either that or something like that has to happen, or people will continue to be investigated, and the public trust will be further eroded.”

In the wake of the corruption scandal that brought down former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at the beginning of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a package of ethics reform measures and vowed to force the Legislature’s hand in accepting it as part of this year’s budget deal – even if that meant shutting down the government.

In the end, however, Cuomo comprised on ethics reform.

He focused mostly on more disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, got some – but not all – of what he wanted, and ended up with changes that good government advocates and others said were not significant enough to really address Albany’s pervasive corruption problem.

Schneiderman went considerably further in his ethics reform proposals, which included a call to ban moonlighting by state lawmakers and giving them a big pay raise to compensate for their lost outside income.

The AG called on Cuomo to stick to his guns on reform, saying a late budget would be a “small price to pay” for systemic change in Albany.

After Libous’ conviction of a single felony count of lying to the FBI about using his public post to get his son, Matthew, a job at a politically connected law firm – a decision that automatically ejected him from his Senate seat – six good government groups renewed their call for a special legislative session to address ethics reform.

The groups said the failure to address outstanding issues – like closing the LLC loophole in the campaign finance law, which is now the subject of a lawsuit by some of the same entities – is “indefensible” and “shockingly irresponsible”, and the governor should demand the Legislature’s speedy return to Albany.

Schneiderman declined to go quite that far.

“I think that there is a lot more support than people think in the Legislature itself for dramatic reforms,” the AG said. “A lot of the younger members in particular from the Senate and Assembly have said to me, ‘Yeah, we actually like this idea,’…we’ve got to hermetically seal them off, to the extent we can, from money in government and from money in politics.”

“…Albany has become a place where everyone drives 90 miles an hour, and if you pull them over, their first reaction is not, ‘Oh, I’m breaking the law,’ it’s, ‘Why are you pulling me over? Everyone here drives 90 miles an hour.’ It’s something that really has to be shaken up in a big way, and I think the sooner the better.”

The AG declined to criticize Cuomo for failing to wrest a more significant reform deal from the Legislature, saying the governor had a “lot of things on his plate” and an unusually difficult legislative session that saw the ouster of not one, but two conference leaders as a result of corruption scandals.

“I do think that support is building, and will continue to build,” Schneiderman said. “And this is going to end with a bigger reform movement, it’s going to end with some kind of comprehensive reform. Otherwise, this is going to keep happening.”

“And I tell this to my colleagues, most of whom are completely honorable public servants in the state Legislature: You’ve got to do something about this…this is the kind of stuff that makes people lose their confidence in government.”

Schneiderman defended himself – and Cuomo – for calling for closure of the LLC loophole and then turning around and using it to raise campaign cash by saying that unilateral disarmament is “not the right answer” and has “not worked traditionally.”

Schneiderman Confident He Can Work With DAs

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said he was confident he will be able to smooth over differences with district attorneys around the state upset over an executive order empowering the AG’s office to investigate police-related killings of civilians.

“I’m confident we’re going to work something out,” Schneiderman said on The Capitol Pressroom. “It was met with some surprise and outrage by some DAs, but I think at the end of the day these are good public servants who want to see justice done.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month granted Schneiderman’s office the power of special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases in which police kill civilians — a power the attorney general had sought since December following a grand jury declining to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island.

The order was signed after Cuomo and state lawmakers could not agree on a package of legislative changes, such as new grand jury transparency requirements and a special monitor for cases in which civilians die in encounters with police.

Cuomo has said he will try again next year on a criminal justice bill. Schneiderman’s special prosecutor role expires after 12 months, but can be renewed.

But the move has been met with criticism and skepticism by district attorneys after Cuomo and Schneiderman raised concerns over whether the local prosecutors had a conflict of interest in seeking charges against police.

“When you hear the pain of those families you want to give them the comfort that there’s no perceived conflict of interest,” Schneiderman said in the interview.

Schneiderman’s office last week sent a memorandum and letter to district attorneys informing them they have the power to respond first in police-related killing cases, such as questioning witnesses and collecting evidence. They do not have the power, however, grant immunity or question witnesses before a grand jury.

DAs have raised the possibility of a legal challenge to the executive order and believe the memo from Schneiderman conflicts with the concern that prosecutors are too close with police.

But Schneiderman today insisted he’s trying to work with DAs to develop a system in which the public can have restored faith in the criminal justice system, which the AG said is in need of broader changes.

Schneiderman met with the statewide district attorneys association soon after the executive order was signed by Cuomo.

“I’ve been engaged with them since day one,” Schneiderman said. “We’ve been having a dialogue ever since with them. I’m confident this will be worked because these cases are too important.”

Schneiderman Pushes Expanded Criminal Justice Reforms

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved special prosecutor status for his office in police-related killings, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday published an op/ed laying out an expanded push for criminal justice reform measures.

In the op/ed published on The Huffington Post website this morning, Schniederman calls for the need to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the state, a measure that faltered at the end of the legislative session.

Cuomo and lawmakers could not agree on a broad juvenile justice reform package that included moving certain cases involving those under 18 to Family Court. Instead, the state will begin moving some youthful offenders to alternative facilities.

The attorney general argued in the essay that the reform proposal shouldn’t be dropped.

“In those cases where our children do end up in the system, they should be treated as children,” he wrote. “After the governor and legislature failed to agree on a “Raise the Age” proposal this past session, New York remains one of only two states that automatically treats 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. This is unconscionable.”

At the same time, Schneiderman is backing changes to the bail system, which he calls “unjust.”

“Unable to pay for bail, they languish in Rikers Island or other jails while they await trial, regardless of guilt,” he wrote.

The op/ed comes as Schneiderman and the state’s elected district attorneys are in open disagreement over the protocols under the executive order, approved by Cuomo earlier this month.

Schneiderman, under the order, is empowered to investigate and prosecute cases in which police kill civilians. In turn, Schneiderman has told DAs they can question witnesses and collect evidence, but not confer immunity or question them before a grand jury.

For DAs, the Schneiderman directive is in conflict with the executive, but the AG’s office has insisted there are no legal problems with DAs initiating an investigation.

Schneiderman And DAs Trade Letters On Police Probe Authority

District attorneys are continuing to push back against an executive order that designates Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the special prosecutor in cases in which police kill civilians.

At the same time, Schneiderman in a letter to the president of the District Attorneys Association wrote this week that some members have sought to “create uncertainty where none is warranted.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order granting Schneiderman’s office special prosecutor status in police killing cases. The move was opposed by district attorneys, who criticized Cuomo’s claims that DAs have a “perceived” conflict in cases involving law enforcement.

Schneiderman, in turn, released a memorandum to the state’s 62 district attorneys lays out their role in cases in which police have killed a civilian.

The attorney general’s office, in sum, granted powers that were previously possessed by district attorneys such as questioning witnesses, drafting search warrants and preserving evidence.

However, the district attorney offices may not confer immunity on witnesses or elicit testimony in grand jury proceedings.

District attorneys have bristled at the memorandum, questioning why Schneiderman is, in essence, bestowing power to them they had prior to the executive order.

In a letter released by the district attorneys association, Broome County DA Gerald Mollen suggested Schneiderman’s memorandum and the executive order were in conflict.

“Beyond substantial legal concerns,” Mollen wrote in the letter dated Thursday, “remains the obvious logical inconsistency of superseding all 62 elected District Attorneys due to a perceived conflict of interest and loss of confidence, only to immediately designate them to perform crucial tasks at the most critical time in the investigation of one of these controversial incidents.”

Schneiderman’s office in response released its own letter that was sent on Wednesday in response to concerns raised by DAs.

The letter points out the then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1972 suspended the powers of DAs in New York City for certain corruption crimes over the course of five days — a move recommended by the Knapp Commission, which was upheld by the state Court of Appeals.

At the same time, Schneiderman wrote there is no legal restriction on DAs taking action begin an investigation in the wake of an incident in which a police officer kills a civilian.

If the DA fails to take action in the case it will be “because of the choice by the District Attorney not to take appropriate actions.”

Schneiderman’s office in a statement said the attorney general will continue to work with local district attorneys to enact the executive order.

“As we have consistently said, the Attorney General is working in good faith to cooperate with the District Attorneys to ensure the Executive Order is implemented in a way that promotes justice by ensuring a thorough and impartial review of any cases that arise,” said Schneiderman spokesman Damien LaVera.

Cuomo signed the executive order this month after state lawmakers could not agree on a package of criminal justice reforms that had been called for after a spate of incidents in which police had killed unarmed black men.

Speaking at a gathering of the NAACP this week, Cuomo said the executive order empowering Schneiderman as special prosecutor could be a national model.

DAASNY Mollen to AG Schneiderman 7 16 2015 FINAL .pdf by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman Mollen 071515 by Nick Reisman

In Memo, Schneiderman Outlines DAs Role (Updated)

A memorandum sent by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to district attorneys around the state outlines their role in investigations involving police-related deaths of civilians.

The memo grants some powers — previously possessed by DAs — when it comes to specific cases, despite the executive order granting Schneiderman the role of special prosecutor.

The memo states that DAs may question witnesses, draft search warrants, preserve evidence, but may not confer immunity or elicit testimony in grand jury proceedings.

From the memo, which was provided by Rensselaer County DA Joel Abelove:

“In such matters, I hereby designate you, the Distract Attorney, to exercise such powers and perform such duties in your county of jurisdiction as you deem appropriate under the circumstances until such time as you are direct otherwise in writing by the Special Prosecutor. This includes, but is not limited to, questioning witnesses, drafting search warrants, preserving evidence, and supporting the investigation of the incident, but does not include, without prior authorization from the Special Prosecutor or his designee, conferring immunity on any witness, eliciting witness testimony in grand jury proceedings, or entering plea or cooperation agreements.”

Schneiderman’s office was empowered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive order to investigate and prosecute cases in which civilians are killed in encounters by police, a move that has angered local DAs who otherwise would have jurisdiction.

Schneiderman personally gave a presentation alongside Cuomo counsel Alphonso David to the state DAs association in Saratoga Springs last week on the executive order and special prosecutor’s office that’s now under his jurisdiction.

In a letter accompanying the memo, Schneiderman writes to DAs that the outline of duties for the DA is a “first step in that coordination” that he pledged at the conference.

The responsibilities outlined by Schneiderman are aimed to “give you the latitude to operate in the crucial hours after the incident.”

Abelove, in an interview on Fred Dicker’s Talk-1300 show, said a legal challenge to the executive order by the DAs association was being considered.

Cuomo signed the executive order last week after state lawmakers did not pass broader criminal justice reform measures called for in the wake of a spate of incidents involving unarmed black men being killed in encounters with police.

The statewide district attorneys association has blasted the order, calling it “gravely flawed” for taking power away from the local elected officials in police-related cases.

Updated: Schneiderman spokesman Damien LaVera released a statement.

“The Attorney General is committed to working with the District Attorneys to implement the Executive Order in a way that ensures a thorough and fair review of any cases that arise,” he said.

In Fundraising Pitch, Schneiderman Points To Minimum Wage Efforts

A fundraising pitch from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election campaign this week pointed to his efforts to recoup lost wages for workers, tying that back to a broader effort to gain a minimum wage hike for fast-food workers.

“As your Attorney General, I am dedicated to ensuring that New York is a place with justice and equality for all,” Schneiderman’s fundraising email sent this week says. “This means fighting for those who need it most, including New York’s low wage and fast food workers. Because no one who works full-time should struggle to care for themselves and their families.”

In the email, sent Wednesday, Schneiderman points out that the wage board, convened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to study and likely recommend a pay increase for fast-food workers, was initially his idea.

Schneiderman in an op/ed in The Daily News had proposed a wage board for all workers; Cuomo convened a Department of Labor panel for the fast-food industry specifically.

“In the past four years, we have recovered more than $20.5 million for more than 17,000 workers who were cheated out of their wages by their employers, including some of the largest fast food companies in the world,” the email states. “I am fighting every day for an increase in the state’s minimum wage and successfully proposed a Wage Board to investigate wage levels in our state. And earlier this year, my office launched an investigation into “on call” practices of major retail chains to make sure that workers are being fairly compensated.”

The email comes the same week that Cuomo signed an executive order to empower Schneiderman’s office to investigate and prosecute deaths of civilians caused by interactions with law enforcement.

Schneiderman’s role in the criminal justice arena isn’t mentioned in the Wednesday email, nor is it referenced in a follow-up note to supporters that was sent Friday morning, which was released to coincide with a looming reporting deadline at the Board of Elections.

Schneiderman, a Democrat from Manhattan, has denied he is interested in running for governor in 2018 and Cuomo has signaled he plans to seek a third term.

Schneiderman won a second term last year, defeating Republican John Cahill.