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District Attorney

Photo by Rita J. Egan

The race between Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and prosecutor Ray Tierney, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, has been a contentious one. At the forefront, Tierney has questioned whether Sini has been as tough on crime as the DA himself has said, especially regarding the MS-13 gang.

The two sat down with TBR News Media’s editorial staff Oct. 11 to discuss several issues including the biggest ones facing Suffolk County.

Meet the candidates

Sini was first elected to the DA’s office in 2017 and is running for his second term. His background includes being an assistant attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York where he ultimately specialized in violent crimes, which included prosecuting murder trials. He went on to serve as Suffolk’s assistant deputy county executive for public safety and was appointed to the county police commissioner position in January of 2016.

“I love my job,” Sini said. “I wanted to serve in my own backyard.”

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tierney also grew up in Suffolk County. He began his law career in the Suffolk DA’s office under DA James Catterson (R).

The challenging candidate left the DA’s office in 1999 and went on to work for a private firm and returned to the DA’s office in 2002 and remained for another six years.

He then worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York as an assistant attorney for more than 11 years.

He left the office in 2019 to become an executive assistant district attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s office where he was in charge of the violent criminal enterprises bureau, crime strategies unit and body worn camera unit.

In order to run for Suffolk County DA, Tierney had to leave the Brooklyn office and is currently Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s chief counsel for compliance and enforcement.

Statistics

Sini said crime since he became police commissioner and even as DA has gone down each year. He said since he’s been in office violent crimes are down by about 30% and overall crimes more than 20%. He added year-to-date crime is down 7%.

“We’ve been very effective in keeping Suffolk safe, and also moving the criminal justice system in the right direction, but we knew that we had to reform the DA’s office and that’s why I ran initially,” he said.

Weeks before his election Sini’s predecessor, former DA Tom Spota (D), was arrested. Sini said the office has been reformed in various ways. There has also been the hiring of more than 100 people, an increase in diversity and an overhauling of the training program.

Tierney disputed Sini’s crime statistics saying shootings are up in Suffolk County, and he wants to use his experience in crime strategies to bring those numbers down.

“Statistics can be manipulated,” Tierney said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to index the crimes.”

Tierney has criticized Sini’s approach during his campaign. He said the DA’s office will announce numerous indictments via press releases but he said the office doesn’t send out as many announcements about convictions.

“I don’t dispute for a fact that he has very splashy arrests,” Tierney said. “I’m talking about results.”

He also criticized Sini for the number of times his office has used plea bargaining, giving the example of a drug dealer that Sini charged with a top count in 2021. However, he said, a year earlier that same dealer was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and then allowed to plea.

“If he’s a kingpin in 2021, why do you give him a misdemeanor in 2020?” Tierney said.

Sini said pleading in certain cases is not unusual, and the DA’s office may not have the evidence needed in 2020.

MS-13 gang

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Tierney said Sini talks about the biggest MS-13 gang busts and asked for defendants’ names, pleas and sentences. He also asked why not one was charged with murder. 

“If you have a crime strategies unit, if every two weeks you’re letting the statistics come out the stats will speak for themselves,” the prosecutor said.

Tierney said doing so is an example of being independent from the police and county executive.

Sini said his office has been part of one of the largest MS-13 takedowns, where 96 people were indicted in one county. The case involved three years of wiretapping investigations. The takedown netted a multitude of arrests, and Sini said his office is now prosecuting the cases and is having a lot of success.

The DA said the reason why many were charged with murder conspiracy instead of murder was because law enforcement was able to stop the killings from happening due to the wiretaps used in the investigation.

“Our detectives would go out and stop the violence, and then we charged the defendants in some cases with murder conspiracy,” he said. “We stopped 10 murders from happening that way.”

He said the office, in addition to murder conspiracy pleas, has received pleas to assault and criminal possession of weapons, which have significant sentences attached to them.

“We’re making a difference in terms of MS-13 on Long Island, there’s no denying that,” Sini said. “And it’s not just the DA’s office, and we’re not suggesting otherwise. It’s a collaborative effort from the local police department, all the way up to our federal government.”

Tierney said there were 46 gang members on the indictment, and each one was responsible for two murders, which Sini interrupted and said it was murder conspiracy.

“Now he said he thwarted 10 murders,” Tierney said. “Now how exactly did he thwart those 10 murders? By arresting them? Well, the manner in which he arrested them was, he had this big splashy takedown after two years and then he arrested all 96 at once. So, in order for that statement to be true, that would have meant that as he prepared his press release, as he called all the media, as he got everything all ready for the takedown, the night before 10 murders became apparent. And then he took those individuals down.”

Tierney said he has a problem with that style as “that’s not how it works when we do our MS-13 indictments.”

“We take them down as soon as possible,” he said. “We don’t care about the indictment. We care about the results, and you can’t thwart 10 murder conspiracies, all at once, it’s an impossibility. There’s no way that 10 murder conspiracies come to fruition at the exact date of the takedown.”

Tierney said Sini seals his cases because he doesn’t want the public to see the plea bargains that he has given.

Sini said that was false since indictments are public, except for certain cases that may need to be sealed due to cooperators or under certain circumstances, and it’s appropriate to do so.

Drug epidemic

Sini said the drug epidemic has been one of the most significant public safety problems for more than a decade. He said the approach is investing in prevention, treatment, recovery and law enforcement.

“Law enforcement even plays a role in treatment, too, because you can create and implement diversion programs, where you get low-level offenders who are suffering from addiction into treatment programs,” he said.

He added drug offenders also need to be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.

“We’ve done that,” he said. “I’ll give you two examples, both in terms of bringing operators and major trafficker charges the top felony counts, these are significant prosecutions, and we’re leading the state on doing that.”

He said the sentences can be 25 years to life. 

Tierney said he feels the most significant public safety problem is the rise of crime in the county, whether gun violence or the opioid epidemic.

He added it’s important to keep an eye on the U.S. southern border as powder fentanyl is being brought into the country. The powder form is sprinkled into cocaine unbeknownst to the buyer.

Summing up

Sini said that Tierney has criticized him for not having as much trial experience as he, and said that’s just an issue of age, since he is younger than the challenger. The DA said that while prosecuting is part of the job there is more to it.

“We’re running to be a CEO of a major law firm,” he said. “I have significant managerial experience with a track record. He has zero.”

Sini said he believes his office has done “great work on a number of different fronts,” and he’s running on his record.

“We brought some of the most significant cases in the region on a variety of public safety fronts — the drug epidemic, gang violence, human trafficking, environmental crime.”

Tierney said he never thought he would get involved in the political process.

“I think what we’re seeing is our leadership is gaslighting us,” he said. “We’re being told everything’s great, everything’s wonderful. They are talking points.” 

Tierney said the main function of the office is to prosecute.

“We are dismissing cases,” he said. “We’re not indicting cases. This is the management of the office, but to say you’re a CEO and a manager’s office, it is the prosecutor’s office. We need someone to prosecute those cases.”

The winner of the DA race will hold office for the next four years.

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Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo

A Mount Sinai man was officially sentenced in Suffolk County Supreme Court Wednesday, Aug. 26 for an alleged scheme to defraud people about a fake recycling plant in upstate New York.

Between August 2010 and November 2017, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said Joseph Prosa, 53, of Mount Sinai, operated a money-making scheme where he claimed to victims that he was seeking investments to build a recycling facility in Poughkeepsie, telling them he owned land for the facility, that he had a permit and that he was a recycling and plant construction expert for a process called “gasification,” or the process of burning garbage for use in things like boilers furnaces and gas engines. Prosecutors said none of this was true. 

Through the scheme, Prosa stole around $3.6 million from a blind Poughkeepsie man in his 80s. The man has since passed away. He also allegedly stole around $250,000 from a second victim who resides in Suffolk County. Both victims were previous acquaintances of Prosa’s, the DA’s office said.

“This was a grossly deceitful scheme in which the defendant stole millions of dollars from his victims, including a senior citizen who was robbed of his life savings,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “He operated this scheme out of pure greed and callousness.”

The DA said the investigation revealed Prosa used the stolen money on personal expenses, including using more than $1.2 million in casinos and racehorse gambling. An additional amount was used to purchase a racehorse. The defendant also used the stolen funds to repay large amounts of debt incurred by gambling and to pull his house out of foreclosure.

Prosa was indicted in December 2018 and he pled guilty May 18, 2019.

Prosa was sentenced by Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho for first degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud. The sentence incurs 2 ½ years to 7 ½ years for the grand larceny and 1 to 3 years for the scheme to defraud. The sentences will run concurrently.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides, currently of the Conviction Integrity Bureau.

 

District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Leah Chiappino

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) hosted a Town Hall Meeting via Zoom on Thursday, with over 300 constituents in attendance.

Sini first took a moment to acknowledge the difficulties the pandemic is having on people’s mental health and offered condolences to those who know someone who has lost their life to the virus.

“This is more than an inconvenience and will have a long-term impact on mental health, especially with those who have pre-existing conditions and substance abuse disorders,” he said.

The District Attorney, who himself tested positive for COVID-19 March 24, says he has made a full recovery after self-isolating for two weeks, while experiencing mild symptoms such as the loss of smell and taste. He added his diagnosis was not surprising, given the high contact nature of his position

“As of March 16, I was still in court, and doing community outreach and public engagement,” he said. “I am definitely one of the lucky ones.”

Sini is participating in an antibody testing program at Stony Brook Hospital to see if his blood plasma can be found with antibodies for the virus. He encouraged other survivors of the virus to do the same.

Sini reported that violent crime has seen a 24.3 percent reduction, and most other major crimes are down with the exception of commercial burglaries and motor vehicle theft. He says the rise commercial burglaries makes sense, as businesses are shut down and people are taking advantage. His office is coming up with a strategy to address the increase in the coming weeks. However, since March 23, 130 out of 188 handcuffed arrests have been the result of a domestic or child abuse crime.

“We recognize this challenge and we’ll come up with strategies to combat it,” Sini said. He added that prosecutors and victims advocates are mean to get in contact with those who have reported a domestic crime. They are also in coordination with safe shelters for domestic violence victims, most of whom are running and working with hotels if needed. The county has also granted an automatic extension on orders of protection until a victim’s next court date, or until a judge changes it. Victims can text 911 for help or call 631-853-4138 to obtain an order of protection.

The district attorney’s office is assisting enforcement of social distancing guidelines, as part of New York State on PAUSE executive order, made effective March 22. Sini said they would prosecute those who don’t heed warnings by Suffolk County Police, code enforcement officers or village Police, with charges of obstruction of governmental administration and/or disorderly conduct.

“If someone needs to be taught a lesson or made an example of, we’re willing to do that,” he said.

Throughout the call, Sini reassured the DA’s Office will continue operate at its fullest capacity

“We are getting things done,” he said. “You have enough to worry about, whether it be health, homeschooling your children, or finances. One thing you do not have to worry about is whether or not the DA’s office is keeping you safe.”

Sini said his office is continuing to invest in technology and update their protocol to ensure employees can work from home effectively. As of March 16, 80 percent of employees at the DA’s office was working from home, and the entire staff was working from home as of March 17. Suffolk County was the first County in New York state to allow essential hearings and arraignments to be done via Skype, with the necessary paperwork being shared via email.

Sini added the office is taking the time to invest in professional development and zoom-based training. 115 employees have taken Spanish language classes. The bureau is also reviewing strategy, policy development and long-term planning.

According to the district attorney, The Financial and Money-Laundering Bureau is aggressively vetting Personal Protective Equipment suppliers to the county to ensure there are no scams. The county has obtained and distributed 2.2 million pieces of PPE to healthcare workers. Justin Meyers, Sini’s Chief of Staff, is acting as a liaison to the county executive, as well as to hospitals working on expansion and coordinating the implementation of mobile testing sites and PPE Distribution.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini announces charges related to illegal dumping scheme. Photo from DA's office

Long Island homeowners who thought they were getting free, clean fill for their properties off Craigslist may have learned if the offer seems too good to be true, that’s because it was.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced a 130-charge indictment Nov. 26 against 22 individuals and nine corporations who allegedly cooperated in a massive conspiracy to illegally dispose of solid waste in 24 locations spanning Suffolk and Nassau counties.

“What we’re dealing with here is an epidemic of illegal dumping in Suffolk County,” Sini said. “It’s gone on far too long, and our message is very clear: We will not tolerate this criminal conduct in our county. We will do whatever it takes to uncover illegal dumping.”

Smithtown resident Anthony Grazio acted as “dirt broker” in the island-wide dumping scheme. Photo from DA’s office

The conspiracy was allegedly led by Smithtown resident Anthony Grazio, 53, also known as “Rock,” who acted as a dirt broker by arranging for locations where trucking companies could illegally dispose of their solid waste and construction debris, according to Suffolk prosecutors.

An investigation dubbed Operation Pay Dirt, which involved the district attorney’s office, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Police Department, launched in February 2018 revealed Grazio was allegedly posting ads on Craigslist and other websites offering “free, clean fill — free delivery,” in addition to stating it was “certified and approved for residential and commercial use.” Grazio allegedly worked with Vito Fragola, 44, of Commack, to also post a sign on a tree outside a home on Wilson Boulevard in Central Islip to advertise “free clean fill,” in February 2018, according to court documents.

When a Long Island homeowner or business expressed interest in fill for landscaping projects, Grazio and owners or operators of nine different trucking companies would discuss the potential of the site and the amount of material that could be dumped there from New York City construction and demolition sites, according to the district attorney.

“The bigger the property, the better for the defendants as this scam was all about making money,” Sini said. “When an ideal property was found, Grazio could often be heard directing his co-conspirators to ‘hit it hard.’ Grazio approved material being dumped at residential locations even when notified that the material smelled like diesel fuel or had pieces of wood, asphalt, concrete, large boulders or even glass contained in the material.”

Investigators claimed after dumping contaminated fill on a property, Grazio and his co-conspirators allegedly went as far as to provide the homeowners with false laboratory reports stating the material was clean or cover it with a layer of topsoil to ensure grass could grow. In other cases, the truck owners and operators were allegedly caught having phone discussions on how to cover up the hazardous materials being moved about to prevent detection of the illegal dumping.

Out of the 24 locations identified to be impacted by the scheme, the district attorney’s office said 19 were residential properties, four commercial and one school in Roslyn Heights.

“They did this to make money, they did this to save on operating costs, and they did it at the expense of the health of our residents,” Sini said.

Testing performed by the DEC found fill at six locations was positive for acutely hazardous substances, mainly pesticides, with 17 sites containing hazardous substances under the state’s Environmental Conservation Law. These hazardous substances included arsenic, lead, copper, nickel, mercury and other metals.

Map of all illegal dumping sites. Photo from DA’s office

“Illegal solid waste dumping poses a serious threat to New York’s environment and burdens communities across Long Island,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Among North Shore individuals charged alongside Grazio and Fragola for being involved in this alleged scheme were: Alix Aparaicio Gomez, 50, of Huntington; Anthony Grazio Jr., 19, of Smithtown; Michael Heinrichs, 48, of Port Jefferson Station; Robert Hirsch, 43, of Commack; Joseph Lamberta, 68, of Hauppauge; Steven Nunez Genao, 24, of Port Jefferson Station; Milan Parik, 46, of Centereach; James Perruzza, 18, of Northport; Frank Rotondo Jr., 47, of Miller Place; Thomas St. Clair, 51, of St. James; and Robert Walter, 31, of Nesconset.

The top count on the indictment is second-degree criminal mischief, which is a Class D felony, and, if found guilty, carries a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini. File photo by Victoria Espinoza.

Suffolk County now has a new drug program that judges and prosecutors hope will offer nonviolent offenders a means to get clean before they repeat offenses.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) along with several drug court judges announced Aug. 13 the creation of the new Comprehensive Addiction Recovery and Education Program that will allow people charged with low-level drug crimes to instead be sent into a drug treatment program rather than being matriculated through the standard legal system. If the participants finish the program clean, they are promised the charges will be dismissed.

“We consistently heard that in some cases requiring defendants to take a plea prior to accepting treatment is a disincentive [to seek court treatment options],” Sini said at the press conference. “By connecting these individuals to treatment, we will not only be helping to tackle the disease of addiction … we will also be improving public safety by addressing the underlying motivation to commit crimes fueled by drug abuse.”

Those charged with misdemeanor drug crimes can participate in the program without having to enter a guilty plea. Those who sign up for the program work with members of court staff to develop a treatment plan and determine what services will be available. The program lasts for 90 days, but the person involved in the program can ask for a longer term.

“It should result in increased numbers who receive the benefit of treatment given the crisis that we’re facing both locally and nationally,” Suffolk County District Administrative Judge Randall Hinrichs said.

What makes the program remarkable, according to Karen Kerr, the supervising judge of Suffolk County District Court, is that without having to plead guilty more people will be more willing to participate.

“For many people, particularly those people with minimal to no record, it was just too much of a risk for them to take [the plea],” Kerr said. “I felt there was a group of people who really could use the help but who just didn’t want to take the chance.”

The timing for this program comes as the numbers of opioid-related deaths have peaked in the past two years. Suffolk Chief Medical Examiner Michael Caplan said in June the office has data on approximately 360 county deaths from opioid overdoses in 2017. The office is expecting a decline in the number of deaths this year by more than 100, but officials won’t know the results until they compile all data at the end of the year.

The program is open to defendants who have minimal or no criminal record and who have no history of violence or gang involvement. Those charged with misdemeanors of petit larceny, criminal possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal trespass, criminal possession of hypodermic instrument, criminal use of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct or loitering are eligible for the program as long as the drug court determines they are addicted to any kind of hard drug.

Kerr said that the district attorney determines whether a person should be screened for a drug problem and then the person is referred to the CARE court date, always held on Tuesdays, and then the court treatment team will ask a number of questions to determine if there is an issue.

Officials said they expect many people to be eligible for the CARE program. District attorney spokeswoman Sheila Kelly said the office noted from April to June of this year approximately 600 people would have fit the criteria to be allowed to enter into the program.

Violations of the program include being arrested on new charges, not participating in the treatment program as recommended or not reporting to scheduled court appearances. Participants are drug tested prior to finishing the program.

Hinrichs said the court and the DA’s office will be monitoring the program to see results and identify its efficacy and inclusiveness.

High school educational component created to combat teen drunk and districated driving, opioid abuse

A public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment. Video from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

With graduation approaching comes a new outreach program to keep kids safe.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced an initiative aimed at educating high school students and their parents on the dangers of impaired and reckless driving May 14. The program, Choices and Consequences, is described as a dynamic, engaging presentation that is provided by assistant district attorneys and detectives assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Vehicular Crime Bureau.

“Whether it’s texting and driving, drinking or doing drugs and driving, these decisions can be fatal,” Sini said. “The Choices and Consequences program drives that message home to teens and their parents by using real-life examples that unfortunately have changed lives forever, have taken lives from us prematurely and have devastated victims’ families and friends here in Suffolk County.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between 15 and 24 years old is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are impaired driving and reckless or distracted driving.

During Sini’s tenure as Suffolk County police commissioner, motor vehicle crashes within the police district were reduced by more than 30 percent as a result of a multi-pronged enforcement effort to increase traffic safety.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions.” — Tim Sini

“I’m proud to say that the Suffolk County Police Department and its partners have been successful in reducing motor vehicle crashes that result in serious physical injuries or fatalities, but enforcement is just one piece of our approach,” Sini said. “We need to educate — we need to raise awareness of making bad decisions behind the wheel.”

The Choices and Consequences program is based on a presentation created in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and later adopted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. It comprises facts and statistics on impaired and reckless driving; interactive skits that show how police officers respond to motor vehicle crash scenes and detect impairment; and demonstrations of the impacts of alcohol and drugs on motor skills.

In partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, the scope of the effort has been expanded to educate participants about the dangers of substance use in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

LICADD, in conjunction with the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a family charitable foundation concentrated on alcohol use disorder and addiction, and on educating the public that addiction is a medical illness, recently released a public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” that highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment.

“LICADD is proud to partner with the district attorney’s office as it takes the lead in making sure that this life-saving education is provided to every student and every parent in Suffolk County,” said Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD. “It’s so important when dealing with a disease that is potentially preventable to get this message out in every Long Island school. This is how we are going to turn the corner on this epidemic.”

Sini invited school districts and community groups across Suffolk County to participate in the program by emailing [email protected] or calling 631-853-5602.

“We have proms, graduations and the summer months coming up, so it’s the perfect time for schools to invite us in to provide this presentation,” Sini said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions. It is that powerful.”

Incumbents win back Brookhaven, Suffolk County legislator seats

The race between Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon appears to be over. Photo on left by Alex Petroski; photo on right by Rita J. Egan

By Desirée Keegan

In a landslide victory, Suffolk County will have a new district attorney, and with that a new chief of police.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) defeated Ray Perini (R) with 62.08 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election. Perini, who came up with 106,773 votes, ran a contentious campaign against Sini, who campaigned as a reformer hoping to restore reliability to the office.

“Together we have ushered in a new era of criminal justice in Suffolk County, an era of integrity, fairness and doing the right thing,” Sini told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Hauppauge. “We are going to return the office to the honorable institution it once was.”

With Sini’s victory, he will leave his post at the start of 2018, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) will appoint a new police commissioner.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini talks to supporters after learning about his landslide win for district attorney. Photo by Greg Catalano

“I will immediately begin to assemble a top-notch transition team consisting of local and federal officials,” Sini continued. “This team will conduct a thorough top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top assessment of the office and we will do whatever it takes to ensure the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office works for the people. Under my administration, the office will work for the people and not politics. For far too long this office has been used as a tool for those who are politically connected. That ends today.”

The race for the new sheriff in town was too close to call at the end of election night, with Democrat Errol Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, holding a slim lead over Republican Larry Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University. The last update from the Suffolk County Board of Election’s unofficial results showed Toulon had 141,006 votes to Zacarese’s 139,652.

Toulon said he believes he will maintain his advantage.

“I feel very confident,” he said from the IBEW Local 25 building in Hauppauge. “I feel incredibly overwhelmed with the support considering I have only been in this race for five-and-a-half weeks, and the people of Suffolk County recognize they want someone with experience, and I feel confident that when the absentee ballots are counted I will be sheriff of Suffolk County.”

Zacarese said he knew it was down to the wire, and couldn’t wait to see the results once the 15,000 absentee ballots are counted.

“For anybody here who knows me, you know I don’t do anything the easy way, so what else did you expect?” he said. “This is far from over. We’re going to get to work starting tomorrow.”

Incumbents swept Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town in TBR News Media’s coverage area on election night.

In the most contested legislative race on the North Shore, incumbent 6th District Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) edged out Rocky Point resident and local business owner Gary Pollakusky to secure her fourth term. After winning by 17 votes in the 2015 election, Anker finished the evening with 10,985 (54.93 percent) votes to Pollakusky’s 9,004 (45.03 percent).

Diane and Ed Romaine celebrate the Brookhaven Town supervisor’s re-election. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We had such an amazing victory, and this shows you all the hard work that I do, that my office does,” Anker said. “This is what we do — we are public servants. We work for the people. The people make a decision to vote and it’s a victory for everyone. There are so many initiatives and projects that I started and I want to continue with.”

Pollakusky thanked the members of his team for their hard work in putting together what he called a “great campaign.”

“Blood sweat and tears,” he said went into his preparation for election night. “Really, we ran a great race.”

In the 5th District, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is looking forward to continuing her environmental work. She came through with 63.39 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Ed Flood, who finished with 36.56 percent of the vote.

“I love our community, and I work hard every day to make a difference and to help people,” Hahn said. “I’m just thrilled to be able to continue to do that.”

Returnee Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) claimed her second term in office at the helm of the 12th District with an overwhelming 67.40 percent of the vote to challenger Kevin Hyms’ 32.55 percent.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) was in a race that nearly doubled in turnout total from the last time he ran. With 61.9 percent of the vote, the longtime politician secured his seventh and eighth year as the head of the town.

“Thank you to all of the voters in Brookhaven,” he said from Stereo Garden LI in Patchogue. “Thank you for the overwhelming mandate for myself and all those who ran with us. We got the message. We’re going to keep on making sure that taxes stay low, we’re going to keep on moving Brookhaven forward, we’re going to keep on doing the right thing.”

Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also secured their seats.

Voters anxiously and nervously watch results come in. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cartright, representing the 1st District, won with 60.3 percent of the vote to Republican James Canale’s 39.66 percent.

“I am just extremely humbled and honored to have been given this amazing opportunity,” Canale said. “I may have lost, but you can not keep me down. I will be back and I will be better than ever.”

Bonner, representing the 2nd District, said she was happy with her win. She pulled away with 63.54 percent of the vote to Coram resident and software developer Mike Goodman’s 36.43 percent.

In the town’s 3rd Council District, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) lauded what he called “amazing results” (65.53 percent of the votes).

“Well I guess the word is out — good Republican government is back in Brookhaven,” LaValle said. “I look back at this town board — this is a great team we have here with supervisor Romaine, highway superintendent [Dan] Losquadro — this is a team that’s going to get the job done and has gotten the job done for the residents of Brookhaven.”

Losquadro (R) maintained his highway superintendent title, securing 60.32 percent of the votes to Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy’s 39.65 percent. Donna Lent (I) will remain town clerk with a 57.26  to 42.7 percent win over Democrat Cindy Morris.

Lent said of the results, “when you run on your record and you run on your integrity you always win.”

Rita J. Egan and Alex Petroski contributed reporting

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Follow @TBRNewspapers or check #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

Proposal 1: Constitutional Convention

Yes: 13.38%            No: 86.61%

Proposal 2: Amendment on public pension forfeiture

Yes: 69.19%            No: 30.8%

Proposal 3: Amendment on use of forest preserve land

Yes: 48.63%            No: 51.36%

 

Suffolk County District Attorney

    Ray Perini (R)               Tim Sini (D)
        36.41%                        62.08%

 

Suffolk County Sheriff

 Larry Zacarese (R)      Errol Toulon Jr. (D)
         48.93%                        49.41%

 

Suffolk County Legislator
5th District:
    Kara Hahn (D)              Ed Flood (R)
       63.39%                         36.56%

 

6th District:   
    Sarah Anker (D)      Gary Pollakusky (R)
          54.93%                       45.02%

 

12th District:
Leslie Kennedy (R)        Kevin Hyms (D)
         67.4%                         32.55%
13th District:
      Rob Trotta (R)        Coleen Maher (D)
           67.62%                     32.32%
16th District:
 Susan Berland (D)      Hector Gavilla (R)
          54.93%                      45.03%
18th District:

William Spencer (D)      Dom Spada (R)
          53.12%                      45.65%

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor

  Ed Romaine (R)        Jack Harrington (D)
        61.91%                        38.06%

 

Councilperson
1st District:

Valerie Cartright (D)   James Canale (R)
          60.3%                      39.66%
2nd District:

   Jane Bonner (C)        Mike Goodman (D)
         63.53%                       36.42%
3rd District:

  Kevin LaValle (R)       Alfred Ianacci (D)
         65.52%                       33.98%

 

Highway Superintendent

Dan Losquadro (R)     Anthony Portesy (D)
         60.32%                      39.65%

 

Town Clerk

    Donna Lent (I)         Cindy Morris (D)
          57.26%                      42.36%

Town of Huntington

Supervisor
Tracey Edwards (D)    Chad Lupinacci (R)
         43.87%                       53.85%

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards conceded to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “I want to wish supervisor-elect Lupinacci congratulations on a hard-fought race,” she said. “I have no regrets about not running for town board. I could not be prouder [of my party]. We ran together and ran a positive race talking about issues important to us.”

Town Board

Mark Cuthbertson (D)    Emily Rogan (D)
         25.49%                        23.91%

   Jim Leonick (R)             Ed Smyth (R)
          24.92%                        25.6%

Emily Rogan on her loss in her first political race: “Not the way we waned, but I feel so blessed and full of gratitude,” she said. “This is one election. We are not done yet.”

 

Town of Smithtown

Supervisor

  Ed Wehrheim (R)        Kristen Slevin (I)
          56.79%                       7.85%

 

     Bill Holst (D)
          35.07%

“I feel terrific,” Ed Wehrheim said of winning. “It’s been a long, long campaign because of the primary, which was a very tough one, but this is the culmination of all of it. It feels great to be here with all my supporters and family and friends — they’ve been with me the whole way. It’s a great victory for Smithtown in my opinion, a great victory for my supporters and the residents. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work in January.”

Town Council

 Tom McCarthy (R)      Lynne Nowick (R)
        22.45%                       24.45%

    Bob Doyle (C)           Tom Lohmann (C)
           9.63%                        9.18%

Amy Fortunato (D)    Patricia Stoddard (D)
         17.62%                      16.44%

All percentages are unofficial results as per the Suffolk County Board of Elections

Ray Perini and Tim Sini are campaigning to replace current Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Election Day 2017. Photos by Kevin Redding

In life, timing is everything.

Thanks to the indictment of current Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota (D) Oct. 25 for his alleged involvement in the cover-up of former Suffolk Police Commissioner James Burke’s civil rights violation — a charge the ex-police chief pleaded guilty to in 2016 — the high-profile race to be the next DA in Suffolk just got a brighter spotlight.

The next DA — be it Burke’s replacement in the police department, Democrat Tim Sini, or Huntington resident and criminal lawyer with more than 40 years of experience, Republican Ray Perini — will be tasked with restoring public faith in a position now synonymous with corruption. The two candidates have publicly traded barbs during the campaign, and that didn’t stop during their individual interviews at TBR News Media’s Setauket office in October.

Huntington resident and former Suffolk County narcotics bureau head Ray Perini is running to replace Thomas Spota as the county’s next District Attorney. Photo by Kevin Redding

Perini said a key distinction in this race is he is not a politician. His first attempt at political office came four years ago when Perini decided to challenge Spota because he said he was concerned the incumbent would be cross endorsed by both Republicans and Democrats.

“You’ve lost your moral ability to lead an office,” Perini said of Spota, after his announcement that he would be stepping down before the end of the year. “He had to step down for the good of the office.”

The challenger began his career as a lawyer in the 1970s in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, and he spent time working on both narcotics cases and homicides while in Brooklyn. In 1976, he moved to Suffolk County to head its narcotics bureau, where he tried one or two major cases each year, he said.

“There’s nothing I haven’t done as a criminal prosecutor, and I’m very proud,” he said. “I believe I have had a very successful career.”

Perini said he believes his background suits him perfectly to be the next Suffolk DA.

“It’s what I’ve trained my whole life to do,” Perini said. He added his experiences have prepared him to tackle two of the county’s biggest problems: drug addiction and gang infiltration. “I was successful because I actually worked on a daily basis with the [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration] task force and you can’t do that kind of work without working with the FBI and the DEA.”

Sini also got his foot in the door as a lawyer to the west. He was the assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York working as a federal prosecutor under Preet Bharara, where he said he specialized in violent crime cases.

“I loved my job — I loved bringing justice to victims or family members of victims,” he said.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota, who did not plan to run for re-election, was indicted Oct. 25 and will retire prior to the completion of his fourth term in office. File photo

The Babylon resident said he always wanted to make his way back to Suffolk. He eventually returned to serve as the deputy county executive under County Executive Steve Bellone (D), specializing in public safety initiatives. As the successor to Burke, he said he has experience taking over a department in turmoil.

“I have a proven track record of leadership in difficult situations,” Sini said. “I walked into the police department during a scandal and if I’m elected DA I’ll be walking into the district attorney’s office amidst a scandal.”

He explained why he thinks he’s a fit for the position.

“This is, in my opinion, the most important position in Suffolk County,” Sini said of the DA. “The level of responsibility that the district attorney has is enormous. I’m running for district attorney to restore integrity to the leadership of the district attorney’s office, which is sorely needed.”

Both were critical of the other’s assertions that their background has prepared them to serve as district attorney.

Sini pointed out Perini’s resignation from the narcotics bureau amid allegations of illegal wiretapping. A New York State Commission of Investigation report named Perini more than 100 times, according to Sini. The police commissioner has also been vocal about annual parties his opponent chartered for local district attorneys and judges, which Sini saw as a sign of impropriety.

Perini attributed the issues to two narcotics officers within his 12-person department who “went bad,” and said he investigated when allegations arose, eventually forcing the pair to resign, making no attempt at a cover-up. He defended his decision to host the boat parties as standard operating practice amongst defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors who work together closely.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini is running to become the county’s District Attorney. Photo by Kevin Redding

“People have this image of a yacht and call girls — it wasn’t that,” he said. “We don’t do X-rated parties. I never thought it would be this kind of issue. Would I do it again? Of course not.”

Perini, in turn, swung back at Sini for claims the police commissioner’s campaign ads made about some of his accomplishments while working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, saying they were inflated.

“I believe what he’s been doing has been to raise his profile,” Perini said. He referenced Newsday’s endorsement of Sini, which referred to him as “a low-level and undistinguished” prosecutor.

Perini also criticized Sini for telling the Suffolk County Legislature he did not intend to run for DA when being confirmed as the police commissioner. Sini said at the time he didn’t intend to run for DA, but things changed.

The candidates did find some common ground on dealing with gang issues and drug addiction. The pair said they see prevention as the most effective method to deal with addiction, and both suggested plans to reach kids earlier before the problems spiral out of control. Each also preached interdepartmental cooperation and intelligence sharing as the primary solution to dealing with gang-related violence, especially by MS-13.

Perini suggested the county should utilize the existing “kingpin” statute, which sets sentences from 20 years minimum to life for dealers making at least $75,000 during a six-month span.

“Quite frankly, I think that has to be used more aggressively with less plea bargaining to get the word on the street that, ‘If you do this in Suffolk County, you’re going to pay dearly for it,’” he said.

Sini stressed the importance of reaching Suffolk County immigrants, who are recruited by gang members upon instruction from crew higher-ups in home countries, with programs and social service resources — prior to recruitment — as a means to stomp out gang activity.

Legislator Rob Trotta, left, calls on Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to resign. Photo by Alex Petroski

Corruption is a word used often relating to Suffolk County government recently, and at least three legislators have had enough.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) spoke at a press conference at the Suffolk County Legislature, Evans K. Griffing Building in Riverhead on Tuesday in which he called for the resignation of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and District Attorney Tom Spota. Trotta also called for Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer (D), who is also the Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman to step down from one of the two jobs.

“At this point we are calling for the district attorney to step down and to let normalcy come back,” Trotta said, adding stories that continue to come out relating to former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, who pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February, are “disgusting.” Spota, Bellone and Schaffer were all critical in Burke’s career rise and promotion despite evidence reported by Newsday the men were warned of Burke’s troubled legal past.

Trotta’s calls for Spota’s resignation also stem from his backing of Chris McPartland, a corruption prosecutor in Spota’s office, who Newsday reported in January is under investigation by a federal grand jury for political corruption.

“People need to be held responsible for their actions and right now, in this county, they’re not being held responsible,” Trotta said. “I don’t mean in federal courts or being arrested, I mean morally and socially.”

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) joined Trotta at the press conference. Cilmi stopped short of calling for resignations when pressed, though he made a statement condemning Bellone and Spota’s alleged actions relating to Burke.

“People always have a sense that their political system is corrupt,” Cilmi said. “But day after day, week after week, year after year they’re seeing those fears play out right before their eyes in Suffolk County and it’s disgraceful. Whatever integrity Suffolk County has left is evaporating in a murky haze of finger pointing and deceit.”

Cilmi also echoed Trotta’s sentiments about Schaffer and suggested Schaffer’s two positions created a conflict of interest.

“The people of Suffolk County didn’t elect Schaffer,” Cilmi said. “The people of Babylon elected him town supervisor. Is he able to keep his government role separate from his political role?”

Schaffer could not be reached for comment but Bellone responded to Trotta’s comments in an email through his spokesperson, Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

“Rob Trotta and Tom Cilmi are partisan politicians who just don’t get it,” she wrote. “This is not a partisan issue, this is about sweeping out a culture of abuse and corruption in the district attorney’s office. I regret that I trusted the word of the district attorney regarding Jim Burke, and I have learned from that error in judgment, which is why I nominated former federal prosecutor Tim Sini as police commissioner after vetting him for more than a year.”

Bob Clifford, a spokesperson for Spota, responded in a similar fashion.

“This predictably partisan press conference calling for the resignation of the duly elected district attorney is nothing but a political challenge to the effective leadership of Thomas Spota, who has spent the last 14 years putting criminals in jail,” he said.

McCaffrey and Trotta refuted any claims that the legislators’ motivation was driven by anything other than morality.

“I can tell you there’s Democrats in there that want to be standing here with us,” McCaffrey said, gesturing toward a legislative meeting going on at the same time. “They are ashamed of what’s going on in Suffolk County right now.”

Trotta said he invited Democratic legislators, though none attended.

“This is not about Republicans — this is not about Democrats,” Trotta said. “This is about corruption. Our job as representatives is to look into this. My constituents don’t have the ability to look into it like I can. Having been a former detective for 25 years I came to this job and I am sickened by what I see. Sickened.”