Gonzalez, Adams pay tribute to Charles ‘Joe’ Hynes

Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes.
Associated Press / Seth Wenig, Louis Lanzano, File

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Wednesday paid tribute to former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes, who died the day before while vacationing in Deerfield Beach, Fla. He was 83.

Gonzalez said in a brief statement that he was “saddened to learn” of Hynes’s passing.

“Mr. Hynes was a lifelong public servant who devoted his life to the borough he loved,” he said. “My deepest condolences to his widow, Pat, his children and his grandchildren. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.”

Adams also said tersely that “my heart goes out to the family of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles ‘Joe’ Hynes.

“Joe’s family is in our prayers,” he said.

Charles Joseph Hynes, who was born on May 28, 1935, was a lawyer and Democratic politician in New York who served as Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney from 1990 to 2013.

According to his biography, Hynes was born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He attended St. Ann’s Academy in Manhattan (now Archbishop Molloy High School), and received both his bachelor’s degree, in 1957, and his J.D. (law degree) in 1961 from St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens.

In 1963, Hynes began working for the Legal Aid Society as an associate attorney. He joined the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in 1969, as an Assistant District Attorney.

In 1971, Hynes was appointed as chief of the Rackets Bureau, and was named first assistant district attorney in 1973, the biography states.

In 1975, the New York Governor Hugh Carey and Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz appointed Hynes as special state prosecutor for Nursing Homes, Health and Social Services, in response to a massive scandal in the state’s nursing home industry.

Hynes’ office launched a comprehensive attack on Medicaid fraud, and his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit eventually became a national model, cited in a report of the House Select Committee on Aging as the best in the country, according to the New York Times.

Hynes testified before the United States Congress in 1976, in favor of legislation establishing state fraud control units and providing federal funding. The legislation became law in 1977. Currently, 48 states have Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

With the resignation of Augustus A. Beekman, Hynes was appointed the 24th New York City Fire Commissioner by Mayor Edward I. Koch on Nov. 5, 1980.

Hynes served in that position until his resignation on Oct. 22, 1982. He served as a commissioner for the New York State Commission of Investigation between 1983 and 1985, by appointment of New York State Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink.

In 1985, Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed District Attorney Hynes as special state prosecutor for the New York City Criminal Justice System, the biography says.

In 1987, Hynes investigated the death of Michael Griffith, a Black teen, of Guyanese parentage, securing three homicide convictions against the defendants and publishing a book about the case, according to the Times.

In October, 1990, Hynes initiated the Drug Treatment Alternative-to-Prison Program (DTAP) on the premise that drug-addicted defendants would return to society in a better position to resist drugs and crime after treatment than if they had spent a comparable time in prison at nearly twice the cost.

DTAP held as a model for similar prosecution-based drug treatment programs across the US.

In 1999, Hynes created the ComALERT (Community And Law Enforcement Resources Together) public safety program, which supports individuals on probation or parole as they re-enter their Brooklyn communities, the biography says. The program was validated by a Harvard University study which found it reduced recidivism by more than half.

Hynes is credited with having established one of the most comprehensive-and first-countywide programs designed specifically to address domestic abuse as a criminal issue, and with the collaboration of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani implemented a citywide program to monitor convicted domestic violence offenders, according to the Times.

In 1998, he sought the Democratic nomination for Governor of New York but was defeated in the primary by Peter Vallone, Sr.

In 2005, Hynes narrowly beat a primary challenge from State Senator John L. Sampson who won 37 percent of the vote to Hynes’ 41 percent. Mark G. Peters, a former senior official in the state attorney general’s office, got 15 percent of the votes, and Arnold Kriss, a former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and a former deputy police commissioner, received seven percent, reported the Times.

It said the race had attracted considerable attention because Hynes, a fixture in Brooklyn politics, was seen as vulnerable after four terms in office.

In 2009, Hynes was unopposed. But, four years later, in the Democratic primary, and then again in the general election on the Republican and Conservative lines, Hynes lost to African American Kenneth P. Thompson, a former federal prosecutor.

Thompson died of cancer in October 2016. He was 50.

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