Manhattan gets first black DA; will take over Trump Org case

Northeast

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 30: Trump Tower, home to the Trump Organization, stands along Fifth Avenue on June 30, 2021 in New York City. According to reports, federal prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office are expected to charge the Trump Organization, and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, with tax-related crimes as soon as Thursday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Alvin Bragg, a former top deputy to New York’s attorney general, was poised to become Manhattan’s first Black district attorney after his closest opponent conceded in the the Democratic primary.

The candidate trailing him by several thousand votes in the race, former federal prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein, said in a statement on Friday that after several days of absentee votes being counted, “it is clear we cannot overcome the vote margin.”

New York City’s Board of Election has not publicly released updates on the count of absentee ballots. As a result, The Associated Press has been unable to call a winner in the race.

“This has been a long journey that started in Harlem,” Bragg said in a statement, adding “that 15-year old boy who was stopped numerous times at gunpoint by the police is the Democratic nominee to be Manhattan District Attorney.”

Bragg led Farhadian Weinstein by about 3 percentage points when voting ended June 22.

With a win, Bragg would be virtually guaranteed to succeed District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has been leading an investigation of former President Donald Trump and his company and is retiring at the end of the year.

The Republican candidate in the general election will be Thomas Kenniff, a defense attorney, former prosecutor and Army Judge Advocate General. Democrats outnumber Republicans heavily in Manhattan.

A former federal prosecutor who now teaches at New York Law School, Bragg would be Manhattan’s first Black district attorney. A Harlem native, Bragg worked as a civil rights lawyer before entering government service. He currently represents the mother of Eric Garner in a judicial inquiry into his 2014 death after being placed in a police chokehold.

Bragg, 47, defeated a big field of candidates including Farhadian Weinstein, three former assistants in the district attorney’s office, Lucy Lang, Liz Crotty and Diana Florence, and three candidates who have never been prosecutors — public defender Eliza Orlins, civil rights lawyer Tahanie Aboushi and state Assembly member Dan Quart.

Bragg has prior experience investigating Trump. As the state’s chief deputy attorney general in 2018, Bragg helped oversee a lawsuit that led to the closure of Trump’s charitable foundation over allegations he used the nonprofit to further his political and business interests.

Prior to that, he led a unit of the state attorney general’s office that investigates killings by police.

Bragg said he was drawn to a career in law after having a gun pointed at him six times as a youth — three times by police. In one encounter, amid the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s, Bragg said an officer stuck a gun in his face and wrongly accused him of being a drug dealer as he walked to get groceries for his father.

Campaigning for district attorney, Bragg pledged a culture change in the office, prioritizing public safety and police accountability while declining to pursue many low-level offenses and de-emphasizing conviction rates.

Bragg said he’d use data to spot racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In deciding which cases to pursue, Bragg said he’d want prosecutors to ask: “Does this case make us safer.”

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has spent two years looking at Trump’s business dealings, including hush-money payments, property valuations, tax strategies and executive compensation.

A special grand jury this week indicted the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. They were charged with helping Weisselberg and other top executives evade taxes he should have paid on apartments, cars and tuition aid given him by the company.

Vance, a Democrat, was widely expected not to seek reelection but he held off on making an announcement until after the Supreme Court ruled.

Vance will lead the Trump probe until he leaves office.

All eight Democrats running to succeed Vance have said they weren’t afraid of taking on Trump, but they were also cautious not to appear like they were prejudging the case or making the matter a campaign issue.

Vance will have been in office for 12 years when he steps side. His successor will be just the fourth elected district attorney in Manhattan in the last 80 years. Frank Hogan served for 31 years. Robert Morgenthau was in office for 34 years, until he was 90.

Manhattan district attorney is one of the most high-profile prosecution jobs in the U.S., dramatized on TV’s “Law and Order” and “Blue Bloods.”

The office has a staff of 500 lawyers and a $125 million annual budget.

A separate forfeiture fund bankrolled by Wall Street settlements and worth more than $800 million is used for grants to criminal justice and community organizations and big initiatives, such as testing backlogged rape kits.

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