June 25 is not only the primary for Queens District Attorney, but also an opportunity for civil court judiciary hopefuls to make their mark in criminal justice as the borough seems to be entering a new era without Richard Brown as top prosecutor.
Wyatt Gibbons and Lumarie Maldonado-Cruz are two of the front-runners in this campaign, with the former having the backing of the mainstream Democratic Party.
Maldonado-Cruz said in a recent press release that she was inspired to run, like many women in the past year, by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her shocking victory last June over high-ranking Congressman Joe Crowley.
An attorney and mother of three, Maldonado-Cruz claimed the Queens County Democratic Party had worked to prevent the primaries against civil court judges. According to Cruz, this means that people in the county have been undercut by judges who do not represent the racial diversity of Queens.
But Monserrate’s backing does not come without some baggage.
The former state senator and councilman has a checkered past, having spent two years in prison after funneling funds from his city office and also assaulting his girlfriend with a piece of broken glass.
In 2009, he was convicted of misdemeanor assault after he slashed his girlfriend at the time with broken glass in a domestic dispute, leaving her badly wounded.
Later he was incarcerated for misusing $100,000 in City Council grants to fund his state senate run.
Monserrate attempted a comeback in 2017 in a race to occupy the City Council seat left up for grabs by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Monserrate failed to overcome now-Councilman Francisco Moya, who left the Assembly to pursue the office.
In September, Monserrate succeeded in becoming a district leader.
Gibbons slammed Maldonado-Cruz for her alleged association to Monserrate in a press sheet obtained by QNS that detailed his stances on many of the issues.
Maldonado-Cruz disputed this by claiming she had not been endorsed by either Ramos or Monserrate and argued that to minimize her candidacy based on one person’s support minimized the needs of other minority voters who support her.
The candidate noted that Queens County has been classified in a report from City Council as having the most misdemeanor incarcerations, and claimed that the borough’s criminal justice system discriminates against black and Latino individuals.
“What I’m trying to do is diversify the bench,” Maldonado-Cruz said. “My career has been all about the service to human needs; that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to.”
Gibbons accuses Maldonado-Cruz of having only isolated support and not having a solid background in Queens. She rebutted by saying that neither does Gibbons.
“Her support is not countywide. And there is reason for that,” Gibbons says in the press sheet. “As a true Bronx native, no one here knows her. She is an unknown quantity that’s aligned herself with a person of questionable character. To that end, can she be trusted to sit on one of the most important seats in Queens? We can’t take that chance. This is not a learn-on-the-job position.”
Maldonado-Cruz claims she has been in Queens for as long as she has been running for the position and practicing law for about 16 years.
Gibbons touts 30 years in Queens civil and criminal courts.
Claudia Lanzetta and Assemblywoman Michele Titus are also on the ballot for Queens County Civil Court.
The New York City Bar gave Gibbons and Lanzetta approval in after an interview with the candidates, but Titus and Maldonado-Cruz were marked as “not approved.”
Maldonado-Cruz stated that this was simply because she did not participate in the process, but also pointed out that she and Titus were the only minority women not approved by the Bar.
Lanzetta and Titus are no longer on the ballot.