NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — All eyes are on Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson after doing the near-impossible when he unseated long-time DA Charles Hynes.
But from a spike in gun violence to a controversial new policy on marijuana cases, Thompson’s term is off to a challenging start.READ MORE: New Yorkers Urged To Wrap Up Holiday Weekend Travel Before Sunday Evening Storm
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Thompson’s desk faces a map of Brooklyn, and each pin on the map represents an act of violence: blue for shootings, red for homicides.
Both have increased over the last year; from random shootings to shocking crimes including the fatal elevator attack on a 6-year-old boy.
“The murder of P.J. Avitto is a case that I will never forget,” Thompson said when he sat down with Aiello for a one-on-one interview. “I take many of these cases home with me because at the end of the day, when anyone is shot, killed, violently attacked, it’s something that I want to prevent.”
Even after a bitter campaign, Thompson denies any lingering hard feelings from the hundreds of Hynes staffers he inherited.
“What I get a sense is, this is one office,” he said.
Thompson also inherited controversies, including tainted convictions tied to former detective Louis Scarcella.
“It’s not easy, but I’m determined to get to the bottom of these cases and clean up this mess,” Thompson said.
In response, Thompson significantly expanded Hynes’ Conviction Review Unit. So far, seven imprisoned men have been exonerated while 15 convictions have been affirmed, Aiello reported.
“It’s important we don’t have men in prison for murders they did not commit. And it’s equally important to make sure we don’t free the guilty,” he said.READ MORE: Bronx High-Rise Victims Remembered With Funeral Sunday, Officials Pledge To Keep Up Support For Survivors
As for his controversial move to stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases, Thompson said a need to focus resources on bigger problems inspired his decision.
“The vast majority are being dismissed by judges,” he said.
Thompson denied any friction with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton over the decision, even though the commissioner insisted police will continue to bust people in Brooklyn for simple pot possession.
“We have a mutual interest to protect the public and the safety of all, but I don’t have identical interests. I have an additional duty as DA and that is to do justice,” he said of the matter.
Thompson believes he’s off to a strong start as DA, but the pins on the map will tell the story as his term unfolds, Aiello reported.
Meanwhile, former DA Hynes is under investigation for allegedly using forfeiture money to pay a political consultant.
When asked about the allegations, Thompson would only say it’s important to get to the truth of what happened.
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