Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson defeated Hynes at Tuesday’s primary. We look back at his quarter century career

Charles Hynes’ dramatic rise and fall — a retrospective of the borough’s soon to be former top prosecutor

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The Sept. 10 Democratic primary delivered a reality check for Brooklyn district attorney — and newly minted reality TV star — Charles Hynes, 78, whose 24-year run as a Machiavellian crime-slashing prosecutor came to a screeching halt on Tuesday, when a relatively unknown legal eagle knocked him out.

Kenneth Thompson, who secured more than 55 percent of the votes, became the first contender to depose an incumbent district attorney in more than 100 years, and the first African-American to win the office.

Yet Hynes’s rise as Brooklyn’s top litigant, once prosecuting upwards of 100,000 cases a year, was as remarkable as his downfall.

The former Legal Aid lawyer from Flatbush joined the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in 1969, and within four years, he was appointed to head the Rackets Bureau, and named one of the DA’s top deputies. In 1980, Hynes switched careers to serve briefly as fire commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch, before departing for private practice. He returned to public service in 1985, when Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him as a special state prosecutor for the city.

Hynes shot to national stardom at the height of the city’s racial tensions in 1987, after he investigated and prosecuted the infamous fatal beating of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach, Queens. His sleuthing garnered three murder convictions against the men who chased and killed the African-American, whose death was among a string of racially motivated murders of blacks by white mobs.

Hynes, by then a media darling who later wrote a book about the case, jockeyed his court-room triumphs into a successful bid for district attorney, winning the first of his six terms in 1989.

The father of five and grandfather of 16, who grew up in a troubled home and vacationed in Breezy Point, instituted drug treatment programs for felons, anti-truancy programs for wayward teens, and an assimilation initiative for parolees to ease back into society.

Hynes also criminalized domestic abuse, and created the state’s first family justice center, among introducing other programs that were credited with reducing serious crime in the borough by 80 percent since 1990.

But he wasn’t above exacting vengeance on his political adversaries.

Attorney John O’Hara had been a thorn in the side of Hynes for years in the 1990s, backing candidates against the DA and campaigning against the Democratic Party’s chosen few. So, when he voted in a neighboring election district, Hynes prosecuted him — and won the first case of voter fraud in New York City since Susan B. Anthony in 1873.

When civil rights attorney Sandra Roper ran against him in 2001, Hynes handed out 172 subpoenas and dispatched investigators to many of the more than 12,000 people who signed the petition to get her on the ballot. He later had Roper indicted on felony charges, although she was never convicted. And when he was challenged by Judge John Phillips, owner of the Slave Theater and the Black Lady Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, that same year, Hynes had him declared mentally incompetent.

Yet peers picked Hynes’s legal brains for programs that gave delinquents a second chance.

The district attorney of Franklin County, NY, implemented an alternative sentencing initiative modeled after Hynes’s nationally acclaimed Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison Program, the first such prosecution-run program in the nation.

A reformed vandal from East New York received a new lease on life after his eye-popping murals were exhibited in the same courthouse where he was tried, and later became a mentor to youth offenders — another Hynes initiative.

Controversies in recent years and claims of reputed official misconduct, however, began to eclipse the prosecutor’s earlier successes.

In 2009, CBS attacked his hotline for Orthodox Jewish abuse cases, claiming that out of a total of 25 calls made over several days, only two were answered. Ironically, CBS also debuted Hynes’ short-lived reality show, “Brooklyn DA” this summer, a move some critics thought was a ploy to divert attention from the churning rumor-mill.

Hynes campaign trail last year was waylaid by accusations that he glossed over sex predators in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities to pander for votes — a rumpus topped by a Village Voice headline in January that screamed, “Brooklyn deserves a new DA .”

Then Jabbar Collins sprung from prison in 2010 after serving 15 years for a murder he didn’t commit, sued Hynes for $150 million for allegedly manipulating evidence and witnesses.

And David Ranta was released in March, after spending 23 years behind bars on a wrongful murder conviction that was overturned when an eyewitness confessed that borough prosecutors forced him into fingering the suspect in a line up. In an twist, Hynes’ own integrity unit determined the Ranta case was bungled by its boss.

Updated 10:14 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Raul from Sunset Park says:
Hynes lost because he framed a lot of innocent people. You cant fool all of the people all of the time.
Sept. 12, 2013, 1:32 am
Lenscrafter from Midwood says:
He lost because he was a crook and a political hack.
Sept. 12, 2013, 1:38 am
James Drew from Park Slope says:
The most corrupt DA in America was put out of office by the voters. Its called democracy and it worked
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:15 am
Good By Charlie from Bay Ridge says:
The "programs" Hynes had were just excuses to hire political hacks. Hynes was a usefull idiot for the boys downtown
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:24 am
Lester from Coney Island says:
Seeing the picture of this clown dancing at West Indian parade and then knowing he rushes back to Breezy Point to live with the Klan is such a joke.
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:31 am
Ken from Mill Basin says:
Please outline his corruption
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:33 am
Doris from Bay Ridge says:
Hey Ken from Mill Basin,
Have you been in a capsule for the last 20 years. Hynes was in the newspaper every week in a new scandal. Have you ever heard of Vito Gropez?
Hynes was a national disgrace and he just couldnt create a program for that
Sept. 12, 2013, 11:59 am
Karen from Kensington says:
Calling Charles Hynes represented as the most corrupt DA is complete and utter slander as is the allegation of framing a lot people. The Brooklyn DA's office under Charles Hynes leadership is not a place where defendants are prosecuted at any cost. Don't buy into the political hype. Time for a change in DA, yes, but much of the political rhetoric does not accurately represent how the DA's operates.
Sept. 12, 2013, 3:04 pm
Joe from Dyker says:
No, Karen, it's not "slander."
Sept. 12, 2013, 3:35 pm
Heinz from 57 says:
So CBS's fan boy show about the Brooklyn DA's office didn't help him win.

He's still on the GOP line, right? So he can still win, can't he?
Sept. 12, 2013, 5:37 pm
Old time brooklyn from Slope says:
Wow lester -playing the race card just a little?
Sept. 12, 2013, 6:38 pm
Ken from Mill Basin says:
Aside from innuendo, what is the actual evidence of corruption?
Sept. 12, 2013, 6:59 pm
To Ken the Idiot from Disney World says:
Every newspaper in the city detailed Hynes corruption for last 20 years. Have you ever heard of the New York Times? Does Judge John L. Phillips ring a bell?
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:12 pm
Joe from Dyker says:
What happened to Judge Phillips was a disgrace and a horror show.
Sept. 12, 2013, 7:33 pm
Ken from Mill Basin says:
Why did the voters allow such a corrupt DA to remain in office for the past 20 years?
Sept. 12, 2013, 10:21 pm
Comm to Elect Joe from from Dyker Heights says:
I think Joe has it right.
Sept. 12, 2013, 10:33 pm
Andrew from Sheepshead Bay says:
Hynes lost because he was swamped in scandal and thought he could just stonewall the voters. It failed. In over 100 years no DA has lost. Hynes will go down in history as the biggest loser.
BTW: He's lived in Breezy Point for over 30 years.
Sept. 12, 2013, 11:04 pm
Justin from Howard Beach says:
Everything with Hynes was politics. Now he has to get a real job.
Sept. 12, 2013, 11:10 pm
James from Cobble Hill says:
Why is anybody surprised Hynes lost?

Who supported him besides Vito Lopez?
Sept. 12, 2013, 11:19 pm
Padric from Breezy Point says:
Mr Hynes has lived in the Point. And just exactly what is wrong with that,

We are all New Yorkers.
Sept. 12, 2013, 11:46 pm
Anthony from Windsor Terrace says:
The ohara prosecution was strange. The case with Judge Phillips was unbelievable.
It finally caught up with Hynes.
Sept. 13, 2013, 12:27 am
Jason from Gravesend says:
Your right Anthony.
Hynes scandals finally caught up with him.
Sept. 13, 2013, 12:43 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Hynes doesn't really have to "get a real job" now. He's 78. He can retire in peace.
Sept. 13, 2013, 6:12 am
Lupo from Park Slope says:
If hynes had fired Vecchione than maybe he'd have survived. What a chump!!
Sept. 13, 2013, 6:14 am
Sergio from Staten Island says:
Good ridance
Hynes ruined a lot of lives.
Sept. 13, 2013, 9:17 am
Seifington from Willis Ave says:
A crooked politician went down.

Who cares
Sept. 13, 2013, 4:21 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
I always thought Hynes' prosecution of O'Hara was beyond the pale. But then I met O'Hara and he's really cut from the same cloth. I know it's crazy talk, but it would be so refreshing to see Brooklyn's political scene move beyond the semi-feudal politics of the Boylands and Hynes'es and Clarkes and the corruption and scandal of the Clarence Normans and Vito Lopez's. As it is if they put a camera on all the shenanigans and called it a reality show no audience would accept it because it would defy belief.
Sept. 13, 2013, 4:27 pm
Janele is Gone from In Case You Forgot says:
Why in heavens is the Brooklyn Paper using an old picture that includes that useless idiot Janele?
Sept. 14, 2013, 9:34 am
The Poets Society from The Point says:
In the end, all of Kings Countys hacks and all of the DA's men, could not get Breezy Point Joe elected again.
Sept. 14, 2013, 11:24 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
O'Hara was very close to Phillips and fought on his behalf. hynes went after ohara as he had more than a decent shot at getting elected way back and would not play ball. I have met him several times over the years and have found him to be nothing less than pretty good guy.
Sept. 14, 2013, 12:44 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
none of you probably remember the sweetheart deal gold got and underage sex allegations - a one way ticket to Israel and washed hands. not sure if was hynes or holtzman who cut the deal but I am thinking holtzman
Sept. 14, 2013, 12:46 pm
Peter from Brooklyn Heights says:
I dont know who gave former DA pedophile Eugene Gold the deal, but Hynes had him at his swearing in ceremony.

Hynes will forever be known for his fondness for pedophiles.
Sept. 14, 2013, 4:41 pm
Cinque from SLA says:
the only thing Hynes ever had going for him was a second rate TV Movie from 30 years ago.

Useless !!
Sept. 15, 2013, 4:02 am
Erica from Bay Ridge says:
First DA to lose in over a hundred years to lose.

That makes Hynes the loser of the century.
Sept. 15, 2013, 10:04 pm
George from Woodside, New York says:
A crooked politician puts innocent people away and his punishment is a big fat pension from the taxpayers?

Only in America
Sept. 15, 2013, 11:16 pm
Cheryl from Scranton Pennsylvania says:
A link to this article from a story about Ohara was on

I've been reading about ohara and judge phillips and i thought it was 1940 in alabama. You people in brooklyn should clean up your act
Sept. 15, 2013, 11:58 pm
nina from crown heights says:
It's nice to have a real KCDAs office
again. But I wonder what will happen to all the ass kissers Hynes handed sweet heart jobs to. I hope Thompson shows them the door.
April 26, 2015, 8:14 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: