Meet John Ryan, the acting Queens District Attorney taking the reins from Richard A. Brown

John M. Ryan (at left), shown receiving an award in 2016 from Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, is the new acting chief prosecutor for Queens.
Photo courtesy of Queens District Attorney’s office

When it came time to select his own replacement, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown turned his office of nearly 30 years to “a great colleague and, more important, a close and trusted friend.”

John M. Ryan, who served as chief executive assistant for the last 22 years, was designated on March 7 to succeed him on an interim basis until the next district attorney is elected in November.

Brown announced he was stepping down early due to health complications related to his years-long fight with Parkinson’s Disease. He had announced in January that he would not seek an eighth term in the office he has held since 1991.

Ryan began his career at the Queens District Attorney’s office in 1972 as an intern and became an assistant district attorney in 1974 after graduating from St. John’s University School of Law. Early on, he handled the investigation of the 1975 bombing at LaGuardia Airport that killed 11 people.

Additionally, Ryan prosecuted William Morales, a suspected member of the Puerto Rican separatist group FALN, who was convicted in connection with an explosion at a Jackson Heights bomb factory.

In October 1979, he resigned to serve as an Assistant Attorney General in the New York State Department of Law where, as a special prosecutor, he brought the Tawana Brawley investigation to a just conclusion.

In 1991, shortly after Brown was appointed Queens County District Attorney by then-Governor Mario Cuomo, Ryan returned to the Queens DA’s office as chief of investigations and, in 1997, was promoted to chief assistant district attorney, a position he held until Thursday.

In 2016, Brown honored Ryan for his “innumerable contributions” during his long tenure at the Queens DA’s office.

“As chief assistant, Jack’s contributions to this office cannot be measured by individual criminal cases, although his input and influence can be found on many, if not all, of the major cases prosecuted in Queens County over the last 25 years,” Brown said. “His work has broader ramifications, significantly improving the quality of life of the families residing in many Queens communities and effectively making these neighborhoods safer places in which to live by adapting the office to the crime-fighting needs of the diverse communities of the county and seeing that the guilty are punished for their crimes.”

A spokeswoman for the Queens DA’s office said, “At this time Chief Executive Assistant District Attorney John Ryan’s only statement is that this day belongs to the District Attorney Richard A. Brown.”

Ryan will now finish the remaining nine months of Brown’s term until he is replaced by a newly elected district attorney in January. There are currently seven candidates competing in the June 25 Democratic primary, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, former state Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak, public defender Tiffany Caban, former Queens prosecutor Mina Malik, former state Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Jose Nieves and attorney Betty Lugo.


An earlier version of this article contained incorrect information on John Ryan’s biography. The article has been amended and QNS apologizes for any confusion.