Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson: ‘No political ambitions, no issues with women’

Brooklyn is the third largest District Attorney’s office after Los Angeles and Chicago. The FilAm Photos

Brooklyn is the third largest District Attorney’s office after Los Angeles and Chicago. The FilAm Photos

By Cristina DC Pastor

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson will always be remembered for the 2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault, where he represented the accuser Nafissatou Diallo.

He rose to prominence for his rousing defense of Diallo, the immigrant hotel housekeeper who accused Strauss-Kahn of attempted rape, and was eventually elected in 2013. That case, later dismissed, has come back to haunt his public life.

In a press conference sponsored by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, one of the first questions asked was a report in the New York Post about a dozen women employees who left their jobs with the DA’s office.

Thompson denied the report. “I defeated a 23-year-term DA,” he said, without naming his predecessor Charles Hynes. “When a new DA comes in, a new team comes in.”

He dismissed as “baseless attacks” reports his office has problems keeping women on his staff. He said he has hired “mostly women,” 62 percent, since becoming DA, and is proud to have a diverse office staff. He stressed he was raised by a single mother, and that “I absolutely respect women.”

He called attention to the source of the article — the Post — which he sued for libel for reporting his client, Diallo, was a prostitute.

The Peter Liang case is another thorn in Thompson’s term.

Liang, an NYPD officer, was indicted for second-degree manslaughter in a shooting that killed Akai Gurley, an African American, inside a Brooklyn apartment building. It appeared to be an accidental shooting by some accounts, but with the Eric Garner case still in the news, some felt the indictment was quite harsh and meant to boost Thompson’s political stock.

Thompson said he has indicted four police officers of various ethnicities since becoming DA “based not on race but on the conduct of the officers.”

“They have nothing to do with political ambitions.”

He disclosed his mother was a police officer, “one of the first women to go on patrol in the history of the city, back in 1973.” He said he has “great respect for police officers.”

He discussed some of the cases prosecuted by his office: the landlord brothers Joel and Amrom Israel who resorted to intimidation so they could charge higher rent on new tenants; a business scam that targeted a Chinese family from Sunset Park who donated money to a non-existent business; and a fake lawyer recruiting Caribbean immigrants for work in a hospital that has closed down.

Brooklyn is the third largest district attorney’s office in the country after Chicago and Los Angeles. It has more than 500 prosecutors who take on more than 100,000 cases a year, said Thompson. He shared how he has created units dealing with gun violence, immigration, labor, real estate and hate crimes to better address criminal cases. He also created a forensic science department and appointed a woman, Rachel Singer, to lead it. He noted how Brooklyn may be the third largest DA in the country, but did not have facilities to test for DNA and “enhance investigations and prosecutions.”

Pointing to a map, he provided a snapshot of gun violence across his borough. It shows the neighborhood with the most shooting incidents is Crown Heights, and the safest is Bay Ridge in the southwest corner with no shooting at all in 2014.

“More parts of Brooklyn should look like Bay Ridge,” said Thompson.

Color-coding gun violence:  ‘More parts of Brooklyn should look like Bay Ridge.’

Color-coding gun violence: ‘More parts of Brooklyn should look like Bay Ridge.’

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