A federal judge has put Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes in the unusual position of having to defend himself before a jury — against claims he is “deliberately indifferent” to misconduct by prosecutors in his office.
The judge ruled Friday that Jabbar Collins, who served 15 years for a murder he did not commit, can argue at his upcoming civil trial Hynes has never disciplined an assistant district attorney in “scores” of prosecutorial misconduct cases.
It is extremely rare for a judge to allow such an accusation, known as a Monell claim, to go forward against a district attorney’s office in New York City, legal experts told the Daily News.
The Brooklyn federal judge who threw out Collins’ conviction in 2010 called the conduct of prosecutors — including rackets bureau chief Michael Vecchione — during the trial and subsequent appeals “shameful.”
Hynes responded with a press release announcing Vecchione would not be punished because he had done nothing wrong.
In Friday’s decision, Judge Frederic Block wrote, “The Court concludes that Collins’ allegations regarding Hynes’ response — or lack thereof — to misconduct by Vecchione and other assistants make plausible his theory that Hynes was so deliberately indifferent to the underhanded tactics that his subordinates employed as to effectively encourage them to do so.”
Collins’ lawyer Joel Rudin said in a statement he would immediately seek videotaped depositions of Hynes and Vecchione.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Hynes, who faces a tough re-election battle this year from former Brooklyn federal prosecutor Kenneth Thompson and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Abe George.
Collins’ Monell claim survived motions to dismiss despite a daunting burden to show Hynes was aware of his subordinates’ unconstitutional conduct and did nothing.
A spokesman for Hynes declined to comment.
Collins was convicted in 1995 of fatally shooting Rabbi Abraham Pollack during a robbery and sentenced to 33 years to life.
When a key witness tried to recant, Vecchione allegedly threatened to smash him over the head with a coffee table, and employed illegal tactics to pressure him to stand by his previous testimony, according to court papers.
Vecchione is accused of fabricating evidence Collins and his family threatened another witness.
The city, the district attorney’s office and two NYPD detectives involved are named in the $150 million lawsuit The judge granted Vecchione and two other prosecutors immunity. The trial is scheduled for April 8.