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New York Sun: Criticism of Hynes Gains Volume

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Posted by GET NY on 19:15:08 12/22/04

Criticism of Hynes Gains Volume


New York Sun

Staff Reporter of the Sun

A growing number of critics are accusing the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, of using his office to punish political opponents. The criticism comes days after Mr. Hynes's office indicted the chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Assemblyman Clarence Norman, a former political ally, on grand.larceny charges.

Mr. Norman's allies have claimed Mr. Hynes's decision to pursue criminal charges against the Democratic leader is politically motivated. Sandra Roper, a lawyer who ran against Mr. Hynes in 2001, is echoing that charge. She was indicted this year on charges of stealing $9,000 from a client.

Ms. Roper says the professional disciplinary committee that normally deals with alleged legal malpractice should have handled the matter. Ms. Roper's lawyer, Raymond Baierlein, said he would file a motion this morning in Brooklyn Supreme Court demanding information to help clarify the process by which Mr. Hynes's office decided to pursue criminal charges against Ms. Roper.

"I am researching a motion for selective prosecution," Mr. Baierlein said. "It's my client's opinion that this prosecution is no coincidence. The message is, stay away from machine politics or you're going to be prosecuted."

In the 2001 Democratic primary race for Brooklyn district attorney, Ms. Roper, a first-time candidate, challenged Mr. Hynes's residency, claiming he really lived in Breezy Point, Queens. Mr. Hynes, in turn, sought to invalidate Ms. Roper's nominating petitions, in a series of legal challenges that a courtlater threw out.

Although Ms. Roper lost the race, she surprised observers by polling more than 36% of the vote on a shoestring campaign budget.

"Pve tried hard not to question the district attorney's motivations," said Bob Liff, a spokesman for Mr. Norman. "But it hasn't gone without notice that in his last re-election, Mr. Hynes's opponent, who is a virtual nobody, got more than 30% of the vote. It's worth noting that she was subsequently indicted."

Another political opponent of Mr. Hynes, John O'Hara, said the prosecutor's actions follow a pattern.

"This whole prosecution against Sandra and Clarence is a multimillion-dollar publicity stunt, paid for by the taxpayers,' said Mr: O'Hara, a lawyer and political gadfly who was prosecuted three times by Mr. Hynes, starting in 1996, for voting from an address that wasn't his true home.

Mr. O'Hara is believed to be only the second person ever convicted of voting illegally; the first was Susan B. Anthony, the 19th century women's rights activist. As a result of his conviction, Mr. O'Hara has been disbarred and is two-thirds of the way through a sentence of 1,500 hours of community, service.

Although the state's highest court upheld the charges in 2001, Mr. O'Hara said he would file a petition next month - on Election Day - to ask the Supreme Court of the United States to hear his case.

"This is the inherent problem whenever you have a prosecutor that's always running for higher office," Mr. O'Hara said. "They are not concerned with the murderers, robbers, and rapists. Your whole week is occupied with a press conference."

But the district attorney denied the allegations of political bias. "O'Hara has had his day and a half in court," said Jerry Schmetterer, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes. "Those cases have gone through every possible appeal in the criminal justice system, and the prosecutor's position has been upheld."

Mr Schmetterer declined to comment on Ms. Roper's case, which a special proseeutor is handling.

The controversy is likely to continue. In a radio commentary scheduled to air later this week, Mayor Koch will call on Governor Pataki to take over Mr. Hynes's corruption investigation. The prosecutor's office rejected the idea.

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