Courtesy of Neives campaign
Jose Nieves gives the thumps up sign as he launches his campaign for Queens district attorney in front of Queens Supreme Court Wednesday.

Two more candidates have joined the crowded race to replace Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown: José Nieves, a longtime Queens resident and a career prosecutor, and attorney Betty Lugo, another prosecutor and founding partner of the state’s first Latina-owned law firm.

Nieves, a Jackson Heights resident, emphasized the need to change the focus of the DA’s office and utilize its resources in progressive ways.

“I want to redirect the focus of the Queens District Attorney’s Office away from merely charging and incarcerating people,” Nieves said. “Instead, I want to use the office’s resources to divert non-violent offenders away from the criminal justice system, create meaningful alternatives to incarceration, and keep our community safe by prosecuting violent crimes.”

Nieves indicated that he will implement several new initiatives when he is elected, including the following: declining to prosecute low level offenses and diverting those charged with non-violent crimes into drug programs; eliminating cash bail; creating a Conviction Review Unit to overturn wrongful convictions; expunging criminal convictions that are solely for the possession of marijuana; training all legal staff on procedural justice, implicit bias, and racial justice; considering the collateral consequences for immigrants in charging decisions, plea negotiations, and sentencing recommendations; hiring immigration attorneys to advise prosecutors, witnesses and victims regarding immigration matters; and conducting quarterly town hall meetings.

A graduate of the St. John’s University School of Law, Nieves is an Army combat veteran who serve in the state’s Attorney General’s office as a Deputy Chief in the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit before resigning this year to campaign for DA.

“I have the life experience to know that the criminal justice system has been fundamentally unfair to people of color and the poor, and the professional experience and expertise to allow me to change it”, Nieves said. “My goal is to create a more fair and equal criminal justice system while also maintaining public safety in our communities.”

Meanwhile, Lugo launched her campaign with a rally at Borough Hall Thursday.

Born and raised in Elmhurst, the Maspeth resident was the first Hispanic woman to work as an assistant district attorney in the Nassau County DA’s office in the mid-80s, before co-founding Pacheco & Lugo in 1992.

“Queens needs true justice for all, a well-rounded professional with prosecutorial background who cares about victims, families, and society as a whole,” Lugo said. “Queens needs outreach, education, help with mental issues, veterans court, criminal justice reform and mediation of non low level offenses.”

Lugo added that the safety of the people of Queens is her priority and she will firm and fair.

“The District Attorney is entrusted with representing all of the people of the State of New York County of Queens. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect.”

Lugo and Nieves join Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, former Queens Supreme Court Justice Greg Lasak, public defender Tiffany Caban and former Queens prosecutor and Civilian Complaint Review Board chair Mina Malik in the race for Queens DA. The Democratic primary is June 25.

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