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Thompson picks Bernard Nussbaum, Jennifer Rodgers, and Gary Villanueva to investigate Hynes convictions

DA taps three legal eagles to investigate predecessor’s convictions

The Brooklyn Paper
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District Attorney Ken Thompson has selected a trio of power attorneys to pick over the legacy of the man he defeated last November — 23-year top lawman Charles “Joe” Hynes.

Thompson named Bernard Nussbaum, Jennifer Rodgers, and Gary Villanueva to assist his expanded Conviction Review Unit, which will take a magnifying glass to many of Hynes’s successful — and controversial — prosecutions, and decide whether the verdicts deserve to be overturned.

“Their combined experience and uncompromising integrity will prove invaluable in my office’s efforts to meticulously examine available evidence in order to right wrongs or confirm convictions,” Thompson said on Feb. 21. “My ultimate goal is to ensure that the people of Brooklyn have faith in the fairness of our criminal justice system.”

Nussbaum was part of the Congressional legal team that investigated the Watergate incident in 1973, and he later served as White House counsel to President Bill Clinton, though he resigned over Clinton’s refusal to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Whitewater scandal. Rodgers served as top attorney for the Justice Department, and Villanueva served as an assistant district attorney under Hynes’s predecessor, Liz Holtzman.

Hynes’s office drew repeated accusations of police and prosecutorial misconduct — particularly on the part of retired Detective Louis Scarcella and star assistant district attorney Michael Vecchione, who were accused of bullying suspects and witnesses and concealing important evidence.

During his tenure, Hynes created a similar panel to look into both his and Holtzman’s controversial prosecutions — a body he called the Conviction Integrity Unit.

Thompson’s new unit — and its new title — won plaudits from legal observers.

“I’m glad they properly named it,” said Brooklyn attorney John O’Hara, a longtime Hynes critic. “Otherwise, you would be assuming that Hynes’s convictions had integrity, and none of them did.”

Hynes prosecuted O’Hara — who had repeatedly run for office against the district attorney’s political allies —and had him disbarred in 1997 on the obscure felony charge of voting at the wrong polling place. O’Hara was reinstated to the bar in 2009, and is currently seeking a gubernatorial pardon.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
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Reader Feedback

michael from bay ridge says:
“My ultimate goal is to insure that the people of Brooklyn have faith in the fairness of our criminal justice system.”

Are you certain he didn't say "ensure"? Insure would be incorrect in this usage.
Feb. 24, 2014, 8:21 am
judahspechal from bedstuy says:
Well done DA Thompson.

Hopefully we are also a step closer to dashboard Cam, in Police Vehicle & lapel cameras on Police Officers
Feb. 24, 2014, 10:51 am
Richard from Park Slope says:
The sun finally shines in Brooklyn.

Good luck Mr Thompson.

Good ridence Mr hynes
Feb. 24, 2014, 6:18 pm
Barney from Prospect Heights says:
Hynes became a pathetic example of the guy who thought he was going to fool all of the people all of the time.
In the end, Hynes proved theres no fool like an old fool.
Feb. 24, 2014, 11:36 pm
JD from Staten Island says:
this will end up costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.
Feb. 25, 2014, 1:23 am
Lorenzo from Sunset Park says:
The defeat of hines shows that democracy does work
Feb. 25, 2014, 1:40 am
Mel from Midwood says:
Hey Lorenzo. If democracy worked so well than why did we have hynes for three decades?
Feb. 25, 2014, 9:32 am

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