Brooklyn District Attorney-elect Ken Thompson has begun the process of displaying to Brooklynites that there’s a new sheriff in town. Thompson, who is set to take over as Brooklyn’s top prosecutor in January, has requested that incumbent DA Charles Hynes back down from prosecution in a sex abuse case.
A court conference was scheduled for Nov. 19 for Baruch Lebovits, who was accused of sexually molesting a young boy. Lebovits was convicted of the crime in March 2010 but was granted a retrial by Brooklyn’s Appellate Division due to the prosecution’s failure to turn over key evidence regarding allegations that Lebovits was only accused of sexual abuse as a means of extortion by his accuser.
Hynes’ office also brought charges against the accuser’s father, Sam Kellner, on the grounds of extortion, only to have two veteran prosecutors reportedly admit to Kellner’s defense attorney, “we cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Given that Lebovits’ retrial was based primarily, though not solely, on Kellner’s indictment, and the charge against Kellner for supposedly lying about the abuse of his son at the hands of Lebovits has been called into question, Thompson has asked that “no procedural or substantive steps be taken in this case until I take office.”
As a show of respect and an understanding of his dwindling prosecutorial influence, Hynes has agreed to place a hold on Lebovits’ case.
The two prosecutors on Kellner’s case, Joseph Alexis and Nicholas Batsidis, have been reassigned, a move Hynes’ spokesperson contended was purely coincidental.
The move by Hynes to honor Thompson's request may come as a shock to some, since Hynes was determined to keep his seat as Brooklyn's DA even after he lost to Thompson in the Democratic primary this past September. Hynes, a Democrat, made assurances that he would cease all campaign efforts, but reappeared in November's general election as the Republican and Conservative Party candidate.
Thompson defeated Hynes with more than 70 percent of the vote in his favor, and Hynes has previously promised Thompson a "smooth transition." The Lebovits case may be a step in that direction.