I plan to bring real criminal justice reform and diversity to the Queens District Attorney’s Office to ensure a more just, fair and equal criminal justice system for all Queens residents. As District Attorney, I will be vigilant in evaluating the criminal justice system to identify unfair practices and inequalities in the system – and creative in identifying ways to resolve them. My legacy as District Attorney will be a restored trust in the public’s confidence in our criminal justice system – and better communications between our communities and law enforcement. As a young man of color growing up in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, I saw how violent crime can tear apart families and communities. On the other hand, I also grew up being subjected to racial profiling by police – and seeing, first hand, how unfair police practices can deteriorate the community’s trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.
I believe that we can reconstruct our criminal justice system to promote public safety while also respecting each individual’s rights and dignity. In this extraordinary moment in history, in this election for Queens District Attorney, we have an opportunity to make fundamental policy and procedural changes in our criminal justice system that will ensure fair and equal justice for all Queens residents. For many years, I have worked hard to advance criminal justice reform and bring a progressive agenda to law enforcement in New York. As Queens District Attorney, I will broaden the core functions of the office to do more than merely obtaining criminal convictions.
I am running for Queens County District Attorney because I want to redirect the focus of the Queens District Attorney’s Office away from merely charging and incarcerating Queens residents in all criminal cases. Rather, I will focus the office’s resources on diverting non-violent defendants away from the criminal justice system, utilize and develop meaningful alternatives to incarceration sentencing, carefully consider a defendant’s collateral immigration consequences when negotiating plea agreements and identifying new ways to reduce the risk of recidivism of defendants by supporting a defendant’s reentry and reintegration process into our community.
My progressive view of criminal prosecution will allow me to focus the work and resources of the District Attorney’s office on protecting all Queens families and residents by zealously prosecuting violent crimes, sexual assaults, domestic violence, hate crimes, human trafficking, tenant harassment, public corruption, fraud, and the illegal sale and distribution of guns and drugs in our communities. My progressive agenda as District Attorney will integrate the reconstruction of our criminal justice system with the core prosecutorial functions of public safety and the pursuit of justice in society.
Unlike the other announced candidates in the race for Queens District Attorney, I am not a career politician; nor have I been a member of the Queens Democratic power structure for decades. Everyone knows that a politician can’t do a prosecutor’s job. My aspiration to be the next Queens District Attorney is based on my commitment and dedication to real criminal justice reform that will restore our communities’ trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.
As a lifelong public servant and career prosecutor, I have practiced in multiple jurisdictions. I’m a dedicated community leader with a thorough understanding of the nuances of our criminal justice system and the internal intricacies of a prosecutor’s role in our justice system. As a man of color, I have a deeper understanding of the racial injustices of our criminal justice system and why a reconstruction of that system is necessary.
I have been doing the hard work of changing our criminal justice system for well over a decade, I continue to do it today, and I will continue to work to bring about criminal justice reform tomorrow. I know and live the issues relating to criminal justice reform and I’ve been in the forefront fighting to make a difference.
As a combat veteran, I served in Afghanistan and was tasked the rule of law mission – which allowed me to personally see the negative consequences that arise when a society no longer has trust or confidence in its justice system. So, I know how important it is for the District Attorney to work with all our communities in Queens to build bridges of communication between the people and law enforcement.
The mission of the DA’s office should be to promote public safety and justice in our community. In addition, it is incumbent upon any District Attorney in today’s society to actively find ways to reconstruct our criminal justice system to make it fair and equitable for all – and to find creative solutions that will disrupt the cycle of risk criminal recidivism.
I’ve been practicing as an attorney for 18 years in the area of criminal and administrative investigations and prosecutions. During that time, I have prosecuted a wide range of matters in Federal court, State court, military tribunals and administrative courts. I have also served as an expert advisor in criminal justice advocacy and the administration of justice for judges, prosecutors, defense counsels and prison officials in Afghanistan.
I have over 25 years of community organizing and volunteer experience. I was a founding member of the Cypress Hills Advocates For Education (CHAFE), whose mission is to advocate for educational empowerment and equality for children in poor and underserved communities. I also was the President of the Coalition to Reconstruct P.S. 76, a community group that advocated for the demolition of an abandoned and condemned NYC Department of Education building that had become a haven for violence, prostitution and illegal drug activity. We accomplished our goal to demolish the condemned building and constructed a public park (George Walker Jr. Park) that now serves as a community asset for our children and families.
I also served as a board member and President of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation that provides youth programs, educational services, housing and other vital social services to poor and underserved communities. As a board member, I often advocated for educational, economic and youth development resources to be provided to the most vulnerable in our society.
In law school, I was the President of the Latino American Law Student’s Association that advocated for more diversity in the legal profession. As a Queens resident, I also served as Cub Master of Cub Scout Pack #174 for several years. This organization sought to organize parents and school faculty to provide educational services to children that promoted environmental conservation, civic responsibility, honesty and strong work ethic.
For the last three years, I have served in leadership positions on the Parent Association of St. Kevin Catholic Academy, where I organized parents, students and faculty to promote community spirit and fellowship at the school, St. Kevin parish and the greater Flushing community. I also serve as a Director with the St. Kevin Catholic Church Youth Guild, where I organize parishioners, parents and young athletes to participate in the Diocese of Brooklyn Catholic Youth Organization Flag Football League. The mission of the Youth Guild is to develop confidence, self-esteem, and sportsmanship through the sport of Flag Football, while promoting physical and moral character development for all participants.
I am also an active member of the 4th Legal Support Organization JAG Association that seeks to organize veterans to support active duty military and veteran service members. Lastly, I’m a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Organization (VFW), whose mission is to foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. The VFW serves our veterans, the military and our communities and to advocate on behalf of all veterans.
I believe that all stakeholders in the criminal justice system from the prosecutor to the defense counsel and the Judge should be focused on seeking justice and determining actual innocence or guilt of each person who is accused of a crime. I have fashioned my career after a quote by Charles Hamilton Houston who once said “A lawyer is either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society… A social engineer is a highly trained, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who understands the constitution of the United States and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and bettering conditions of the under privileged citizen.” I plan to bring real criminal justice reform and diversity to the Queens District Attorney’s Office to ensure a more just, fair and equal criminal justice system for all Queens residents.
I have a more nuanced understanding of the criminal justice system than the other candidates – and I will combine that expertise with my deeper understanding of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. This is what distinguishes me from all the other candidates for Queens District Attorney.
Yes, I will establish a Conviction Review Unit at the Queens District Attorney’s Office. In addition, I will organize an Advisory Group to the Conviction Review Unit and invite representatives from various criminal justice reform organizations, community leaders, organizers, retired judges, formerly incarcerated and exonerated persons, and other stakeholders to advise prosecutors regarding how to prevent future injustices. Incorporating this type of grass roots committee will create transparency, trust and confidence in the unit and our criminal justice system.
According to The National Registry of Exonerations, there were 25 people who were prosecuted and convicted in Queens County from 1986 – 2011 that were subsequently exonerated. I believe that a Conviction Review Unit will play a critical role in preventing wrongful convictions for otherwise innocent people. I believe that it is the affirmative duty of the District Attorney to scrutinize and thoroughly investigation convictions that have come into question because of new evidence or a lack of credible evidence. My Conviction Review Unit also will help restore public confidence and trust in the criminal justice system.
Currently, the Queens County District Attorney is the only District Attorney’s office in the five boroughs that engages in a pre-indictment waiver policy. At arraignment, a person charged with a crime must waive their right to 180.80 release in order to engage in plea bargaining. This policy only seeks to create inequality and undue coercion in our criminal justice system. Requiring a person to waive their constitutional due process rights before they’ve had an opportunity to review any of the evidence against them – and even before the prosecutor has considered any mitigating or extenuating circumstances or possible evidence that tends to exonerate the defendant – is inherently unfair and wrong.
I want to bring more fairness and transparency to our criminal justice system. I served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for over 11 years. During that tenure, I practiced open file discovery in all misdemeanor cases and the majority of felony cases. I believe that the practice of open file discovery expedites the fair and reasonable evaluation of a criminal case by the prosecutor, defense and court. In addition, this level of transparency only promotes the administration of justice in our system. When practicing open file discovery, the only information that will be withheld is the contact information for witnesses and sometimes witness names when there is a threat of violent and retaliation associated with the criminal matter; i.e. murder or gang-related crimes.
The Queens District Attorney exercises great power over the lives of individuals who become involved in the criminal justice system. In order to end mass incarceration and refocus the Queens District Attorney’s Office on protecting Queens families and residents, I will change the culture of the Queen District Attorney’s Office away from merely charging and incarcerating Queens residents in all criminal cases – and exercise prosecutorial discretion to promote fairness, equality and justice in our County.
Determining whether to charge and prosecute a defendant for certain offenses under the New York Penal law is a very fact specific analysis that must consider factors that include, but are not limited to, the injury sustained by the victim, the criminal history of the defendant, the potential threat posed by the defendant to public safety and the severity of the crime. That being said, as a general rule, I will direct the prosecutors at the Queens District Attorney’s office to decline to prosecute the following charges, unless they involve a hate crime or domestic violence: fare beats, trespass, unlicensed operation of a vehicle, shoplifting for amounts under $250, criminal possession of marijuana, misdemeanor level driving with a suspended license, possession of a forged instrument, disorderly conduct, low-level shoplifting offenses, resisting arrest without any other corroborating criminal charge, misdemeanor criminal mischief in the fourth degree, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, reckless endangerment of property, and misdemeanor level unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Instead of focusing on those petty offences, I will focus the resources of the Queens County District Attorney Office on the zealous prosecution of violent crimes, gun violence, sexual assaults, domestic violence, hate crimes, human trafficking, reckless driving, public corruption, fraud, and the illegal sale and distribution of guns and drugs in our communities. All crimes relating to or involving hate crimes and domestic violence will be prosecuted in accordance with the law and my policies for criminal justice reform.
I will work tirelessly to eliminate cash bail. I would direct my prosecutors to recommend “release on recognizance” for all criminal offenses where appropriate and authorized under New York Criminal Procedure Law 510, 530 and other provisions of law relating to the specific kinds of criminal action and proceedings. Instead of cash bail recommendations, I will direct my prosecutors to recommend that defendants be released with non-monetary conditions such as reporting to a pre-trial services agency. If prosecutors determine that the defendant poses a risk to the public or that bail should be set for other reasons, then the defendant should be allowed the option to utilize an alternative form of Appearance Bonds such as unsecured or partially secured bonds as provided by New York Criminal Procedure Law 520.10(1).
As District Attorney, I will allow prosecutors to recommend surety and appearance bonds when there is evidence that the defendant is a significant threat to public safety. This demonstrated risk will often, but not always, involve offenses relating to domestic violence, hate crimes, crimes involving serious violence or when a defendant commits a new crime of violence while out on pre-trial release. The exceptions under my policy are driven by the prosecutor’s core function to protect the public from an individual who poses a high risk to public safety.
I believe that the commercial bail industry no longer serves a legitimate purpose in the newly reconstructed criminal justice system that I will promote. I will respect the American legal maxim that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law – and not seek to incarcerate non-violent persons as a form of punishment before they have been convicted of any crime.
The current bail practices of the Queens District Attorney’s office frequently recommend bail in the majority of criminal cases. This practice inevitably and unnecessarily incarcerates people who are financially disadvantaged for no other reason than they are too poor to buy their freedom. This discriminatory and unfair practice subsidizes the commercial bail bond industry by funneling millions of dollars to commercial bail bondsmen.
The financial gain alone is great incentive for the commercial bail bond industry to adapt abusive and fraudulent practices to optimize their profit margins. Consequently, persons accused of criminal offenses – and their families – are frequently forced into predatory and often illegal financial agreements. These agreements often include exorbitant premiums, high hidden fees, surveillance, and/or loss of property if assets are provided as collateral.
I will direct my Economic Crimes Bureau to investigate– and, when warranted, prosecute illegal fees and fraudulent schemes perpetrated by commercial bail bondsman. My Economic Crimes Bureau will partner with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Investigations and the New York State Department of Financial Services to identify criminal misconduct by anyone in the commercial bail bond industry.
I support closing Rikers Island because I’ve personally walked the tiers of many of Rikers detention facilities and know how dysfunctional the institution is. I’ve seen first-hand how Correction Officers, and incarcerated persons and their families are subjected to environmental pollutants and a culture of violence in every detention facility on Rikers Island.
I believe the only sensible way to close Rikers Island is to decarcerate the vast majority of people in these facilities. This means the City and each County District Attorney’s Office must do more to release as many non-violent incarcerated persons languishing at Rikers Island and other correctional facilities throughout the city.
As Queens County District Attorney, I will stop criminalizing poverty and drug addiction by declining to prosecute fare evasion, low-level marijuana possession cases, and other non-violent minor offenses. I will reserve bail recommendations for defendants that demonstrate a high risk to public safety. I will direct my prosecutors to consent to release on recognizance of defendants charged with misdemeanors and some non-violent felonies (as authorized under New York Criminal Procedure Law 510, 530, and other provisions of law relating to the specific kinds of criminal action and proceedings).
In addition, I will create an Alternative Sentencing Unit to identify all possible diversion programs that my prosecutors can use to divert non-violent persons charged with low-level offenses – and persons who are first time offenders – away from the criminal justice system. My focus will be to adapt meaningful alternatives to incarceration sentencing practices.
As District Attorney, I will direct my prosecutors to prioritize the prosecution of all cases that involve an incarcerated person being held in pre-trial pending disposition of their criminal matter. I will not tolerate any practice that exploits the New York “Ready” rule to unnecessarily delay a criminal case. My office will operate on the social justice axiom that “Justice delayed is Justice denied.” I will also identify new ways to reduce the risk of recidivism of defendants by supporting a defendant’s reentry and reintegration process into our community after they are released from jail.
Gun violence has become an epidemic problem in our communities that has devastated many families and neighborhoods in this City. I will create a Gun Violence and Major Narcotics Bureau that will work tirelessly to keep illegal guns and drugs off our streets and shut down trafficking networks. As Queens District Attorney, I will work with other law enforcement agencies to improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and create innovative way to reduce these crimes in our society. I will use the power and resources of the Queens County District Attorney’s office to protect Queens families and residents, especially our children, against illegal guns – which are one of the greatest threats to public safety. First, I will focus the Queens County District Attorney’s Office on prosecuting illegal gun traffickers to the maximum extent of the law. In addition, I use cutting-edge law enforcement technologies to track and trace illegal guns being sold and distributed in Queens.
I will also advocate for legislation that will drive down the possession, use and trafficking of illegal guns. I am a strong supporter of legislation that will create a new offense of operating as a major firearms trafficker. I believe enhancing penalties for gun traffickers will protect Queens families and residents because it will stem the flow of illegal guns from being sold and distributed in our communities, which makes our communities safer.
In addition, I will actively support legislation that will amend the New York State Penal Law to make it a serious crime for person to engage in an intentional act, or continuing course of action, that would cause serious physical harm to ten or more people upon school grounds. I think this legislation is an important step in protecting our children, and school communities, from the horrible tragedy of a threatened mass shooting or vehicular attack. I have organized community forums regarding school shootings to help inform parents and community residents of the facts relating to this type of tragedy.
Lastly, as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in Queens County, I will promote and coordinate gun buy-back programs to get as many guns off the streets of Queens County as possible. With the support of the community, we could take hundreds of guns out of Queens County, thereby making our communities safer for all Queens families and residents. The gun buy-back program is an NYPD initiative that allows the community to work with NYPD to reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets.
How will Jose promote transparency in criminal justice system and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office?
I believe transparency is the key to building trust and confidence in our government institution. The best way to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the criminal justice system is to include the impacted communities in the policy making process. I will have my community affairs unit coordinate public town hall meetings in every community in Queens.
Domestic violence is still a serious problem in our communities and I will build up the Queens County District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Bureau and Family Justice Centers to address this problem. Unfortunately, there are no short and simple answers when handling cases that involve a survivor of domestic violence being charged with criminal offenses. Whether the survivor is being forced to engage in criminal activity at the behest of their abusive partner, acting to protect themselves from physical assault by their abusive partner, or responding to years of psychological, emotional, and/or physical trauma, there are many reasons a person experiencing abuse may find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system. Each of these cases will receive careful consideration including a collaborative response of specially-trained prosecutors, the survivor’s defense attorney, experts in the field, and an advocate for the survivor.
First, the prosecutors, under my direction, will consider whether under the facts and circumstances of the case, there exists a colorable defense of justification under the law. If the actions of the survivor of domestic violence can be qualified as justifiable under the law, then charges will not be filed against the domestic violence survivor. However, I understand that there may be many cases where the actions of the domestic violence survivor would not qualify as justifiable and lawful acts under the law. Those cases must be carefully handled with the goal of holding the survivor of domestic violence accountable in a way that protects their safety in the future, reduces the risk of recidivism, and provides the necessary services to the domestic violence survivor to ensure their successful reintegration into society.
As a matter of practice, I will implement policies that direct prosecutors to communicate with defense counsels and work cooperatively to carefully screen and identify domestic violence survivors who have committed crimes that relate to acts of survival or self-defense. I will ensure that prosecutors assigned to the Domestic Violence Bureau are trained to understand the indicators and signs that a defendant is a domestic violence survivor and committed the charged offense as an act of survival or self-defense. Once a Defendant has been identified as a survivor of domestic violence and it has been determined that the charges against that individual stem from acts of survival or self-defense, the prosecutor will be directed to consider diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration sentence recommendations that offer the domestic violence survivor an opportunity to rehabilitate their lives and reduce the risk of recidivism.
My prosecutors will also be directed to carefully consider the potential negative impact of criminal orders of protection that may prohibit or interfere with the domestic violence survivor’s ability to maintain a relationship with their children. If a survivor of domestic violence is convicted of an offense, through either a guilty plea or guilty verdict after trial, then my prosecutors will be directed to consider all the mitigating and extenuating circumstances of the crime and the domestic violence survivor’s situation before making a sentence recommendation to the court.
It is important that the Domestic Violence Bureau be staffed with highly trained prosecutors that can address issues of battering and its effects and extreme emotional disturbance when assessing cases in this Bureau. Once a domestic survivor completes their sentence, the District Attorney’s Office will engage that individual to provide post-sentencing, re-entry services to ensure that the defendant successfully reintegrates into our community, thereby reducing the risk of recidivism.
What is Jose’s plan to prosecute crimes relating to mortgage fraud, deed theft and real estate corruption?
I believe that the Economic Crimes Bureau can be an important part of the mission and work of the Queens District Attorney’s office. I also do not believe that the current focus of that Bureau is consistent with my law enforcement priorities and criminal justice reform ideals.
Deceptive conduct and fraud by corporations will be a priority in my administration. More specifically, I will direct the Economic Crimes Bureau to step up its investigations and prosecutions of deed fraud/theft by real property holding companies, real estate brokers, mortgage broker firms and land developers. I will focus on Deed Fraud/Theft because these types of criminal schemes are devastating to working class families and creates a public safety issue in our county.
As Queens District Attorney, I will also direct the Economic Crimes Bureau to focus its investigations and prosecutions on crimes relating to deed theft, mortgage fraud and predatory mortgage lending. These types of deceptive and fraudulent conduct by corporations will be a priority in my administration. More specifically, I will direct the Economic Crimes Bureau to step up its investigations and prosecutions of deed fraud/theft by real property holding companies, real estate brokers, mortgage broker firms and land developers. I will focus on Deed Fraud/Theft because these criminal schemes are devastating to working class families and creates a public safety issue in our county.
Lastly, my prosecutors will focus on prosecuting landlords and developers that use illegal tactics to harass tenants in their buildings and force the tenants to move out. By prosecuting landlords and developers who engage in this type of misconduct, we will ensure that Queens maintains a healthy stock of affordable housing for residents.
What will Jose do to protect affordable housing in Queens and prosecute landlords, property owner and developers that engage in illegal tenant harassment and menacing tactics to force people out of their homes?
Affordable housing in Queens County is an essential need for thousands of Queens families and residents. As District Attorney, I will direct my Assistant District Attorneys to zealously prosecute unscrupulous landlords that harass, menace and take advantage of Queens residents to force them out of their homes. I will use every legal tool available to the Office of the Queens District Attorney to protect tenants against abuse.
How will Jose protect our union workers and prosecute illegal infringement of the right of workers to organize in labor unions?
I am a firm supporter of labor unions and their mission to promote equity and fairness in the work place. In this regard, I will have the newly-created Labor Bureau carefully investigate any employer that may harass workers and illegally infringe on workers’ rights. Harassment and violence against union workers exercising their right to organize will not be tolerated by my administration.
Wage theft is a pervasive problem in Queens County with numerous industries that include construction, nail salons, hotel and hospitality, day laborers and restaurant or food services. The New York Attorney General has led the prosecutions of wage theft throughout New York. I will adapt the prosecutorial model of the New York State Attorney General’s Labor Bureau to conduct investigations and prosecutions of wage theft in Queens. In doing so, I will work with other stakeholders like the New York City Department of Investigations and the New York State Department of Labor to identify employers that engage in wage theft. The Queens District Attorney’s Office will play a more active role in the Wage Theft Initiative. I will direct my prosecutors to step up their investigations and prosecutions of wage theft in Queens County.
I will actively engage and cooperate with community organizers that work with labor and immigrant communities to identify employers who engage in wage theft. I will host Wage Theft Clinics that will educate the community regarding worker’s rights under the New York State wage and hour laws. We will host these clinics in churches, public libraries and community centers to maximize the outreach and effectiveness of our campaign. I will also include information on our District Attorney’s Office’s website regarding how to file a complaint of wage theft and violation of workers’ rights.
Public corruption and misconduct cannot be tolerated in Queens County. Unfortunately, the Queens District Attorney’s Office has left it up to Federal prosecutors and the New York State Attorney General’s office to handle pervasive problem. That will stop when I am District Attorney. As a candidate outside the political structure of Queens, I will not be intimidated by – or persuaded to ignore – corruption in Queens County. I see the long list of corruption cases that arise from Queens that are prosecuted by other jurisdictions as a clear sign that the Queens County District Attorney’s Office has not done enough to prosecute these crimes. I will revamp the Queens District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau to focus on prosecuting corruption cases. Public Officials in Queens County that use their positions to line their pockets with cash will be zealously prosecuted by my administration.
As District Attorney, my office will investigate any allegation of abuse of authority or misconduct by any officer that rises to the level of a misdemeanor or felony. That includes, but is not limited to, the prosecution of any law enforcement officers for perjury, false official statements, official misconduct, unjustifiable use of force or homicide, and public corruption.
Growing up in the 75th Precinct during the 80s and 90s, I personally witnessed how police misconduct and corruption can destroy the public’s confidence and trust of law enforcement. It’s only now that we know how officers from the 75th Precinct were engaged in violence and criminal activity to enforce their illegal drug dealing enterprise in the street of East New York and Cypress Hills.
We recently learned that this same type of illegal activity is happening again within the NYPD Vice unit. In this regard, I will make sure that the current indictments against members of the NYPD Vice Unit and 109th Precinct are prosecuted to fullest extent of the law. In addition, I will ensure that any further allegations made against any member of the NYPD Vice Unit operating in Queens County is thoroughly investigated by the Queens District Attorney’s Office Detective Squad. It is no surprise to me that the accused officers involved in this recent corruption scandal have accumulated multiple excessive force complaints and civil suits for violating individuals’ constitutional rights. As District Attorney, I will investigate and prosecute officers that engage in any criminal activity.
As a combat veteran, I can relate to the mission, purpose and sacrifice of the service members of the NYPD. However, in the military we live by a clearly established set of values and a code that promotes integrity, honesty, justice and good order within the ranks of every unit.
I believe that the vast majority of the 36,000 law enforcement officers of the NYPD do their job right and care about the doing the right thing. However, as with every organization, there are members of the department who will not do the right thing, not follow their obligations under the law or will abuse their authority.
We cannot let those officers ruin the reputation and good work performed every day by the majority of service members of the NYPD. Holding these few bad actors in the department accountable will protect the integrity of the department and restore the trust and confidence of the public in law enforcement.
The NYPD, as with all law enforcement agencies, must have the support and cooperation of the public to do its job. Anything that puts a strain on the trust and cooperation between the public and law enforcement must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
Nonviolent civil disobedience and lawfully organized protests or marches are a hallmark of our First Amendment right of free speech. Historically, significant movements such as the suffrage movement, civil rights movement, immigrant rights movement, and the LGBTQ rights movement have utilized protests to obtain fundamental rights for all residents of Queens County and greater New York. I will not prosecute non-violent protestors who are merely exercising their right to free speech without harming other Queens residents.
As Queens County District Attorney, I will not only be an advocate in the courtroom, but also be an advocate for criminal justice reform legislation our City and State. I will advocate for legislation that will eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. I will also support legislation that expands the discovery process so that prosecutors and defense counsels will share information as early in the criminal justice process as possible. I have been practicing open file discovery for 18 years as a prosecutor – and do not believe the new discovery legislation will hinder criminal prosecutions in Queens County.
Prior to the passage of the new law, the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases in New York State only allowed childhood victims until their 23rd birthday to sue their abuser or the institution that employed their abuser. Now, all such victims will able to pursue claims until they reach the age of 55. In Addition, the bill will extend the statute for prosecutors to bring criminal charges. Those would be brought until the victim of the abuse turns 28 years old in felony cases; for misdemeanors, it would be 23 years old.
I also support the creation of a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct – and stand in opposition to District Attorneys Association of the State of New York’s (DAASNY) position that this commission is both unnecessary and potentially burdensome. I believe this commission is necessary to restore the public’s trust and confidence in our criminal justice system. I believe that prosecutorial accountability is critical to the integrity of our criminal justice system in New York.
Lastly, I will support legislation that will allow for the civil sealing of certain criminal offenses. This legislation will allow persons convicted of an offense to have that conviction sealed after 10 years if that person engaged in no other criminal activity during that 10-year period.
An increase in the diversity at the Queens County District Attorney’s office will start with me and continue to include a broad base of diverse perspectives throughout the office. I will include persons of various races, religions, cultural backgrounds, genders and the LGBTQ community. In addition, I will recruit attorneys who come from a diverse social-economic background.
When I became a prosecutor 18 years ago, my professional priorities and values were informed by my personal experience that included being raised in a migrant family, from very humble circumstances in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the City at a time when crime and corruption was on the rise. I believe my personal experience helped me develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be a strong prosecutor.
Will Jose implement implicit bias training and ongoing professional development for all employees of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity?
I have participated in implicit bias trainings and have been very impressed by the science and information provided by those trainings. As a Special Prosecutor and Manager with the Office of the New York State Attorney General, I coordinated implicit bias training and ongoing professional development of other prosecutors and investigators of the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit. I will do the same for all the prosecutors and investigators employed by the Queens District Attorney’s Office. This type of diversity, inclusion and equity training is now required for all attorneys admitted to practice in the State of New York. In addition, I think implicit bias training is critical for all law enforcement officials who interact with the public either through investigations, preparation for trial, during the trial jury selection process, and at trial.
I believe this commission is necessary to restore the public’s trust and confidence in our criminal justice system. I believe that Prosecutorial accountability is critical to the integrity of our criminal justice system in New York. I support legislation that will allow for the civil sealing of certain eligible offenses. This bill will allow persons convicted of an offense to have that conviction sealed after 10 years if that person engaged in no other criminal activity during that 10-year period.
I support legislation that will amend the Penal law with regard to the definition of switchblade and gravity knife. I believe it important to decriminalize the possession, transport or use, of gravity and switchblade knives by working class New Yorkers for a legitimate work-related purpose. DAASNY’s recommended changes will help protect hard-working New Yorkers from being harassed or arrested for possession of or use of a tool they normally use for a legitimate work purpose. The recommended changes also seek to hold accountable those who possess those knives to engage in criminal activity that poses a risk to the public.
District Attorneys have an obligation to use their office’s resources to continually evaluate the criminal justice system – and to identify unfair practices and inequalities that cause racial disparities. As the next Queens District Attorney, I will produce reports that illustrate trends in case dispositions and racial bias.
How will Jose treat individuals those suffering from mental health illness, alcoholism, drug addiction, or veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome?
Individuals who are arrested that suffer from mental health illness, alcoholism, drug addiction – and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome – will be given an opportunity to seek professional treatment to address their general health or mental health issues in an effort to avoid a criminal conviction and incarceration. Through treatment courts, defendants are given a second chance to rehabilitate their lives and successfully reintegrate into our community. I personally believe that there are many ways to hold an individual accountable for misconduct without reverting to incarceration.
The Raise the Age Law increased the age of juvenile accountability. This law recognizes the numerous scientific studies that concluded that adolescent and young adults should not be held by the same criminal liability standard as adults.
The Raise the Age Law affects adolescents 16 years of age and in October 2019, it will also cover adolescents 17 years of age. As District Attorney, I will direct my prosecutors to expand access to youthful offender (YO) status and raise the YO eligibility to adolescents who are less than 19 years old – which is permitted under New York Criminal Procedures law. This will give adolescent under the age of 19 a second chance to rehabilitate their lives by limiting the collateral consequences of their contact with the criminal justice system. I will also fund and coordinate additional support for prevention and diversion services to keep our youth in their communities rather than incarcerated.
As District Attorney, I will implement an immigration hardship plea policy immediately after taking office. I will also direct my prosecutors to carefully consider a defendant’s collateral immigration consequences when making bail recommendations and negotiating plea agreements.
This issue hits home for me because many of the people who are disadvantaged, marginalized and harmed by the current immigration neutral plea policy are from Latino and Hispanic heritage. The Queens District Attorney’s current policy that claims they “don’t take immigration consequences into consideration because they treat all people the same” is completely disingenuous. In addition, that policy ignores the fact that deportation and inadmissibility may result from a conviction of certain low-level crimes.
That policy does not “treat everyone equally” because U.S. citizens do not face the threat deportation or inadmissibility if convicted of a low-level crime like residents with special immigration status or undocumented immigrants. The added punishment of being permanently torn away from your family, community and the life you have created in the United States as a consequence of being convicted of a low-level and non-violent crime is unacceptable.
I will direct prosecutors to consider how various charges and plea offers could impact a defendant’s immigration status – and require them to evaluate alternative charges or plea offers that will hold the defendant accountable without jeopardizing the defendant’s immigration status and leaving them vulnerable to deportation or inadmissibility. In order to do this effectively, I will hire several immigration law attorneys to advise all the Queens County DA prosecutors of all collateral immigration consequences that a person charged with a crime may face.