05/30/2013 10:11 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

NYPD Confidential


Unless the people at CBS' "48 Hours" are holding back something in their press releases concerning its six-part series "Brooklyn DA," one might be tempted to believe the words of professor emeritus Melvin Mencher of the Columbia School of Journalism: Don't ever confuse anything you see on TV with journalism.

There is nothing more harmful to society than an unprincipled district attorney and no district attorney in New York City, if not the state of New York, has been as unprincipled as Hynes, who is running for a seventh term.

Longevity is the norm for the city's district attorneys, where being elected the first time is tantamount to lifetime employment. [See Robert Johnson in the Bronx, DA since 1988; Richard Brown in Queens DA since 1991; or the granddaddy of them all, former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who served 35 years, retiring as he closed in on 90.

Elected in 1989 as an idealist and reformer, Hynes is now closing in on 80.

His 24-year has been marked by a coziness with the politically powerful Hasidic Jewish community, which until this last election cycle led him to ignore two decades of sexual assaults, including allegations of rape, by pillars of the Hasidic community.

Worse, Hynes has sent at least two men away for long prison stretches for the murders of Hasidic rabbis that they apparently did not commit.

In 1995, one of Hynes' top assistants Vecchione prosecuted one of those men, Jabbar Collins, for the murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack.

In 2010, a federal judge freed Collins, citing Vecchione's prosecutorial misconduct.

In her decision overturning Collins' conviction, federal judge Dora Irizarry cited "compelling evidence" that Vecchione had "wrongfully withheld a key witness' recantation, had coerced and knowingly relied on false testimony and argument at trial, had knowingly suppressed exculpatory and impeachment evidence and had acted affirmatively to cover up such misconduct for 15 years."

Meanwhile, Hynes continues to defend Vecchione's professionalism and integrity. Vecchoine heads the key Rackets Bureau with a salary of $189,000.

Collins, meanwhile, spent 16 years in prison.

Last March, David Ranta, another man apparently falsely accused, was released from prison where he had served 23 years for the 1990 murder of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger.

The New York Times reported that Hynes' office had sent Ranta and scores of others to prison on false evidence turned up by Detective Louis Scarcella.

Hynes then announced the formation of an "Integrity Unit" to examine some 50 of Scarcella's cases. This after 24 years.

Enter now the folks from "48 Hours."

Starting Tuesday, they will provide Hynes and his office with national exposure through "Brooklyn DA."

Producers, looking for a subject for the popular ten o'clock summer time slot, came up with what a CBS news release calls "a tough, candid behind-the-scenes look at the men and women prosecutors and their cases in one of the largest district attorney's offices in the country."

"What makes this series so unique," says the release, "is getting into the lives and personalities of the individual DAs, led by Charles 'Joe' Hynes..."

Whether this includes a candid look at Hynes' and Vecchione's records remains to be seen.

Asked whether Hynes and/or Vecchione would appear on camera, spokesman Richard Huff said, "The team on 'Brooklyn DA' doesn't publicly discuss editorial process."

Such claptrap allowed Huff to obscure the fact that, according to news accounts, Vecchione helped negotiate the terms of the deal.

One of Hynes' election opponents, Abe George, filed suit to stop the series from airing, claiming that it violates state campaign finance laws because the series is entertainment, not news. A judge dismissed the suit. On Tuesday the show goes on.

WAKE UP, BARACK. Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan are three AP reporters whose phone records the federal government subpoenaed a year ago after they reported on a foiled Yemeni-originated airplane bomb plot.

The three also won the Pulitzer Prize last year for exposing the NYPD's pervasive spying on Muslims.

Much of their reporting came from secret documents they obtained from the NYPD's Intelligence Division.

So far as anyone knows, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly -- who cares as little for freedom of the press as does President Obama [his recent remarks defending the importance of a free press notwithstanding] -- did not subpoena any of those reporters' phone records.

At least in this instance, Kelly was more restrained than our usually cautious President.

Perhaps Kelly's restraint stemmed from a letter he wrote in 2008 to then Attorney General Michael Mukasey, claiming that the Justice Department was "doing less than it is lawfully entitled to do to protect New York City."

Specifically, Kelly accused senior Justice Department officials in the administration of George W. Bush of foot-dragging when the NYPD requested wiretap warrants.

Muksaey shot back, accusing Kelly of ignoring probable cause standards, stating that the "driving force behind NYPD's complaints ... is contrary to the law."

The Obama administration apparently operated with no such standards.

The President said the decision to seize the records of 20 office, cell and home phone lines of A.P. reporters and editors -- as well as those of Fox News reporter James Rosen, who the government called a possible "co-conspirator" for publishing information about a potential North Korean missile test -- devolved from the Justice Department, not the White House.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he recused himself from the AP investigation and that his deputy -- not he -- made the decision to subpoena the records. As though this absolves him and Obama of responsibility.

Obama's announcement last week that he now subscribes to the importance of freedom of the press is either hypocritical or an indication he has been sleeping-walking through much of his presidency. Take your pick as to which is worse.

Those remarks are the opposite of what he indicated when revelations about the AP's subpoenas first became public.

Then, the idea of "freedom of the press" seemed not to have crossed his mind. Rather, he said that he would not apologize for being "concerned about information that could compromise their [Americans'] missions or might get them killed."

Neither he nor Holder has explained how by publishing the AP's stories on the failed Yemeni airplane plot or Fox News' on the North Korean missile tests, reporters comprised "national security."

Chances are they never will because they can't.

THE KELLY COUNTDOWN. So what's it going to be for Ray Kelly? He has until June 10th to decide if he's actually running for mayor.

Here are NYPD Confidential's take on his chances. It's a more candid appraisal than you'll find anywhere else.

Kelly's plusses: A weak field of opponents.

Democratic candidates: Quinn talks out both sides of her mouth. Impossible to understand her intentions amidst her statements both supporting Stop and Frisk and keeping Kelly as police commissioner.

De Blasio: a true liberal but with pandering inclinations, such as parading his black, former Lesbian wife. Liu: beset by finance scandal. Thompson: perhaps potentially the strongest candidate but described by people who know him as "lazy." Weiner: enough said.
Republicans: No better. The Gristedes guy, Catsimatidis, is going nowhere.

Rudy Giuliani's former deputy mayor Joe Lhota may run as a law-and-order candidate but his crack about the Port Authority police being "mall cops" has probably cost him the support of law enforcement groups.

There's also his advising Giuliani in 2000 to select Bernie Kerik as NYPD Commissioner over then Chief of Department Joe Dunne.

Kelly is better known than all the candidates, with the highest popularity ratings of any city official. No matter how one may feel about him personally, most New Yorkers respect the job he has done.

Kelly's minuses: Do popular ratings as police commissioner translate to popular ratings as mayor? Is he too law enforcement-rigid for a political job? Will he able to control himself when asked a question he cannot or doesn't want to answer?

Like about an Inspector General or a police monitor, which most New Yorkers now think is a pretty good idea.

Or about the freebies he gets from the Police Foundation, unheard of for any previous commissioner, which may go beyond his expenses at the Harvard Club?

Will people then see him as he really is? Mean, short-tempered, vindictive and unforgiving. Such qualities may make a strong police commissioner but not necessarily a strong mayor.

In short, he is a mirror-image of Giuliani, who fired him as police commissioner in 1994 and whom Kelly has never forgiven. No doubt Kelly remembers that in early 2008 Giuliani led all Republicans in popularity as a presidential candidate. And ended up with one delegate.