Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes talks with Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd. Hynes has been endorsed for reelection by Local 237.
By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica
The year was 1990. George H.W. Bush was president. The song "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips was number one on the Billboard chart. And Charles "Joe" Hynes, celebrated for his role as a special prosecutor in a racially charged case in Howard Beach, began his first term as Brooklyn District Attorney.
Bush's presidency came and went; his son's did too. Wilson Phillips went on a 10-year hiatus; then got back together in 2004.
Hynes, all along the way, has done exactly what that top 1990 ballad instructed: He's held on. He's been Brooklyn's top law man for nearly 24 years, making him one of the longest serving district attorneys in New York City history.
But Hynes's once firm grasp on the position could be imperiled. Buffeted by controversial cases, charges of misconduct in his office, and concerns about possibly preferential treatment for Jewish residents of the borough, Hynes is seen by political strategists to be facing a serious challenge from Kenneth Thompson, an African-American former federal prosecutor. On Tuesday, Sept. 10, voters in the Brooklyn Democratic primary could deny Hynes a chance at a seventh term.
Almost all prosecutors who stay in office for lengthy terms wind up facing a familiar array of complaints – about cases lost, creeping arrogance, political gamesmanship. Robert M. Morgenthau, revered by many across his decades as Manhattan's top prosecutor, had his share of critics and embarrassments, the troubled prosecution of five teenagers for the rape of a woman in Central Park among them.
Some of the complaints about Hynes, then, fit that mold: He's been accused of hiring and firing people based on favoritism and political connections and he's been taken to task for some failed or underwhelming prosecutions. Even his once reliable base of support, the borough's Orthodox Jewish community, has seemed to split, some angered that Hynes has made a series of pedophilia cases against people in their ranks, others disappointed that he was late to the issue and overly lenient in his handling of the cases.
But Thompson, who served in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, has focused his criticism on the question of wrongful convictions and possible misconduct by prosecutors over the years in Hynes's office.