A former Suffolk assistant DA is ready to take over the main seat in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
Ray Tierney, who will be running on the Republican and Conservative tickets Nov. 2 to challenge current DA Tim Sini (D), stopped by TBR News Media’s office last week to introduce himself and answer some questions about his campaign.
“When I talk about this contest, I say that it is a contest between the prosecutor and the politician, or when you look at my opponent’s record — what he’s done and what he’s claimed to have done, more accurately — it’s a contest between the prosecutor and the pretender,” Tierney said.
Tierney resides in the Town of Brookhaven with his wife, Erica, and their four children.
The prosecutor grew up in Commack and is a graduate of St. Anthony’s High School where he played football and was a member of the school’s track team. He went on to play football for Brown University where he graduated in 1988, and after taking a short time off from his studies, he attended St. John’s University’s School of Law.
He began his law career in the Suffolk County DA’s office under DA James Catterson (R).
“At first, I had a very sort of infantile concept of what it meant to be a lawyer,” Tierney said. “I always wanted to be a prosecutor. I always wanted to be in court. Although there’s so many things you could do, that’s all I really ever wanted to do, and as I got older, more sophisticated, my focus never changed.”
He decided to leave the DA’s office in 1999 when his first two children were born and worked for a private firm. Tierney said the tragic events of 9/11 changed his life. He was at a meeting in Queens when the attacks happened, and he watched the towers fall on TV.
“I was driving back out east and all the emergency vehicles were flooding into the city, and I could see the smoke and I was, like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’” he said. “This job that I have right now is inconsequential. So, I wanted to get back into public service.”
He returned to the DA’s office in 2002 during the time of Tom Spota (D) and worked there for another six years. Tierney said he decided to leave the office when he was told they may fire him for insubordination.
“They tried to get rid of me because I wouldn’t go along with their illegal, unethical ways,” he said. “I worked in an office whose job it was to uproot political corruption. But, instead, it was the office’s leadership that was corrupt, as history has proven.”
He then went on to work 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.
During his time in Brooklyn, among his responsibilities, Tierney oversaw violent street gang investigations and prosecutions. He came to the position with extensive experience prosecuting MS-13 cases, which he said led to the incarceration of dozens of gang members.
One of the most high-profile MS-13 cases involved gang leaders Heriberto Martinez and Carlos Ortega. The two were found guilty for commissioning five murders in 2010, including Vanessa Argueta, 19, of Central Islip, and her son Diego Torres who was only 2 years old. Martinez and Ortega are currently serving life sentences. Tierney also tried Adalberto Guzman who was found guilty of killing the 2-year-old and is also serving a life sentence.
Tierney was the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Ed Mangano, former Nassau County Executive, and Mangano’s wife as well as former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto for corruption in 2018.
In addition to gang violence and public corruption, he also has been a prosecutor on cases involving Colombian drug cartel, racketeering and white-collar crimes.
Issues with Sini
Tierney takes issue with the press releases sent out by the DA’s office. He said he feels a high percentage of the releases are about arrests and arraignments but not about sentencing.
“What he does, because he’s in show business, he has the glitzy arraignment, and this is the biggest, baddest, greatest case, and then you never hear what happens at the time of the sentence,” the candidate said.
Tierney added he could take any of Sini’s accomplishments and dissect them and show that the current DA is “a fraud” and is “looking for that initial blast of publicity.”
“You don’t get to decide where your next case comes from, the streets tell you where the next case is,” Tierney said. “So, if you have an investigation here but the violence is settled here, you put your resources here, you put your resources there.”
He gave an example that Sini convicted several MS-13 members on charges such as acts of conspiracy instead of murder or gun charges. He said Sini then turned the gang members on each other so they would testify against one another. The result was they each pled to lower charges and got out of jail.
Tierney said he would use overarching tactics such as conspiracy, but then tie the case to the murders committed and pull the case all together to ensure the murderers would serve jail time.
Tierney said the job is a balance between law enforcement and fairness, and that will be his goal if elected. He added he has never aligned himself to one party and has prosecuted defendants on both sides of the political aisle. He is running to bring experience, integrity and independence to the office.
He said regarding the county and the Suffolk County Police Department, it’s important to work with them but also maintain independence from each other.
“When it comes to law enforcement, I make the decisions,” he said. “No one else makes the decisions. I support the county, I support the police department. But I don’t work for them when it comes to law enforcement, and I don’t excuse bad behavior.”