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December 17, 2018

Councilman Rory Lancman announces bid for Queens district attorney seat in 2019

September 28, 2018
City Councilman Rory Lancman, seen here at a City Hall press conference in May, is running for district attorney. (Jefferson Siegel / New York Daily News)

Queens Councilman Rory Lancman is running for district attorney in Queens — on a platform of reforming the criminal justice system and with the endorsement of two women whose sons were killed by police.




Lancman, a Democrat who chairs the council’s committee on criminal justice, rolled out his candidacy for the 2019 race with a slickly-produced video about the meaning of justice featuring Gwenn Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed when an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes.

“Justice isn’t saddling young people of color with criminal records for the rest of their lives for some minor offense,” Lancman says in the video. “Justice isn’t getting choked to death by the police in full view of the whole world, and no one being held accountable.”

In the video, Carr tells Queens voters to back Lancman because “he stands for issues that we are most concerned about.”

And in a press release, Valerie Bell, the mother of Sean Bell — who was shot to death the morning of his wedding in 2006 — also backed Lancman, saying the borough needed a D.A. who would be “willing to hold police accountable for unlawful behavior.”

The office is presently held by D.A. Richard Brown, who has been in office since 1991 and who, at 85, is expected by most political observers to retire at the end of his term. Lancman said he did not “think there’s any scenario” in which he’d be facing Brown in 2019.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the criminal justice system in Queens, and the issues are so serious and so profound that I’m going to take the time to campaign in every corner of the borough,” Lancman said in an interview.

Other Queens pols and jurists are also expected to eye the seat.

Lancman — who recently held a debate against a top member of the D.A.’s office — said that he believed what the public’s expectations of a D.A. is now “radically different than it was the day that Dick Brown took office.”

He took issue with the office’s use of cash bail, its resistance to stop charging people for low-level marijuana or turnstile jumping offenses, and it being the only borough not planning to implement a conviction review unit.

“I think there is a burning desire, a hunger, for Queens to have what other boroughs have tastes of and what other jurisdictions in the country have,” he said. “There’s no reason we should be behind Staten Island on criminal justice reform, and there’s no reason that our 2.3 million residents can’t have a criminal justice system that is fair to people of color.”

He thought that message would resonate in the borough, even though it has pockets that have long been more conservative.

“When I take this message to so-called conservative communities, and I explain how much money we waste incarcerating and criminalizing young people for low-level offenses, or how much money we waste putting people on Rikers Island because they can’t make small amounts of bail, they get it,” Lancman said.

Lancman argued that as the justice system focuses on low-level crimes, it fails to protect others who need help — like those being robbed of their wages by their employers, he said, or victims of hate crimes and sexual assault.

His promise not to request cash bail as D.A., meanwhile, comes as the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization plans to bail out scores of inmates from Rikers Island — something that has raised eyebrows even among some of Lancman’s fellow Democrats, like Mayor de Blasio.




But Lancman argued those fears were a “misunderstanding” of who was being bailed out from Rikers — noting that if they were given bail rather than being remanded, a court had already determined it would be safe for them to be home awaiting trial.

“Every person sitting in Rikers Island because they cannot pay bail has been determined by a court that they can go out and be in their community with their family, go to school, go to work — as long as they pay the money,” Lancman said.




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