Queens DA’s embattled homicide chief resigns following wrongful conviction

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz accepted the resignation of Homicide Bureau Chief Brad Leventhal on Monday, March 29, 2021. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

A notable member of the Queens district attorney’s office resigned from his post on Monday, less than a month after a judge ruled that he had “deliberately withheld” evidence as a prosecutor in a 1996 murder case that resulted in the wrongful conviction of three men, sources confirmed with QNS.

Brad Leventhal will step down from position as the Homicide Bureau Chief in the DA’s office after Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz accepted his resignation on Monday, March 29, citing a “mutual concern that his continued employment had become a distraction from the critical, ongoing work of the office,” according to a spokesperson for the DA’s office.

Leventhal’s resignation followed the overturning of the convictions of George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt, who were all sentenced to life in prison for the 1996 murders of Ira “Mike” Epstein, the owner of an Astoria check cashing business, and NYPD officer Charles Davis.

Leventhal, who worked in the DA’s office as an assistant district attorney at the time, was accused by Queens Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas of withholding evidence from the defense, including testimony claiming someone else committed the double murder.

At the time of the murder, Leventhal contended that the trio had a premeditated plan to rob the check-cashing store and eliminate the witnesses.

A review of the case, prompted by Katz’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), concluded that Leventhal and the DA’s office failed to disclose records favorable to the defense. Additionally, the CIU, which has been behind the reversals of seven wrongful convictions since being created by Katz last year, found that one of the prosecution’s star witnesses was found to have a history of mental illness and was experiencing hallucinations around the time of the murder.

On March 5, Zayas overturned the three men’s convictions and Bell, Johnson and Bolt walked free.

Leventhal’s departure from the DA’s office marks the second job he’s left in the last two weeks.

St. John’s University Law School parted ways with Leventhal, who taught a class on evidence practice and served as an adjunct professor at the school since 2012, after learning of his involvement in the wrongful conviction case, according to reporting by the Queens Daily Eagle.

Despite the wrongful conviction, Judge Zayas didn’t go as far as to completely exonerate Bell, Johnson and Bolt. The DA’s office will have until the first week of June to determine whether or not to pursue prosecution of the three men.

Katz has assigned Executive District Attorney Pishoy Yacoub, who has led the DA’s Supreme Court Trial Division and Legal Training since January 2020, to lead the investigation and determine whether or not to vacate Bell, Johnson and Bolt’s indictment. Yacoub’s decision will be presented to the court on June 4, according to the DA’s office.

Leventhal did not respond QNS’ request for comment.