As Queens prepares to elect its first new district attorney in 28 years, the prosecutor currently leading the office took time to defend his old boss from the candidates that are hoping to replace him.
Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan was handpicked by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown when he announced his retirement in March to hold the fort until the end of his term after a new DA is elected in November.
In his first “report to the people of Queens” this week, Ryan made it clear he wasn’t pleased with the “reformers” currently running in the June 25 Democratic primary and defended Brown’s legacy when it comes to alternative sentencing.
“To hear some of the candidates running for Queens District Attorney, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the Queens DA’s Office was stuck in the 1970s, with no programs for defendants, no treatment programs, no alternative sentencing options and no specialized courts,” Ryan wrote. “YOU can be forgiven, but the candidates should not be. Anyone campaigning to run an office of 700 people (330 of them attorneys) that processes more than 50,000 arrests a year, should at least know something about the place before they start ‘redesigning it on day one.’”
Ryan added that, under Brown, the office became an innovator in treatment programs, alternative sentencing and specialized courts for more than a quarter century.
“One could say that he has been a ‘progressive’ in this area long before the term was popular,” Ryan wrote. “Running a district attorney’s office is not about snappy slogans and the latest fad. It is hard work. It is risky work. It is not about releasing career criminals from jail solely for the purpose of further reducing the population in a city that has already slashed those in custody by more than 42 percent over just the last 10 years.”
City Councilman Rory Lancman, who is one of the seven candidates currently running for Queens DA, took umbrage with Ryan’s claim that “the record of our office is misstated or distorted during this campaign either out of ignorance or malice or both.” As chair of the Council Committee on the Justice System, which oversees the city’s five District Attorney offices, fired back at Ryan.
“It’s surprising to hear the Queens District Attorney’s office cry foul for being called out over its complicity in over-policing and mass incarcerating communities of color since so often it frankly revels in its obstinate refusal to enact common sense criminal justice reforms that other DA’s are embracing,” Lancman said. “Rather than defending the indefensible, the Queens District Attorney’s office should join the rest of New York City, indeed, the rest of America, in doing its part to end the over-policing and mass incarceration of communities of color, and focus instead on protecting working people, women, immigrants, homeowners, and tenants.”
But one of Lancman’s fellow Queens City Council members had a much different view.
Robert Holden recently asked off the Immigration Committee saying its far-left agenda is “all one-sided” and “the agenda is already set,” according to the New York Post. He sided with Ryan saying much of the campaign rhetoric has ignored the immense accomplishments of Brown and the “revolutionary” programs he introduced to help more people stay out of jail.
“As Chief ADA Ryan points out in his report, Queens has been at the forefront of criminal justice reform for more than 20 years, and in many cases the DA’s office has been the first in the city and/or state to introduce certain alternative sentencing programs,” Holden said. “The notion that Queens is not doing enough to help people avoid jail time for less serious offenses is simply not true.”