Driver who Crashed Car on Brooklyn-Queens Expressway While Allegedly Driving Drunk and Speeding Indicted for Manslaughter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 16, 2021

 

Driver who Crashed Car on Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
While Allegedly Driving Drunk and Speeding Indicted for Manslaughter

Front Passenger Died of His Injuries, Second Passenger Injured

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn woman has been arraigned on an indictment in which she is charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and assault. The defendant allegedly lost control of her vehicle while speeding and under the influence of alcohol last January. Her front seat passenger died following the crash and a backseat passenger was injured.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant made a terrible decision to allegedly get behind the wheel of a car after drinking alcohol and traveling at an incredibly high rate of speed. She showed complete disregard for the safety of her passengers and everyone using our roadways. I am committed to keeping our streets and highways safe and will now seek to hold this defendant accountable.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Chelsea Rety, 22, of Copiague, New York. She was arraigned today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino on an indictment in which she is charged with second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and third-degree assault. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count. She remains out on $75,000 bail and was ordered to return to court on June 2, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 22, 2021 at approximately 12:30 a.m., the defendant was driving a 2016 Toyota Scion east bound on the BQE, with two friends, Saharath Yuvanavattana, 23, in the front passenger seat and a 24-year-old man in the rear passenger seat. As the vehicle approached the Flushing Avenue exit, Exit 30, the defendant allegedly lost control of the vehicle, causing the passenger side to strike a barrier.

Yuvanavattana was taken to Bellevue Hospital and died a short time later. The other passenger was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The defendant suffered a broken arm.

It is alleged, according to the investigation, that the defendant was driving at an excessive rate of speed of approximately 102 miles per hour and had a blood alcohol level of approximately .09, which is over the legal limit of .08.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Nocella, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Street Safety Bureau, assisted in the prosecution.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Da Rin, of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Karla Watson, Bureau Chief.

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Brooklyn Man Convicted of Possessing Loaded Gun in First Jury Trial in Brooklyn Since the Start of the COVID Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 16, 2021

 

Brooklyn Man Convicted of Possessing Loaded Gun in
First Jury Trial in Brooklyn Since the Start of the COVID Pandemic

Gun Discovered in Defendant’s Underwear Following Traffic Stop

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 29-year-old Brooklyn man has been convicted of possessing an illegal gun after the first jury trial in Brooklyn since March 2020. Strict COVID protocols were observed throughout the proceedings and additional trials are expected to commence this month.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With this verdict, the defendant has been held accountable for possessing a loaded illegal gun on our streets. My dedicated prosecutors are ready to continue conducting trials, especially of cases involving gun-related and violent offenses, as we focus on keeping Brooklyn safe and reducing gun violence.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Marc Ferdinand, 29, of Canarsie, Brooklyn. He was convicted yesterday of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation following a jury trial before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Heidi Cesare. The defendant is facing a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 28, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, on January 23, 2020, at 11:45 a.m., a 2016 Mercedes Benz the defendant was driving was stopped by police near the intersection of Avenue L and East 98th Street in Canarsie for excessively tinted windows. Officers discovered that he was driving with a suspended license and he was subsequently placed under arrest. When he was searched in the 69th Precinct stationhouse, a loaded .380 caliber pistol was found in his underwear. Swabs taken from the gun later matched the defendant’s DNA.

The eight-day trial was the first criminal or civil trial to be held with a jury in Brooklyn in over a year. COVID-19 protocols were in place, with all witnesses wearing transparent face masks, jurors spread throughout the courtroom and the proceedings being broadcast on closed circuit television to an overflow courtroom on a different floor.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Da Rin, of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patrick L. O’Connor, Chief of the District Attorney’s Gun Violence Suppression Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Karla Watson, Chief of the Red Zone Trial Bureau.

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Former Brooklyn Lawyer Indicted for Allegedly Stealing $85,000 From Client Who He Represented in Real Estate Deal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 8, 2021

 

Former Brooklyn Lawyer Indicted for Allegedly Stealing $85,000
From Client Who He Represented in Real Estate Deal

The Defendant Allegedly Deposited Down Payment for Property into His Escrow Account,
And Kept It; Stopped Returning Client’s Calls

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that an East Flatbush man has been indicted on a grand larceny charge for allegedly stealing the down payment toward the purchase of a Brownsville home whose seller he represented. The defendant also allegedly separately borrowed $14,000 from the client and never paid it back.

District Attorney Gonzalez said “The victim in this case was allegedly defrauded of a large sum of money by her own attorney, who had a legal duty to protect her interests. I would like to thank my Public Integrity Bureau for its hard work in seeking to hold the defendant accountable for his alleged criminal act and betrayal of trust.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Gerald Douglas, 52, of East Flatbush, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Sharen Hudson on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 12, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant represented a 76-year-old woman in the sale of her Brownsville house, negotiating the contract for her in September 2018. A down payment of $71,700 was allegedly deposited into the defendant’s escrow account. The closing occurred in August 2019, by which time the defendant had allegedly stopped returning his client’s phone calls and she was forced to retain new counsel to close the transaction. The client received the sale proceeds at the closing, but not the down payment despite repeated requests to the defendant.

It is further alleged that in June and July 2018, the defendant asked the same client if she would loan him money, first $6,000 and then $8,000. He allegedly told her he was expecting a rental payment for a property he owned in Flatbush, Brooklyn, though in fact the property had gone into foreclosure five years earlier and he was no longer the owner.

The defendant was disbarred by the Appellate Division Second Department in 2019.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

 

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez to Dismiss 90 Convictions That Relied on Former Narcotics Detective Later Charged with Multiple Perjuries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 7, 2021

 

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez to Dismiss 90 Convictions That Relied on
Former Narcotics Detective Later Charged with Multiple Perjuries

Former Det. Joseph Franco is Awaiting Trial in Manhattan; No Misconduct Was Found in Brooklyn, But DA’s Office Has Lost Confidence in Cases Where He Was Essential Witness

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that his Conviction Review Unit will be asking the Court to vacate and dismiss 27 felony convictions and 63 misdemeanor convictions that were directly based on the work of former undercover New York City Police Department Detective Joseph Franco. The former detective has been indicted in Manhattan for perjury, official misconduct and other charges in connection with four incidents whereby he allegedly framed numerous individuals for making narcotics transactions. A review by Brooklyn’s CRU did not uncover misconduct, but the District Attorney has lost confidence in cases where the detective was an essential witness, i.e., cases that could not have been prosecuted without him, and is requesting that those convictions be dismissed.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Knowingly and repeatedly framing innocent people obliterates the credibility of any police officer and proving perjury in such circumstances is rare. After a grand jury reviewed the evidence and indicted former Detective Franco, I have lost confidence in his work. His cases in Brooklyn are over a decade old, which limited our ability to reinvestigate them, but I cannot in good faith stand by convictions that principally relied on his testimony. Integrity and credibility are at the heart of the justice system and prerequisites for community trust.”

The District Attorney’s Office today is asking Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic to vacate 27 felony convictions (plus 13 misdemeanor convictions that were taken in Supreme Court), mostly for criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third or fifth degree, and to dismiss the underlying indictments. It is also asking Criminal Court Judge Keshia Espinal to vacate 50 misdemeanor convictions, mostly for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, and to dismiss the underlying complaints. The dismissals are pursuant to a writ of error coram nobis and the court proceedings are expected to continue over the next few days. In all, 27 felony convictions and 63 misdemeanor convictions will be vacated.

Those cases stemmed from arrests that happened when Det. Franco was assigned to Brooklyn commands, between 2004 and 2011. All but one of the 90 convictions were obtained by way of a guilty plea. Most of those convicted for a felony were sentenced to between six months and a year in jail, with the longest sentence being three years in prison. Most of those convicted for a misdemeanor were sentenced to terms ranging from time served to 90 days in jail.

The Conviction Review Unit reviewed all convictions where Det. Franco was involved. Cases where he was the primary undercover and his testimony was necessary for a potential hearing or trial were flagged for dismissal. Defense lawyers and the Court have been notified of the new allegations and the dismissals.

In April 2019, a New York County grand jury indicted Det. Franco on 16 counts of first-degree perjury and related charges. In July 2019, a grand jury indicted him on 10 additional counts of first-degree perjury and related charges. He is awaiting trial on both indictments and was fired from the NYPD in May 2020.

The case review was conducted by Assistant District Attorney Eric Sonnenschein, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Post-Conviction Justice Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Nash, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, Chief of the Post-Conviction Justice Bureau.

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Note: the court proceedings are expected to begin today at 9:30 a.m. in Criminal Court and can be viewed here (password: 9000). The Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. and can be viewed here (password: 1234).

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Dismisses All Outstanding Prostitution-Related Warrants Dating Back to 1970s

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

 

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Dismisses
All Outstanding Prostitution-Related Warrants Dating Back to 1970s

Asks Court to Vacate 857 Warrants for Prostitution and Loitering, and to
Dismiss Underlying Cases; 262 Warrants Already Vacated in January

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that he asked the Court to vacate 857 open bench warrants related to prostitution and loitering for the purposes of prostitution – charges his Office no longer prosecutes. The 857 warrants that were dismissed today were issued between 1970 and 2011. On January 29, 2021, the District Attorney vacated 262 warrants from 2012 to the present and moved to dismiss the underlying cases. In all, 1,119 cases have now been dismissed, representing the entire outstanding inventory in Brooklyn. The District Attorney also called on legislators to expunge old prostitution-related convictions.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s action, we have cleared all open prostitution and loitering for the purposes of prostitution cases in Brooklyn. My Office no longer prosecutes these offenses because we believe that that those who engage in these activities should be offered assistance, not criminally prosecuted. Open warrants have powerful negative consequences for the individual, and they undermine public safety. Someone with an open warrant is subject to arrest at any time, making them more likely to be driven underground and less likely to report abuse or other crimes, which makes both them and others less safe.

“In addition, an outstanding warrant could show up years after it was issued in a background check for an apartment rental or a job application, hamstringing someone’s ability to move on from their past to a more stable way of life. I thank the Legislature for repealing the vaguely written and unevenly enforced statute of loitering for the purposes of prostitution and renew my call on lawmakers to expunge past prostitution-related convictions so they will not hold people back from opportunities for a better future.”

Today, DA Gonzalez appeared before Brooklyn Criminal Court Supervising Judge Keisha Espinal and requested that the 857 outstanding warrants be vacated, and their underlying cases dismissed. 296 of those warrants pertained to cases with a top count of prostitution (PL 230.00) and 561 were for a top count of loitering for the purposes of prostitution (PL 240.37). In January, 183 were for prostitution and 79 for loitering for the purposes of prostitution.

Following the January dismissals in Brooklyn, the New York State Legislature repealed the loitering for purposes of prostitution law and two other counties, the Bronx and Queens, dismissed outstanding warrants pertaining to that statute.

The District Attorney said that the Brooklyn DA’s Office does not prosecute those arrested for engaging in prostitution, but rather refers them to services and dismisses their cases. Starting in 2020, when the law mandated that those arrested receive Desk Appearance Tickets with a future court appearance, the Office has endeavored to connect them with service providers and dismiss the charges before they even have to appear in court.

Common services involve therapeutic counseling, medical assistance and checkups, educational services, housing assistance, mental health or substance abuse screening and therapy, and legal assistance with immigration, children’s services or family court issues. Cases get dismissed whether individuals avail themselves of services or not. The Office processed fewer than 30 prostitution cases last year.

There are 25,575 convictions in Brooklyn for the two aforementioned offenses, dating back to 1975. Expunging them en masse is a legislative prerogative and the District Attorney called on legislators to pass a bill that would do just that.

The District Attorney thanked the Office of Court Administration, especially Justin Barry, Chief Clerk of New York City Criminal Court, Charles Blaha, Acting Borough Chief Clerk of Brooklyn Criminal Court, and Keshia Espinal, Supervising Judge of Brooklyn Criminal Court, for facilitating the dismissals.

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Brooklyn DA’s Social Workers and Advocates

Shibinksy Payne
Director, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
With over 15 years of experience in the field of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and trauma, I received a Master’s degree in social work at Long Island University and have since dedicated my professional career to advocating for victims of crime. From a young age, I knew I wanted to make the world a safe and better place, and the job of Wonder Woman was already taken. My role as the Director of the Victim Services Unit allows me to do my part to explore emotional and physical safety with victims. It also allows me to work with an amazing team of dedicated social workers and victim advocates who provide support, advocacy, and information to individuals who have been criminally victimized in Brooklyn.

What should someone know about working with you?
I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and feel that it is my calling to help anyone work through difficult times and situations. Compassion, acceptance, and understanding are only a few of the qualities that I bring to my work. I aim to create a restorative experience with victims engaging with the criminal justice system, by creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment for anyone who interacts with the Victim Services Unit.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that the voices of victims need to be heard, and it is important that Social Workers and Advocates in our Unit lift up those voices every chance we get.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It is the collaborative relationship between the social worker and prosecutors that attracted me to the DA’s office and still motivates me today. The innovative work being done in criminal justice and forensic social work to increase public safety continues to evolve and I want to be part of that process.


Emmanuel DeJesus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I believe my path began from before my birth. My mom was studying to become a Social Worker as I was in her womb. Though I received my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature and Anthropology, I did my practicum at a community center in Madrid, Spain. I worked with underserved children in an afterschool program. Since then, the majority of my jobs have all been in social services, though with various communities and different roles. Along the years I have worked with children, homeless LGBTQI+ youth, victims/survivors of IPV, just to name a few. I was fortunate to be able to continue my education and receive my MSW in both Clinical Social Work and Community Organizing while working at KCDA. The support I received from the office was a huge help in achieving that goal.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am extremely passionate about my work and am very open to learning from those around me. I truly believe that we can only create a better future working as a community and not just working individually.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
One of my core values that shapes my work is transparency and clear communication. This also means that I will not have all the answers or resources and am open to partnership with others in order to fully approach a victim’s need.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation comes from both the importance of the work and the joy that can come from it. The continuous learning that I receive from this work brings me a great sense of personal and professional growth. And growth is what life is all about.


Hyeseung Yoo
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My father got his PHD in Social Work in South Korea that, after immigrating to America, he was unable to use due to language barriers. It was natural for me to follow in his path to do what my dad wanted to do in America – I always have been passionate towards advocating, organizing and serving those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.

What should someone know about working with you?
I try to be patient with everyone and I am always here to learn, listen, and understand.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
My parents taught me to be non-judgmental, compassionate and to always lend a helping hand to those in need. I do my absolute best to understand, learn, and assist in the ways that benefit the survivors and victims I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do the work I am doing because I know from personal experience that it is not easy being a survivor, feeling alone and that you have no one to turn to for help. I hope that whoever I get to help can find comfort, peace, and support that they may not find anywhere else.


Alba Espinal
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Serving as a Spanish speaking translator for my father during appointments made me realize how important it was for people to be able to have the capacity to receive and obtain services in the language they speak. Since I was in high school, I always knew I wanted to help and work with people, especially the Spanish speaking community.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m very passionate about my job. I will go above and beyond for the survivors I work with. I make sure that the survivors understand how the criminal justice works. I make sure to stay present and give them the opportunity to express themselves on how the process is affecting them and how I can assist them. I also ensure that survivors are connected to services when needed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I empower survivors to advocate for themselves and to have self-determination in order to make the best decision, taking into account their safety and the safety of their family.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation continues to be my father and the survivors I work with. At 72 years old, my father continues to need my assistance translating and explaining services in Spanish. Even when their criminal court case is closed, survivors also continue to call for resources and I will continue to assist them in any way I can.


Anna “Jovi” Lombardo
Teen Services Coordinator, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school, one of my friends was assaulted. I remember being confused about how to help and unsure what her options were as a victim of a crime. I knew that whatever I did as a career, I wanted to be the person with the answers. I didn’t know advocacy was a job until an internship in college where I studied criminal justice. I met an advocate who worked with victims through the criminal justice system. I immediately switched internships and started working with her. Next, I decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work to better understand trauma and to be able to provide clients with long-term therapy and advocacy. I have been working with victims and survivors ever since.

What should someone know about working with you?
I do not base my practice or approach on what crime has been committed. My starting point is always with the individual and their experience. I know that I cannot understand your experience because I have not experienced it myself. The criminal justice system can be frustrating and not always trauma-informed. I am here to listen to frustrations and your experience. My focus is you, your needs, and your comfort.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I strive to approach work, life, and advocacy through the Humanistic Perspective. This social work theory states that we cannot understand a person’s experience without having lived that experience and their life ourselves. When I work with clients, I know I cannot fully understand their experience or their mindset because I have not personally walked a day in their shoes. I start by listening to understand their perspective and base my advocacy on them as an individual.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated by the amazing, strong, and resilient people I have met through this work, both clients and coworkers. This work is difficult, but being able to help a client through a long and difficult case and seeing their resilience is an incredible experience. My motivation is being able to meet people at one of the most difficult times of their lives and making that experience just a bit less difficult. My hope is that I can be there for clients throughout the criminal justice process to help support and advocate for their needs.


Ashley E. Wright
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
When I was in college, I worked at a drop-in center and soup kitchen for women. Since then, I knew I wanted to be of service.

What should someone know about working with you?
I hope my clients and colleagues would say that I approach everyone with kindness and a profound level of respect.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and be heard.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Unfortunately, crime in general and gender-based violence specifically are part of our fractured society. I continue to find motivation when I witness my clients pursue their path to healing. I’m honored to meet them on their way.


Denise Briales
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?

Growing up in Brownville during the 60s, I witnessed high levels of gang related crimes in my community. My mother, a pastor, would walk right into an active beat down that would occur on our block and dissolve it with her voice and demeanor. I would not recommend this action on any level. She was a fierce woman whose faith in God, and love for humanity captivated her and motived her to care for the hurting and seek to protect them however she could. She never walked away from an opportunity to help someone in need.

This level of compassion was instilled in me as a child and motivated me to seek to help those who are hurting because of crimes committed against them. For the past 35 years, I have been walking alongside crime victims to assist in advocacy, healing, and recovery from trauma through counseling. These injustices committed against them, such as childhood and adult sexual and physical assault/abuse, domestic violence and bereavement caused by homicide, are among a few of my primary focuses.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a team player, dependable and eager to share whatever resources I have for the greater good of the client, colleagues, and to those I collaborate with within the field.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I learned early on in life the art of putting others first and being empowered to acknowledge when to get assistance for the greater good of those I seek to help and finding a balance for myself in the process.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Assisting others does not stop because of the status of age or position. It is our responsibility as members of society to find the balance in how we continue to share our experience and expertise in supporting others who are in need.


Katherine Celardo
Barrier Free Justice Coordinator, VSU

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started when I joined AmeriCorps as a national service volunteer. I had recently graduated from college and was pretty lost. I didn’t know what direction to take my life in. So, I joined AmeriCorps and started working at a Veterans Affairs Hospital. I was suddenly surrounded by all these people in many professional fields, including a lot of social workers. That was a very formative year for me. I started to learn about who I wanted to be, and it was only the start of my journey. After my service year, I went straight back to graduate school to study for my social work degree.

What should someone know about working with you?
I’m a hard worker and I try to bring that energy to work with me and to every case that comes across my desk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I practice kindness and aim to leave things a little better than I found them in all the areas of my life, including in my approach to crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It’s all about the little victories. They’re the thing that keeps you going. For example, I once gave a crime victim a referral for long term therapy a few years ago. She’s been in therapy since I gave her that referral and every time she calls me, she’s doing better. And each time she calls to let me know she’s doing better, that’s a small victory. As long as you’re looking for them, these victories are everywhere.


Maddy Strassler
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
While I was working in the restaurant industry as a baker/pastry chef, I began volunteering at an agency that provided assistance and support to survivors of sexual assault. I found myself drawn to social work, so I changed careers and pursued a Master’s in Social Work and obtained my LMSW. I interviewed for a position in the Victim Services Unit when the pandemic began. I am excited to now be here.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am always looking to learn new things and have already learned a lot from my colleagues in my time here thus far. I look forward to collaborating and supporting everyone here at KCDA as we engage in this work.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Empathy, social justice, and seeing the strength in each person inform my approach. These values have shaped my worldview and I take that into the work I do. I aim to provide a sense of support and safety.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I feel privileged that I am able to be here, interacting and learning from people from all walks of life who work with this office, as well as my colleagues. While there is a lot of uncertainty happening in this country and the world right now, I wish to contribute my skills and compassion as a social worker to those who are working through challenging times.


Stephanie Gonzalez
Victim Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
In high school I wanted to work in a field related to the criminal justice system. Unsure of what I wanted to do, I spoke with my school counselor and told her all of my interests. She informed me that I could be a social worker that works in the criminal justice field. I wasn’t aware that social work had such a wide variety of options. So when I went to college, I majored in Social Work. My internship was the catalyst that set the spark. It ignited my interest in the criminal justice side of social work and led me to where I am today.

What should someone know about working with you?
The criminal justice system can be tricky to understand so I am here to explain the process in the best way possible. I am also here to listen and understand what you are going through and help with resources. I speak Spanish. It may be a huge relief for Spanish speakers to know they have someone who can explain the system in their own language. I also always have candy in my cubical for people to take!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I learned from an early age to always help those who ask for it. I am here for crime victims and I am willing to help in any way that I can.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Whether it is crime victims, colleagues or even people on the street, being a helping hand for those who need it feels great. I hope that whoever I get to help feels supported and knows that they have an advocate to help them.


Rachel Saewitz
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
After studying criminal justice and having a career as an American Sign Language interpreter, I joined the Victim Services Unit as a Victim Advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing. It rapidly became apparent that this role was more social work than interpreter and I fell in love. After a few years in this position, I decided to make it official and earned my Master’s of Social Work from New York University.

What should someone know about working with you?
I approach all my interactions with clients and colleagues with empathy and a trauma-informed approach while taking individual’s social, economic, and cultural factors into consideration. You should also know that while we deal with very serious matters, I am also very silly and try and find levity around the difficult and challenging work we do.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Respect and dignity are two core values that are part of every interaction I have with crime victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue doing this work because assisting people who experience gender based violence find physical, emotional, and psychological safety and the freedom that comes with that safety is an important step in finding empowerment to take back control of one’s life.


Darlene Ellison
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I did not want a job just to be gainfully employed. I wanted a job that would allow me to have an impact on people’s lives. I am not the type of person who wants to sit and wonder if what I was doing would make a difference. Though I have not been here long yet, I can tell from the people I have been honored to be trained by and work alongside that “am I making a difference?” will not be a thought I will have to entertain.

What should someone know about working with you?
I come across as quiet, but I like working with a team.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I have always been interested in the behaviors and mental health of others and I am curious about what motivates people. People’s lives change when they are empowered. And that’s what we do here.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because I want to give back to those that need it most.


Emily Kline
Social Worker, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
From the time I was young, I have always been interested in assisting and serving underprivileged communities. As a white person, I often acknowledge in my work this fact, and the privileges that I have been privy to based on my race. I understand stress and trauma present themselves in a variety of forms, and it overwhelms our ability to cope. I have been motivated to help others, as others have helped me in the past.

What should someone know about working with you?
I offer an empathetic and strength-based approach while developing rapport with those in need. I use humor when appropriate and feel one of the most important skills in this work is active listening.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I feel that simply supporting individuals and providing compassion in a patient way can be paramount in this work. I also understand achieving justice in the criminal justice system looks different for many people. I am committed to exploring this to help bring survivors of crime to a place of holistic peace.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Social work is a rewarding career choice, and I am blown away everyday by the resiliency of the clients I work with. I feel honored to be a part of helping survivors make positive changes in their lives, no matter how small that change is – every success should be celebrated!


Patricia Bacchus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My path to becoming a social worker started at Clara Barton H. S. in the Rehabilitation Services Program. I took my first psychology course and volunteered at Interfaith Hospital and Kings Brook Jewish Nursing Home. That is where my aspiration and journey began to become a professional social worker. I grew up in East New York in NYCHA Housing. My family migrated from Trinidad, so education was a core value in our home. I attended Hunter College and received a BA in Psychology/African History.
Hunter College School of Social Work/Silberman is where I earned my Master’s in Social Work. Getting a college education and an advanced degree literally lifted me out of economic poverty. The profession of Social Work changed my life and was ultimately my destiny. I truly believe that it is an honor to serve others.

What should someone know about working with you?
I believe that employing a trauma-informed approach starts the process of healing.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Compassion, competence, dignity, excellence, empathy, humility, kindness, passion, and respect are some of my core values. I incorporate all of those values when I work with client witnesses.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Working with crime victims has been transformative for me in many ways. My life and professional experiences motivate me to serve in this position.


Marianne Lane
Elder Abuse Unit Coordinator, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I went to John Jay College to get my Master’s Degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling and while there I started volunteering with an organization called SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) which led me to want to work with victims.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am 110% dedicated to helping victims as much as I can and to be there to listen when they just need/want to talk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Being in the Elder Abuse Unit, I think my family values are what helps me understand and be empathetic toward victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I strongly believe mental illness is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Many of my victims have loved ones who are mentally ill, and I think our approach to defendants with mental illness is the best way to help the victims.


Lauren Waldman
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I majored in Criminology in college, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my degree. I only knew that I was interested in the human condition and learning about ways to make society equitable for all people. I found my calling as an advocate when I started volunteering for a non-profit that supports children in foster care by providing them with a court appointed advocate to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks of the system. I felt that these children were really the most vulnerable and in need of a voice in court.

What should someone know about working with you?
Those working with me should know that I will be persistent and very rarely take “No” for an answer. My feeling is that most problems have a solution if you are willing to look hard and long enough for one!

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Even as a young child, I always found it natural to stick up for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t do so for themselves. Advocating for other people comes more naturally than doing so for myself.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being able to make a positive impact on those who have suffered is its own reward. I cannot foresee a time in my life when that will not be my role in one way or another. For me, life would have little meaning if I wasn’t able to serve others.


Brigitte Tibana
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Being a daughter of first-generation immigrants, I grew up in an underserved community. It was a community of minorities from all backgrounds who shared common struggles. Like my parents, struggles had to be handled on their own out of fear of asking for help and fear of being discriminated against. Becoming a social worker has allowed me to give back to underserved communities. It has helped me advocate for those who don’t speak the language, those who need help navigating the system, and those who often remind me of my own family.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am a fierce advocate who, while empathetic, assures my client’s needs and concerns are addressed.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
From a young age, I learned the selfless act of helping others without judgment. I learned to show compassion and offer a helping hand to someone who needs it without expecting anything in return. As I work with crime victims, I offer my services with compassion and empathy while validating their experience.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Being a social worker is challenging yet such a rewarding career. As social workers, we often go above and beyond for our clients, we deal with the vicarious trauma, and yet when we can empower someone to make the changes and seek help for a better future. That’s when we are reminded why we continue to do this work every day.


Margarita Sionova
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Throughout my life, I have always been always drawn to idea of helping and supporting people. During my graduate studies at Fordham University, I earned my Master’s of Social Work; with a certificate in Law, and I was always mesmerized by how both fields complimented one another so well; finding themselves inextricably involved with one another. I found my fields of study to be complementary to one another and this is the primary reason I feel that my course of study made me a well-rounded social work advocate.

I completed my clinical internships at the Truancy Bureau at KCDA, followed by Jewish Board of Family and Children Services. In these internships, I provided psychotherapy and individual counseling; undergoing internal turmoil, and upheaval when confronted with modern day issues of adolescence and young adulthood. Finally, my journey brought me to my dream position as a social worker in the KCDA Victim Services Unit. Here at VSU, I get to work as part of an interdisciplinary team of assistant district attorneys, investigators, detectives and my fellow social workers in order to help our borough’s most fragile, exploited and traumatized victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking and various violent crimes overcome their trauma and fear.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am tenacious and won’t rest until I have provided emotional support, comfort, and aide to our complaining witnesses. I like to be thoroughly involved in every case that I am assigned. I also have good interdisciplinary skills and work well and in close collaboration with all my colleagues. I am also able to speak, write and read in Russian fluently.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with Crime Victims?
I have always sought to protect the fragile voices of those who were scared to speak up. I go out of my way to help those who are in a disadvantaged position to help themselves, and I try to empathize with and empower every survivor that I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
This is more than a job to me. It has become a way of life. As much as it allows me to help others, it has come to define who I am and how I view the world. It is truly incredible and rewarding knowing you are able to give a hand to people in need. This work gives me purpose and a sense of fulfillment.


Melissa A. Castello
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
My path to becoming a victim advocate began in social services with homeless individuals. I would hear so many heartbreaking stories of broken relationships, domestic violence, loss of income and falling on hard times from homeless men and women. From working as a case manager to becoming a social service supervisor, I was inspired to reach more individuals in need.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am compassionate, dedicated, loyal and determined. Helping others is my life’s passion.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that it’s important to be attentive and supportive. Crime victims have not asked to be in the position in which they are placed. My job as an advocate is to provide as many resources and moral support as possible.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because there is a great need to heal. I believe I have what it takes to heal and to assist.

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Rape of Three Women

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 15, 2021

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison for Rape of Three Women

Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Attacking the Victims in 2019 and 2020

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Canarsie man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for raping three women, in separate incidents, in his car after physically assaulting them, causing two victims to lose consciousness.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I am committed to seeking justice for all victims of sexual violence in Brooklyn. With today’s sentencing this defendant, who repeatedly preyed on vulnerable women and continued his violent behavior even after getting arrested, has now been held accountable for his actions. Our communities are safer now that this defendant has been taken off our streets.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Ayindee Boyce, 25, of Canarsie, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today to 18 years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo. The defendant, who pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree rape on February 17, 2021, must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, on August 3, 2019, at approximately 1:30 a.m., the defendant pulled up to a 21-year-old woman in East New York and asked her if she wanted to “chill.” After the victim got into his car he drove to Canarsie, where he asked the woman to get into the backseat of his car so he could look for something. He then offered her $20 for what she believed would be a sex act, and she told him it was not enough. When she tried to get out of the car, the defendant applied pressure to her neck and raped her. When she managed to open the car door, he slammed it shut and threatened to kill her. He then drove a short distance away and let her out of the car. She immediately reported the attack to police officers she spotted on the street. She was taken to a hospital and a sexual assault evidence collection kit was performed.

Furthermore, according to the evidence, on September 15, 2019, the defendant picked up a 24-year-old woman he met once before, drove her to a driveway in Canarsie, and told her to get in the backseat. He also got in the backseat, pushed her down and applied pressure to her neck and raped her. At one point the victim managed to escape through an open car door window and ran down the street, with the defendant chasing after her. He continued to strangle her and hit her on the head. The attack was interrupted by a Good Samaritan who called 911. Police responded and the victim was taken to a hospital where a sexual assault evidence collection kit was performed. On September 24, 2019, the defendant, whose name was known to the victim, was arrested by the police. He consented to give a DNA sample, which came back as a match for the August 3, 2019 incident.

Finally, early on September 14, 2020, while out on bail that he posted in June 2020, the defendant pulled up to a 26-year-old woman in East New York and offered her $100 for sex. The woman agreed and got in the car. After driving a short distance, the defendant demanded oral sex. When the victim asked for the money first, the defendant applied pressure to her neck, causing her to lose consciousness. He then raped her and repeatedly threatened to kill her. He then forced her out of the car and kept her purse. She called 911 and was taken to a hospital where a sexual assault evidence collection kit was performed. A DNA hit subsequently linked the defendant to the incident. He was arrested again on December 2, 2020 and remanded without bail.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Zebrowski, of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Bureau Chief.

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Brooklyn Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him With Sexually Assaulting Two Female Relatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 11, 2021

 

Brooklyn Man Arraigned on Indictment Charging Him
With Sexually Assaulting Two Female Relatives

Defendant Was Extradited from Israel After Fleeing U.S. in 2010

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man who fled to Israel in 2010 to allegedly escape charges that he repeatedly sexually assaulted two young relatives has been returned to Brooklyn. He was arraigned today on an indictment in which he is charged with course of sexual conduct against a child, criminal sexual act and sexual abuse.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant tried to escape justice by fleeing our jurisdiction. Today’s arraignment on these serious charges is our first step to bringing him to justice for this alleged terrible betrayal of trust. There is no place in our society for this type of predatory behavior, and I am committed to prosecuting cases such as this despite lengthy extradition proceedings.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Gershon Kranczer, 65, of Midwood, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dena Douglas on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, second-degree criminal sexual act and second-degree sexual abuse. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on March 22, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on multiple occasions from August 1996 to February 2003, in Midwood, Brooklyn, the defendant allegedly sexually assaulted a child from the time she was six years old to 13 years old. He allegedly sexually abused a second child between March 2001 and September 2002 when she was approximately 11 years old.

The defendant fled to Israel in November 2010 to allegedly escape prosecution. He was returned to New York today by the United States Marshals Service.

The investigation was conducted by New York City Police Detective Steve Litwin, formerly assigned to the Brooklyn Special Victims Squad and currently assigned to the Cold Case Squad.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Connie Solimeo, of the District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Miss Gregory, Chief.

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An indictment is merely an accusation and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

 

Three Individuals Indicted for Asphyxiation Death of Brooklyn Man in his Crown Heights Apartment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 10, 2021

 

Three Individuals Indicted for Asphyxiation Death of
Brooklyn Man in his Crown Heights Apartment

Victim Was Allegedly Killed During a Robbery by Female Acquaintance and Two Others

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a woman and two men have been arraigned on an indictment in which they are charged with murder, robbery and burglary for the asphyxiation death of Malcolm Holder.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Malcolm Holder was killed in his own home allegedly by a woman he trusted and her accomplices. This was an incredibly callous murder of an innocent man whose family and friends are devastated by his death. We will now seek to bring these defendants to justice.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Amanda Sylvester, 35, Sean Idlet, 49, and Barber Byron, 61, all of Brooklyn. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice on an indictment in which they are charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first- and second-degree burglary. The defendants were ordered held without bail and to return to court on June 23, 2021. They face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 22, 2021, at approximately 4 a.m., the defendants allegedly attacked Malcom Holder, 46, in his Crown Heights apartment during a robbery. It is alleged that Sylvester was an acquaintance of the victim and that she and her boyfriend, Idlet, and another man, Byron, went to the apartment to rob the victim. After Mr. Holder let Sylvester into the apartment, it is alleged, the other two defendants forced their way in. They allegedly stole a cash box containing an unknown amount of money, a PlayStation console, a speaker and a cell phone.

The victim was found later that morning inside of his apartment by a home health aide. His hands and legs were tied with electrical cord and he was face down on the living room floor.
The Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorneys Lana Schlesinger and Daphney Gachette, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Homicide Bureau Chief.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Driver Who Allegedly Blew a Red Light While Speeding, Seriously Injuring a Brooklyn Woman, Indicted for Assault and Reckless Endangerment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 2, 2021

 

Driver Who Allegedly Blew a Red Light While Speeding, Seriously Injuring a Brooklyn Woman,
Indicted for Assault and Reckless Endangerment

Drove over 70 mph in a Residential Roadway and T-Boned Livery Cab;
Posted Videos Showing Reckless Driving in the Same Vehicle

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a 22-year-old man has been indicted for assault, reckless endangerment and other charges for allegedly causing a car crash that seriously injured a Brooklyn mother of six. A dashboard camera captured the driver allegedly running a red light at a Bedford-Stuyvesant intersection and colliding with a livery cab that carried the 32-year-old victim.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant chose to drive his car in a highly dangerous and reckless manner, allegedly speeding and ignoring a traffic light, and caused a devastating crash that nearly killed a beloved mother. We believe this was not an aberration – videos he allegedly posted online show him driving the same vehicle in an extremely reckless fashion. We will not allow drivers to treat our roads like racetracks and act with complete disregard for the lives of others. Such behavior is criminal and will be prosecuted in Brooklyn.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Jalen Ryan Ortiz, 22, of Middletown, New York. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Laura Johnson on an indictment in which he is charged with second- and third-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving, speeding and running a red light. The defendant was ordered to be on supervised release and to return to court on April 20, 2021. His driver’s license was suspended, and he faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison if convicted of the top count with which he is charged.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on November 30, 2020, at approximately 12:24 a.m., the defendant was driving his Dodge Charger 392, which was painted with the theme of the movie “Scream” and had the license plate number SCR3AM, northbound on Bedford Avenue. Video from the car’s dashboard camera shows the defendant allegedly driving aggressively and at a high rate of speed for several blocks as he approached Dekalb Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Blackbox data indicates that he was travelling at 77 mph and the gas pedal was pressed all the way down approximately one second prior to the collision, the investigation found.

The evidence shows that at the intersection of Dekalb and Bedford Avenues, the defendant ran through a steady red light and broadsided a livery cab. A 32-year-old passenger who was seated in the back seat was ejected through a side window and suffered traumatic brain injury, a lacerated spleen, several fractures to her spine and ribs, a broken clavicle, and a subarachnoid hemorrhage. She was hospitalized for approximately two months.

After broadsiding the livery cab, the defendant then crashed into a row of cars that were parked on Bedford Avenue. The cab driver and the defendant both suffered minor injuries.

Videos that were posted on the defendant’s Instagram account show him driving the same vehicle at a fast rate of speed and performing reckless car tricks in residential streets.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Jacob Uriel of the District Attorney’s Street Safety Bureau assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Robert Walsh, former Chief of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau and Senior Assistant District Attorney Joseph Mancino, also of the Blue Zone.

An indictment is merely an accusation and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

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