Brooklyn D.A. Rackets Bureau chief Michael Vecchione – previously excoriated by judges for withholding evidence and wrongful convictions – has just fired his two top prosecutors,after they refused to prosecute the case against alleged hasidic extortionist Samuel Kellner due to lack of any credible evidence against Kellner.
Prosecutors Want To Drop Case Against Sam Kellner Due To Lack Of Credible Evidence, Hynes Overrules, Demotes Them
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Lame duck Brooklyn DA Charles J. Hynes is not leaving office easily.
Crushed in in both the Democratic primary and general election by incoming D.A. Kenneth Thompson, Hynes scandal-plagued office is adding another bizarre event to its long line of ethically challenged decisions.
Rackets Bureau chief Michael Vecchione – previously excoriated by judges for withholding evidence and wrongful convictions – has just fired his two top prosecutors, the New York Post reported, after they refused to prosecute the case against alleged hasidic extortionist Samuel Kellner due to lack of any credible evidence against Kellner.
Kellner allegedly tried to extort the family of accused molester Rabbi Baruch Mordechai Lebovits. All the supposed key evidence against Kellner has reportedly fallen apart. Hynes’ key witness contradicted himself multiple times and clearly lied. That witness is being paid by Lebovits’ supporters. And a secret tape made without the direction of Hynes or police by Lebovits’ family were mistranslated from Yiddish to English by Hynes translator. Correctly translated, the tape does not support Hynes’ case.
Vecchione kicked top prosecutors Joseph Alexis and Nicholas Batsidis out of his bureau when they refused to carry on with the broken case. With the blessing of Hynes and the help of Hynes’ first ADA Amy Feinstein, the two were demoted and reassigned to the Trials Bureau.
Trial prosecutors of a case normally make the call on cases like Kellner’s. If they believe there is not enough evidence to convict, the case is dropped. To have them be overruled in Kellner’s case by the Rackets Bureau chief, Hynes and Feinstein – when none of those three is intimately familiar with the evidence or the case – smacks of rank politics, not justice.
“Dismissal is the only decision that makes sense. [But Vecchione, Hynes and Feinstein] want to leave it for the new administration to dismiss,” a law enforcement source reportedly said.
Update 1:22 pm CST – Hella Winston has more details just posted on the Jewish Week's website:
• Last Wednesday, the day after Charles J. Hynes lost his reelection bid to Ken Thompson, A.D.A. Joe Alexis phoned Kellner’s lawyers and told them that the case against Kellner would be dismissed on November 12, the next scheduled court date.
• Two days later Alexis allegedly called Niall MacGiollabhui, one of Kellner's attorneys, and told him that he and the other trial prosecutor, Nicholas Batsidis (who had indicted the case), had been overruled and then transferred out of the Rackets Division by its chief, Michael Vecchione. Until his dismissal last week, Alexis – a 22-year veteran of the D.A.'s office – had been the bureau chief of the Rackets Division.
• “We had been dealing with two very professional, career prosecutors. And then to find out that they are being punished for their exercise of judgment and conscience, it makes you sick. How can you have faith in the system when the system is obviously being corrupted by Michael Vecchione?,” Dowd told The Jewish Week Sunday.
• Winston reports that an e-mail sent Saturday to Hynes’ spokeswoman, Mia Goldberg, asking for comment about the demotion of the two prosecutors and the continuation of the Kellner case and any role Hynes may have played in it was not answered. It was "one of numerous e-mails to Hynes’ office from The Jewish Week about this case to go unanswered since early July," Winston wrote.
• "Dowd and others speculate that Vecchione’s decision to overrule the trial prosecutors may be related to the pending Lebovits case, which sources close to that case believe will be disposed of with a plea deal involving little or no jail time. Such a deal, some observers say, would be harder to justify if Kellner’s case were to be dismissed in advance of it," Winston reported. “From the beginning, we have believed that the prosecution of Sam Kellner was a product of a corrupt deal with Lebovits and his people and one of its purposes was to silence people in the chasidic community concerning complaints about sexual abuse by Lebovits and others,” Dowd reportedly said.