Manhattan DA Primary Tomorrow: Vote for Richard Aborn

Bump And Update: If you live in Manhattan, don't forget to vote tomorrow in the District Attorney's race. Richard Aborn is the candidate who will bring the office into a new era in which the criminal justice system relies less on incarceration and more on prevention and intervention, revamp juvenile justice policies, actively work to reduce racial disparities in the system and provide greater protections against wrongful convictions. He's got great, solid plans, see below. Good luck, Richard!


Original Post 9/11/09

The Manhattan District Attorney's race is down to the final week of campaigning. The primary will be held September 15. Since all three candidates are Democrats, the primary winner will get the job.

I'm supporting Richard Aborn. You can read why in my extensive interview of him. [More...]

The New York Daily News yesterday reported he continues to make inroads in the race, where his opponents, Leslie Crocker-Snyder, known as a hanging judge when she was on the bench and a tough on crime prosecutor before that, and Cyrus Vance, son of former Secretary of State Cy Vance, have far greater name recognition.

I think Richard's message is resonating, because he has a plan and a vision for change, and it's one any large DA's office desperately needs over "business as usual."

"I view myself as a candidate that has a larger vision, a more progressive vision, a more effective vision of where we can take the criminal justice system that can simultaneously continue the fight against violent crime, but also stop crime before it starts," Aborn said.

Campaigning, Aborn repeatedly tells voters "there's something wrong with our criminal justice system" when nearly one of three African-American men spent time in prison and four of five juvenile offenders are re-arrested.

Aborn, derided by critics as a policy wonk, has based his campaign on his vision to prevent crime before it happens. His rivals, he argues, will be status quo administrators. "Their view of the office is to pretty much keep it the way it is with some changes," he told the Daily News.

As Richard says,

This is a moment of enormous opportunity to change the criminal justice system in a way that continues to fight against violent crime, but seizes the opportunity to drive other people off the pathway to violence," he said. "We can stop crime before it starts."

I explain how he plans to do that in my interview.

Leslie Crocker Snyder this week said she supports "stop and frisks" as an important tool for law enforcement. The New York Times reports:

In the course of her career, Ms. Snyder has left a wide universe of statements, many of them blunt, for her detractors to dissect. They have done just that, saying she lacks the temperament to be Manhattan’s chief prosecutor, the post she is now seeking.

She once told a convicted rapist and murderer that she wanted to administer a lethal injection with her own hands, and she told a local Jewish newspaper in February that Robert M. Morgenthau, the 90-year-old Manhattan district attorney, had to be “trotted out and propped up for press conferences.”

Snyder doesn't get it. She thinks "“I think I’m running against the establishment." The truth is that she is the establishment and the embodiment of the tough on crime crowd principles of the last 20 years. She offers no fresh new approach, as does Aborn, and to a lesser extent, Cy Vance.

She's a "johnny come lately" to the idea of a prosgressive prosecutor. Sure, now she says she supports "bureaus that would handle cases involving potential wrongful convictions, housing and terrorism." Richard Aborn not only had a plan for wrongful convictions, he wrote a paper spelling it out in great detail (pdf).

On Juvenile Justice, again, it's Richard with the concrete, specific plan. (pdf). As I wrote earlier,

New York is one of only two states that treats 15 year olds as adults. His proposals include: focusing on early intervention for at-risk youth by providing mental health treatment, increased after-school programs, life-skills training and other measures aimed at preventing crime and reducing recidivism; raising the age of juveniles eligible to be charged as adults and keeping juveniles charged with non-violent crimes out of adult court and prisons entirely. He recognizes the danger children face by being placed in adult facilities and that psychological treatment is a greater deterrence to youth crime than incarceration. He also understands that children and adolescents lack the neurological capacity to fully understand the consequences of their actions and the ability to control their impulses. He will utilize “peer courts” rather than family courts and criminal courts for non-violent, minor offenses, and restorative justice principles in sentencing for minor crimes.

On Drug Law Reform, he's with us:

Aborn supports repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, stating, "Drug kingpins deserve prison. First and second-time non-violent offenders deserve an opportunity to rebuild their lives." He also supports medical marijuana.

He supports a strengthened indigent defense system:

There should be no trial by ambush and no trials by overburdened indigent defense lawyers. “I take the second word in criminal justice very seriously.” He’s a strong supporter of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Public defenders must not be burdened with excessive case loads. This leaves them with insufficient time to spend with each client and on each case. They should be paid more money so that more qualified lawyers are attracted to the job.

Is he perfect? Of course not. While he (thankfully from my point of view) doesn't support restricting gun ownership by qualified persons, he still believes that guns are a cause of the violence in New York City and illegal possession of guns needs to be dealt with strictly.

I think the question is, which of these three candidates' intend to bring progressive-minded changes to the DA’s office that are most likely to result in positive and concrete reforms that will reverberate throughout the criminal justice system in Manhattan? The answer, I think, is Richard.

So, if you are in New York, whether you are a defense lawyer, a defendant or a friend or loved one of a defendant, or just someone who cares about justice, think about which candidate is proposing more basic fairness for defendants, without compromising strict enforcement for violent crime? Who is proposing -- with a concrete plan in place to start on day 1 -- to direct low level offenders away from prison and into mental health counseling, drug treatment, vocational skills, etc, as an alternative to jail. That's Richard Aborn. America cannot jail itself out of our criminal justice problems. We need something new. Our states are going bankrupt from the absurd "lock 'em up" mentality of the 80's and 90's. Richard is here now, at the right time and place, with a vision backed by concrete plans to make these progressive advancements a reality.

I hope all New Yorkers read his literature. I spoke to him for over an hour, and asked him some pretty tough questions that I hoped he'd agree with me on, but knew they went too far for any prosecutor. He didn't evade the question and hem and haw. He told me why he didn't support these programs. I'd so much rather have someone who tells me straight what he'll stand for and do once in office than someone who just tries to read my interests and pretend his are the same. Richard didn't do that. And, at the end, the disagreements we had were very minor compared to the issues we agreed on and on which I believe he will carry out his promises.

So, if you're in New York next Tuesday, I hope you will vote for Richard Aborn. Let's rid that city of all vestiges of Rudy Giuliani type policies and try to bring back basic fairness, reduce crime though early intervention, graduated sanctions, and offering services at the earliest opportunity, and see if we can't reduce our prison population safely and productively for all New Yorkers. I think Richard can do it.

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    i just voted for him (none / 0) (#2)
    by david mizner on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 08:57:21 AM EST