This month, it was reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. chose not to prosecute Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. for fraud when he had the chance in 2012. Similarly, Vance declined to bring sexual abuse charges against the now-disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2015, even though he had an audiotape of Weinstein admitting to groping the victim. It was also revealed that Vance had taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Trump family lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, and also from Weinstein’s lawyer.
But that’s only the high-profile stuff. The Times followed up soon after to attack Vance (who has not had an opponent on the ballot since he was first elected eight years ago) as being enshrouded in the “Myth of the Progressive Prosecutor.” The Times reported that, although Manhattan holds less than 20% of the City’s population, on an average day, almost 40% of Rikers Island inmates are from that borough. This disparity has been attributed in part to Vance’s office’s zealous prosecution of misdemeanors. As of 2015, he was more likely to prosecute a misdemeanor charge than any other district attorney in New York City.
Despite lamenting racism in the criminal justice system, Vance perpetuates worrisome racial disparities. A 2014 Vera Institute of Justice study found that Black and Latino defendants prosecuted by Vance’s office were more likely to be detained at booking, compared with similarly situated White defendants. Last year, 51% of marijuana cases involving Black defendants in Manhattan ended in conviction, while only 23% involving Whites did.
Marc Fliedner was a 30-year Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in Brooklyn, heading the Civil Rights Bureau under that borough’s late crusading DA, Ken Thompson. Fliedner left Thompson’s office after a dispute over the trial of Peter Liang, the police officer who fatally shot Akai Gurley in 2014. Fliedner prosecuted Liang and secured an unprecedented conviction on a manslaughter charge (he says that this charge was already a compromise), but office leadership decided to treat Liang as an “extraordinary” case and gave him probation instead of jail time. Fliedner eventually started a civil rights law firm, and after Thompson died, declared his candidacy for Brooklyn DA.
Fliedner, the first gay man to campaign for DA anywhere in the U.S., believes strongly in alternatives to incarceration, and had the support of Bernie Sanders in the Brooklyn DA race, along with Sanders’ group, Our Revolution, and the Brooklyn chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network. He was the only DA candidate to endorse the work of Black Lives Matter. After Fliedner lost the DA race (he came in third), and the negative press about Vance came out, someone suggested that he run as a write-in candidate against Vance, and the idea took off. I can tell you, as a practicing lawyer, that Vance’s decisions are not only suspect, but the manner in which he runs his operation has the entire Criminal Defense Bar in New York up in arms. Marc Fliedner is a breath of fresh air, and I have endorsed him.
To vote for him, one must go all the way to the right-hand side of the ballot and write in ‘MARC FLIEDNER.’ Vance’s kid glove-treatment of Weinstein was only the last straw. He has got to go.
—Arthur Z. Schwartz