Taking On The Crooks, But First, The DA


Leslie Crocker Snyder, 66, has announced that she is again seeking to defeat Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, 89, in the Democratic primary in September. When she lost in 2005, she won 41.9 percent of the vote and now declares herself to be the “frontrunner” in the primary race. At least three other lawyers have expressed interest in the job but have said they would only run if Morgenthau did not.
As an assistant district attorney in Manhattan for nine years, working under both Frank Hogan and Morgenthau, Snyder was the first woman to try felony and homicide cases and founded and headed the Sex Crime Prosecution Bureau. She later served as a Special Assistant Attorney General and as head of the Arson Strike Force in the office of the city’s Criminal Justice Coordinator before being appointed a judge of the city’s Criminal Court in 1983. In 2000, she was appointed to the Court of Claims. She left the bench in 2003 and is now a partner at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman in Manhattan. If elected she would be only the second woman to serve as a district attorney in New York City.

JW: Why are you running for DA again?

Snyder: I’ve spent my whole life in public service and I care about New York City and the criminal justice system. I know the criminal justice system … and feel I made a real difference. I’d like to continue.

Robert Morgenthau has been the Manhattan district attorney since 1974. Is he not doing a good job?
He did a good job until about 10 or 12 years ago. Things since then have gotten extremely stale. … He’s reactive and not pro-active. The office is technologically challenged. When I left the bench in 2003, the office was in the Dark Ages and it is now in the Middle Ages. If an assistant district attorney is at an arraignment, he has to use his personal cell phone to learn the status of his case in the Supreme Court. All of the assistants should have Blackberries.
The office also has no leadership. [Morgenthau] is trotted out and propped up for press conferences. I’m not attacking his physical condition; he’s just not as vigorous. He’s not running the office and only appears for vanity cases like Tyco. … And there is a large backlog of cases that are dismissed because of failure to prosecute.

What is one of the things you believe the DA’s office should be doing to keep crime from rising?
Diversion programs. They [Morgenthau’s office] have been fighting tooth and nail against them. I believe they are the right thing to do to try to break the cycle of crime. DETAP is a state drug treatment program that should be used here. … It’s important that along with anti-drug and anti-violence training that there be racial, religious tolerance and self-worth training at an early age — and this is something law enforcement should be involved in. Assistant district attorneys should be going into schools in which there are gang problems to talk with the administration and link them to reputable programs.