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August 23, 2019

Queens DA front-runner Melinda Katz grilled during debate for ties to ‘establishment,’ flip-flopping on cash bail

June 12, 2019
(L-R) Melinda Katz, Jose Nieves, Betty Lugo and Mina Malik (NY1)

Queens President Melinda Katz, one of the front-runners in the high-stakes race to become the borough’s next district attorney, came under fire Tuesday over her dithering stance on cash bail and ties to the county’s “establishment.”

With the primary election on June 25, nearly all of Katz’s six Democratic challengers took turns taking shots at her during an otherwise mostly amicable debate aired on NY1.

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“You’re entrenched,” DA wannabe Mina Malik fired at Katz in one of the debate’s most heated exchanges. “You’re entrenched, Melinda, okay. You’re part of the establishment, and that’s what we’re trying to break through up here, to break through the establishment, because you’re not going to serve Queens County well.”

The DA race has been dominated by the seven candidates trying to outdo each other in who can outline the most progressive plan to overhaul an office that was led by tough-on-crime prosecutor Richard Brown for nearly three decades.

(L-R) Greg Lasak, Rory Lancman and Tiffany Caban.
(L-R) Greg Lasak, Rory Lancman and Tiffany Caban. (NY1)

Brown, who served as DA from 1991 until his death on May 3, took a hard-line approach to criminal justice that nearly all the candidates have pledged to overturn.

But, despite finding common ground on refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, creating a conviction review unit and deferring prosecution on a slew of low-level crimes, the candidates found reason to butt heads in the debate over nuanced issues — and Katz faced the brunt of the criticism.

Queens Councilman Rory Lancman and public defender Tiffany Caban ganged up on Katz after they caught her voicing support for ending cash bail completely after having said on her website that she was only in favor of ending it for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

“I think it’s important for Queens voters to know that this is a new position,” Caban, ostensibly the most progressive candidate in the race, barreled in after Katz said there shouldn’t be “cash bail for any crimes.”

Katz, who’s served as Queens borough president since 2014, responded that her position on cash bail has been “very clear” all along, but conceded she might have flip-flopped a bit when Lancman confronted her about palm cards issued by her campaign.

“It may have been in the palm card,” Katz said of her previous position on cash bail.

However, Katz stressed she’s now in favor of ending cash bail altogether, saying, “There will be no cash bail under my administration.”

When the debate cooled down a bit, Caban got a chance to tout her working class credentials after former state prosecutor Jose Nieves questioned whether she’s qualified to serve as DA.

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“Women like me are not supposed to be on a stage like this and I’ll tell you what: it is no surprise to me that a group of almost overwhelmingly older white male lawyers said that I was not approved for this role,” Caban said. “The fact of the matter is that what I represent is a clean break from the status quo.”

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