Under Fire, Brooklyn Deputy Prosecutor Will Retire

By Vivian Yee (The New York Times)
November 14, 2013

Michael F. Vecchione, a longtime friend and top deputy of the Brooklyn district attorney, will retire from the office on Dec. 12, becoming the first in what is likely to be a wave of high-ranking deputies leaving as the district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, prepares to step down.

Mr. Vecchione started at the office under Mr. Hynes as a deputy chief of the homicide bureau in 1992, and later served as chief of the bureau and the trial division before taking over the rackets bureau. Throughout his time at the office, he served as a kind of right-hand man to Mr. Hynes, overseeing — and winning — many high-profile cases. Mr. Hynes will step down when his term ends on Dec. 31. Kenneth J. Thompson, who defeated Mr. Hynes by wide margins in the Democratic primary and then the general election, has repeatedly called on Mr. Hynes to fire Mr. Vecchione.

Mr. Thompson has roundly criticized Mr. Vecchione for his conduct as the prosecutor in a murder case in which the office admitted missteps, leading to the release of the convicted man, Jabbar Collins. But Mr. Hynes defended Mr. Vecchione, both from two federal judges’ sharp criticism of his behavior and from Mr. Thompson’s attacks.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Vecchione said he had decided to retire because Mr. Hynes, who has been in office for six terms, was leaving, and “it’s just a natural time to go.” He will continue to teach at local universities, he said.

“I wish nothing but good luck and the best to the new D.A.,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve had the privilege of serving and working for the people of Brooklyn. The D.A. who I know will not be around, so it’s time to move on.”

Asked whether Mr. Thompson’s calls for his dismissal had played a part in his decision, he said: “I am me, and he is he. People say things about me who don’t even know me, and I do wish the new D.A. good luck.”

His retirement was reported on Thursday afternoon by The New York Post.

The news came amid a series of turbulent personnel changes at the district attorney’s office. Last week, after seeking to dismiss extortion charges against a whistle-blower who had helped the district attorney’s office investigate child sexual abuse in the Hasidic community, two veteran prosecutors in the rackets bureau were taken off the case and demoted.

The two prosecutors had told lawyers for the whistle-blower, Sam Kellner, that they lacked evidence to proceed; Mr. Vecchione and Mr. Hynes have promised to continue prosecuting Mr. Kellner, though further movements in the case may be delayed until after both have left the office.

Mr. Vecchione said he had not personally demoted the prosecutors, Joseph Alexis and Nicholas J. Batsidis; they were reassigned by Amy Feinstein, the chief assistant district attorney. But he said he had sent them to see her after they told him they were planning to dismiss the Kellner case without permission and they argued, he said. “They were completely out of line,” he said.

Still, he said, he had not told Ms. Feinstein to demote them. “I did not have anything to do with their change in status,” he said.

Mr. Vecchione also vigorously defended himself against accusations that he had threatened a witness, refused to turn over evidence to the defense and made false statements in Mr. Collins’s case, saying that the allegations, which two federal judges have cited in questioning the office’s handling of the case, were untrue.

“No one’s ever proven anything, and they can’t, because I didn’t do anything,” he said.