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Prosecutor shakeup hits Brooklyn DA’s Office

Outgoing Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. AP photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

As Brooklyn’s incumbent district attorney prepares to leave office in January, he has rearranged a number of key staff in his interim days.

In the past few weeks, since his defeat to Ken Thompson in the November election for Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes has fired one prosecutor and removed two others from high profile cases.

Joseph Alexis and Nicholas Batsidis were the lead prosecutors on a case involving an alleged false accusation by a child of sexual abuse by a Brooklyn cantor. Sam Kellner was a vocal member of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community who was speaking out against covered-up sexual abuse within that community.

Kellner said that his own son was the victim of abuse by Brooklyn cantor Baruch Lebovits. In a turn of events, Kellner himself was charged with coaching his son to falsely accuse Lebovits in a scheme to extort money from the alleged abuser.

Having had the case since 2011, prosecutors Alexis and Batsidis planned to dismiss the charges against Kellner on the grounds that evidence was too weak to support the extortion accusation. A source told the New York Law Journal that Hynes did not authorize a dismissal and has since removed Alexis and Batsidis from the Kellner case, transferring them to an entirely different division within in the DA’s Office.

An appeals court overturned Lebovits’ conviction after his attorneys, Arthur L. Aidala and Alan M. Dershowitz, brought attention to Kellner’s indictment.

Kellner’s defense attorney, Michael Dowd, told Acting Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ann Donnelly during a hearing that Alexis told him privately, “We cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.” Donnelly cut Dowd off before he could continue, since Alexis had been removed from the case. Kellner’s next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 6, and the prosecution is required to turn over all evidence to Kellner’s defense team by Nov. 25.

Hynes has also fired veteran prosecutor Barbara Burke, who has been called to testify as a witness in a wrongful conviction case against the DA’s Office. Jabbar Collins, wrongfully convicted in 1995 for the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi, filed a suit against the DA’s office for the 20-plus years he spent behind bars. Since she was not involved in the 1995 case, it is unclear why Collins’ attorney subpoenaed Burke in this suit. Burke’s attorney noted that Burke was an “honest and dedicated public servant” and her firing was “unconscionable.”

A spokesperson for Hynes’ office stated that there is no “bloodletting” is occurring in the DA’s office and noted that all personnel changes were purely a coincidence.

November 14, 2013 - 9:00am


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