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THE NEW YORK SUN: 06/17/04: Hynes opponents Gather To Detail D.A. Complaints

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Posted by GET NY on 10:31:42 12/25/04

Hynes opponents Gather To Detail D.A. Complaints


Errol Louis

Today at 1 p.m., three past political opponents of Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes arescheduled to hold a rally and press conference on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall to complain that the D.A. has used the prosecutorial power of his office to retaliate against
them. Mr. Hynes's office has consistently denied the charges.

It will be hard for most Brooklynites to give credence to many of the anti-Hynes charges that will be aired today. Accepting some of the more lurid allegations requires believing the D.A's office is being run like La Cosa Nostra.

That's clearly not the case, but the three protesters have certainly had some tough encounters with Mr. Hynes's office.

One of the protesters, John O'Hara, is known in Brooklyn political circles as one of the only people ever criminally prosecuted for registering and voting from a false address - his girlfriend's.

Mr. O'Hara, a political gadfly and former lawyer, was prosecuted three times for the seemingly minor offense.

The first case against Mr. O'Hara was overturned on appeal, the next ended in a hung jury, and the third resulted in a felony conviction. He was disbarred, fined $20,000, and sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service. A final set of appeals went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year let the conviction stand and declined to hear Mr. O'Hara's case.

Also expected at today's rally is Sandra Roper, an attorney who ran against Mr. Hynes in 2001, polling an unexpectedly high 36% of the Democratic primary vote.

Ms. Roper was later indicted on charges of forging documents and stealing $9,000 from a client in a predatory lending case.

Ms. Roper's case was put in the hands of a special prosecutor from outside of Brooklyn to ensure fair treatment, but her lawyer has alleged in court that the case represents "uneven app ication of prosecutorial discretion motivated by malevolent intent."

The third of the headliners at today's event is a former civil court judge, John Phillips. As reported by The New York Sun in February, Mr. Phillips, an eccentric community figure, told allies he wanted to run against Mr. Hynes in 2001, but subsequently became enmeshed in an investigation by a special senior citizen's assistance unit inside the D.A.'s office.

Mr. Hynes's office says it stepped in to prevent a potential fraud against Mr. Phillips, who showed signs of being mentally incapable of managing a chain of residential and commercial buildings he owned. Mr. Phillips ended up with a court-appointed guardian who sold off many of the buildings; the former judge is now in state court trying to get some of the properties back.

Today's rally, titled "Justice for Judge John Phillips," will be one of the first public appearances in years by the former judge. Mr. Hynes's office has unwaveringly defended its actions in the O'Hara, Roper, and Phillips cases.

Whether the charges being leveled today have any lasting impact will depend on if any of the candidates considering a run against Mr. Hynes next year takes the allegations seriously. For those keeping score, the field of possible candidates includes Arnold Kriss, a lawyer backed by Mayor Koch; Mark Peters, a former assistant attorney general under Eliot Spitzer; Senator John Sampson; Council Member David Yassky, and election lawyer Paul Wooten.

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