U.S. Attorneys' Offices continue to countenance reports of corruption or inaction at NYC District Attorneys' Offices

By LOUIS FLORES

Following revelations that the Manhattan district attorney reportedly accepted donations to his campaign committee from a prominent attorney representing the reported targets of a criminal investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district is keeping mum about whether conflicts of interest require an investigation at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. For this report, the U.S. Attorney's Office did not answer advance questions submitted by Progress Queens.

On Wednesday, three news publications -- ProPublica, The New Yorker, and WNYC 93.9 FM -- published simultaneous reports, revealing that an investigation into the sales tactics of the Trump SoHo luxury hotel-condominium complex was summarily closed by District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. (D-Manhattan) after a meeting with Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz. It was also reported that before and after the meeting, Mr. Kasowitz had made appoximately $57,000 in political contributions to District Attorney Vance's campaign committee.

Ealier today, a subsequent report was published by The New York Daily News, revealing that District Attorney Vance's campaign committee had returned $25,000 of those political contributions before the Vance-Kasowitz meeting, and that the remainder of the political contributions were also returned. Separately, it was reported that Mr. Kasowitz and other individuals affiliated with his law firm also donated or bundled other donations to District Attorney Vance's campaign committee. The status of those affiliated or bundled donations were not clear. The press office serving District Attorney Vance did not immediately answer advance questions submitted for this report. If responsive information is received from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, that information will be added to this report.

In September, the PBS investigative news program, Frontline, broadcast a report about District Attorney Vance's office's prosecution of a small bank in Manhattan's Chinatown, meanwhile his office overlooked allegations of corruption at larger banks during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, and in its aftermath.

In the past, Progress Queens has published numerous reports about how former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had described corruption as systemic across New York State. Yet, the U.S. Attorney's Office he formerly headed did nothing to question why District Attorneys across New York State did nothing to probe that corruption. District attorneys in New York City run for office with the institutional political support of the respective Democratic committee for that County. Some guidelines applicable to the conduct of Federal investigations by United States Attorneys requires that cases of significant officials be conducted by Federal prosecutors with notice to or consultation with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, as opposed to being conducted by local prosecutors. It is not known why, for example, District Attorney Vance launched an investigation into Trump family members in connection with the failed Trump SoHo luxury hotel-condo project, when Federal guidelines for some major crimes encourage Federal prosecutors to take the lead.

Recently, news reports have raised questions about the money being made from, and the influence being exerted over, the Queens County court system by lawyers and other individuals with an affiliation to the Queens Democratic County Committee. It is not know why, given reports about possible conflicts of interest in Queens, the Queens District Attorney's Office is not known to be investigating the reports. In the past, it never became clear if any prosecutors' office investigated questions about the finances of a nonprofit group associated with State Sen. José Peralta (D-Jackson Heights).

Whereas the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, which is based in Manhattan, has jurisdiction over the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's eastern district, which is based in Brooklyn, has jurisdiction over the Queens District Attorney's Office. The Manhattan Federal prosecutors' office is headed by Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, and the Brooklyn Federal prosecutors' office is headed by Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

Recommended Reading