THE BLOG
03/26/2014 01:37 pm ET Updated May 26, 2014

Dumb District Attorneys

A rape trial is presently taking place in Putnam County, N.Y., that ordinarily would attract little media attention except for one important fact: The defendant, Alexandru Hossu, is a close personal acquaintance of Adam Levy, the Putnam County district attorney, and Levy's conduct in connection with Hossu's case has been strange, even bizarre. Hossu ostensibly was Levy's live-in personal trainer and it appears Levy has been trying desperately for over a year to prevent or pervert Hossu's prosecution. Levy also has attracted notoriety because his mother is Judy Scheindlin -- "Judge Judy," for those who watch her TV show -- and Levy, maybe bankrolled by his $45 million-a-year mom, has his own self-promoting PR firm. Levy also is a protégé of former Putnam Country kingpin Vincent Leibell ("Uncle Vinny"), a state senator recently convicted and jailed for corruption who, according to a report in the Journal News, was "the gatekeeper to power in Putnam, a county that Leibell controlled for the beneficence of pork-barrel grants from the state Legislature and bare-knuckle political deals he forged in the backroom." Leibell effectively made Levy the DA, even though Levy had virtually no prosecutorial experience, and Levy showed his gratitude by making several extremely large financial contributions to Leibell's Senate campaigns. Levy, according to the Journal News report, even hired Leibell's top political strategist and paid him $75,000 for "strategizing against no one."

Levy's office, needless to say, was officially removed from the Hossu prosecution, and Hossu is being prosecuted in Putnam County by the Westchester district attorney, Janet DiFiore. Despite being removed, and announcing that he would have nothing to do with the case, Levy has been a prominent figure in Hossu's defense. The allegations against Levy are startling. According to news reports, Levy paid one attorney at least $30,000 to defend Hossu, Levy's brother-in-law is presently representing Hossu, Levy reportedly divulged confidential evidence to Hossu's lawyer, revealed secret grand jury information to the lawyer, and reviewed court papers and strategized about the case with the lawyer, all the while serving as the chief law enforcement officer in Putnam County.

Levy also bad-mouthed the Westchester district attorney as consorting with mobsters, and running an office of incompetents. This week, Hossu's lawyer asked the trial judge to declare a mistrial because certain confidential information -- a videotape of an interview with one of the prosecution's witnesses -- had not been disclosed to the defense. The Westchester prosecutors were unaware of this evidence until the defense suddenly exposed the tape's existence after the trial started, apparently after obtaining the tape from Levy's office. Not surprisingly, the Westchester prosecutors asked the judge to inquire how Hossu's lawyer learned about the tape's existence, again suggesting Levy's continued involvement in the case.

The young woman who has accused Hossu of raping her -- she was 13 years old at the time -- testified this week, and her testimony was quite dramatic. She said that Hossu, who was her mother's boyfriend in 2010, attacked her in her bedroom, choked her, and raped her. She described "excruciating pain," "blood everywhere... all over my bed," and Hossu threatening that "If you tell anybody, I'll [expletive] kill you." She told her mother, who died of a drug overdose two years ago.

Numerous public officials have called on Governor Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Levy's shenanigans, claiming that his conduct is potentially criminal, especially his revealing secret grand jury information, which is a felony in New York. Cuomo, who has made ethics and integrity by government officials a central theme of his administration, and has proposed tough new laws to combat public corruption, has remained strangely silent in the face of requests to appoint a special prosecutor. To be sure, there is no evidence that Levy pocketed a bribe or engaged in a kickback scheme. But if the facts surrounding Levy's clandestine efforts to insinuate himself in Hossu's defense are proved, then Levy has not only violated the law but has also violated ethical standards relating to conflicts of interest and obstruction of justice that would subject him to professional discipline.

Prosecutors are the most powerful law enforcement officials in the U.S. They are not supposed to play favorites, and for personal reasons decide to give some people special breaks, and others to punish. If the claims of misconduct against Levy are true, could any citizen living in Putnam County honestly believe that the justice system operates fairly, equally, and impartially for all persons suspected of crimes? Or might people believe that the system is skewed, and that getting favorable treatment depends on whether you know the DA? Does Governor Cuomo actually believe that this is the way the justice system should operate?

Some people should not be prosecutors, either because they are dishonest, incompetent, overzealous, unprofessional, or exercise very bad judgment. Levy's incompetence and bad judgment are manifest. His ability to exercise the vast powers of a district attorney is unsettling, and dangerous.