Manhattan District Attorney Candidates Clash in First Debate

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Manhattan District Attorney Candidates Clash in First Debate

Unlike previous races where competitors fought for the toughest crimes, most of the eight Democratic candidates promised major changes in how they deal with law enforcement, which they said had disproportionately affected the color communities. Although candidates participated in numerous candidate forums, all of which were held virtually, the debate was a potential moment that could affect the outcome of the race.

Spectrum NY1 host Errol Louis asked candidates how they could reduce violent crime, which has increased in Manhattan and much of the city since the pandemic began. In 2020, the New York Police Department recorded a 61% increase in homicides, and shootings increased more than 40% over the same period.

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Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights attorney, pointed to a long list of crimes that she would not prosecute.

Liz Crotty, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney and former district attorney, took the most traditional stance on law and order and called for the New York Police Department’s anti-crime division to be reinstated. The plainclothes unit was disbanded after the murder of George Floyd last year. NYPD officials said they were trying to reform the department.

“I’m running a security campaign,” Ms. Crotty said, noting that she was the only candidate who hadn’t made a list of crimes that she wouldn’t prosecute.

Former prosecutors Alvin Bragg, Lucy Lang, Diana Florence and Tali Farhadian Weinstein pointed to their previous experiences as to why they are best suited for this role.

“I am proud to be a prosecutor and a civil servant,” said Ms. Farhadian Weinstein. “It’s about removing resources from cases that don’t make anyone safer and knowing where to put them.”

Mr. Bragg, a native of Harlem, drew on his personal perspective and his 20-year legal career: “I’ve lived this job all my life.”

Ms. Lang said that “there are some candidates in this race who are committed to the political class and others to Wall Street,” but she served as assistant district attorney for the Manhattan community.

The June 22nd Democratic primary is likely to determine who will ultimately succeed Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who does not stand for re-election. Democrats are far more numerous than Republicans in Manhattan.

The debate was taped before Tuesday evening, with candidates appearing remotely by video and making brief opening statements before answering questions put by Mr Louis. The candidates were also able to ask questions of their opponents in a part of the evening that was controversial.

Several candidates targeted Mr. Bragg, a former assistant attorney general and federal prosecutor, and Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal attorney. The two have emerged as front runners and raised more money than the rest of the field.

Ms. Aboushi asked Ms. Farhadian Weinstein if she was pursuing a case against her husband’s hedge fund. She was previously criticized for accepting large donations from Wall Street.

“I will prosecute anyone who breaks the law, including my donors. I would expect you to do the same, ”said Ms. Farhadian Weinstein. Obviously, if her spouse were charged with a crime, she would be reused, she said.

“25 to 50 percent of the funds in all coffers come from a small number of industries,” she once replied to MP Dan Quart, adding that she simply did a better job raising money than any other candidate.

Ms. Crotty interviewed Ms. Farhadian Weinstein about her family charitable foundation and why it was formed outside of the state.

“I think everyone learns this in law school,” Ms. Farhadian Weinstein replied, referring to the Delaware incorporation.

Another candidate, Eliza Orlins, a Manhattan attorney, later tweeted that Ms. Farhadian Weinstein’s charity was based in New Jersey, quoting ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization. A spokeswoman for Ms. Farhadian Weinstein confirmed that the foundation is based in New Jersey.

Ms. Orlins urged Mr. Bragg to condemn the actions of his “friend” Eric Schneiderman, the former attorney general who resigned in 2018 on charges of molesting his romantic partners. Mr. Bragg served as the Assistant Attorney General under Mr. Schneiderman.

“Eric Schneiderman and I are not friends, he hired me based on my experience,” said Bragg.

“I exclaimed his horrific behavior a long, long time ago,” he said, and was part of the leadership team that encouraged Mr. Schneiderman to resign within hours of the news being released.

Mr. Schneiderman confirmed the abuse in court records last month related to a one-year suspension of his legal license.

One big topic that was barely brought up was the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into former President Donald Trump. The candidates have all tried to stay away from a particular case that they may have to pursue for fear of a conflict of interest and Mr Louis did not ask about it directly.

Manhattan District Attorney Race

Write to Deanna Paul at [email protected]

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