By Bill Parry
The man known as “Mr. Murder” wants to be the next district attorney of Queens.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak resigned from the bench Sept. 14 to push forward in his effort to succeed Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, 85, who has held the office since 1991. But he’s yet to determine whether he will run for re-election.
“I loved being a judge,” Lasak said. “But I was sitting on the bench and I realized I missed being in the DA’s office. For 19 of the 25 years I was there I was the bureau chief or the executive assistant DA. By the time I was 30 I was trying murder cases. I want to get back to that, looking for justice while keeping the people of Queens safe from violent criminals.”
Lasak graduated Queens College and then New York Law School in 1978 and went to work at the Queens DA’s office after passing the New York State Bar Exam at age 24. He was given the nickname “Mr. Murder” for showing up at crime scenes and observing while Chief of the Homicide Bureau beginning at age 30, overseeing the investigation and prosecution of all murders in the borough for nearly two decades.
Such cases included the Wendy’s massacre in Flushing where five people were killed, the College Point murders in 1995 when three armed men killed six people during a home invasion, and the Howard Beach attack in 1986 when a group of white chased three black men from New Park Pizza on Cross Bay Boulevard. Cedric Sandiford was beaten with a baseball bat while Michael Griffith was chased into traffic and killed by a car on the Belt Parkway.
Ironically, Lasak was to preside over another high-profile case involving Howard Beach before he decided to retire. Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise will now preside over the trial of Chanel Lewis, 21, the Brooklyn man accused of murdering and sexually abusing Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano in Spring Creek Park on the afternoon of Aug. 2, 2016.
“I spent nearly 40 years among violent and vicious criminals, murderers, rapists and armed robbers, I’ve seen the criminal justice system inside and out, so I’m running to be District Attorney for all of Queens — to keep our communities safe and moving forward.” Lasak said, “I know I can do this job properly and do it the American way. I know I can do that.”
Last month, City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), the chairman of the Committee on the Justice System announced he would run for Queens district attorney as a criminal justice reformist. State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz are said to be mulling over a run for the office.
“They’re good politicians,” is all Lasak would say on the subject. “When I’m DA, we’ll end cash bail on low-level, non-violent offenses and we’ll decline to prosecute and divert where appropriate. We’ll continue strengthening relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Born and raised in Woodside where he lived for 33 years before moving to Richmond Hill with his wife to raise their three children, Lasak, who is Polish-American, speaks fondly of Woodside where he went to school at St. Sebastian’s and still remains a fan of Donovan’s Restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue under the 7 train.
“There were a lot of cops and firemen, and public servants in our neighborhood,” Lasak told Newsday in 2003. “There was a real tendency for being in public service. That or being bank robbers.”
Lasak said he is determined to the Queens DA’s office with an eye on the borough’s diversity with assistant district attorneys that can relate to the immigrant communities.
“I love Queens, it has everything,” he said. “I know, I’ve been here all my life.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr