Democrat Tim Sini and Republican Ray Tierney fight over who’s toughest on crime in Suffolk


In the race for the Suffolk County District Attorney, the question of who will be tougher on crime – Democrat Tim Sini or Ray Tierney, the Republican and Conservative Party candidate – has arisen as the main issue.

Sini, the incumbent, is seeking election for a second term against Tierney, a former Suffolk County and Federal Prosecutor.

Sini, 41, from Babylon, says he has targeted MS-13 gang violence, environmental crimes, drug trafficking and political corruption since taking office in 2018.

Sini, a former federal prosecutor, has held frequent press conferences extolling the arrests and cases his office pursues throughout his tenure.

“We have been keeping Suffolk safe for the past six years and will continue to fight for residents to keep Suffolk as safe as possible, and will continue to decimate gangs like the MS-13,” Sini told Newsday, se referring to his service as police commissioner and district attorney.

Tierney, 55, of Holtsville, points to his experience as the former Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and as a former Suffolk County District Attorney.

Tierney, chief compliance and enforcement attorney at Suffolk County Off-Tracking Betting Corp., said as a district attorney he would indict more indictments in criminal cases, re-establish a unit of dedicated gang, would reinstall ShotSpotter technology in the county, and lobby the state legislature to overturn bail reform laws.

During the campaign, Tierney held regular press conferences in which he highlighted what he said were Sini’s failures to aggressively prosecute defendants who allegedly committed more serious crimes while on bail or on bail. court.

“I do not present myself as harsher on crime,” Tierney, who is not registered with any political party, told Newsday. “I am more severe with the crime.”

It’s not uncommon for district attorney races to focus on which candidate will fight crime most effectively, said political consultant Michael Dawidziak, who has worked primarily for Republicans.

“’I am the person who will keep your neighborhoods safe, keep criminals off the streets,” Dawidziak said of typical campaign messages.

But district attorney campaigns are having a turn this year in Long Island and other areas of the state, Dawidziak said.

Republicans are attacking Democrats for bail reform laws that the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed in 2019.

The reform package eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent charges, so defendants won’t have to wait in jail before trial if they can’t afford to post bail.

Opponents of the law, including many district attorneys, have warned that it could allow defendants to commit crimes outside of prison.

Supporters of the law say recidivism is rare and argue that detaining people on the basis of their ability to post bail discriminates against low-income defendants and pushes them to agree to plea negotiations.

Dawidziak said polls showed bail reform was unpopular in suburban areas such as Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“I haven’t seen anything so unpopular in a long time,” Dawidziak said.

Sini and Tierney say they oppose bail reform law.

Sini was a federal prosecutor for over four years.

He has filed a lawsuit against the former national leader of the Trinitarios gang, a Bronx drug smuggling group and a murder conspiracy, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Sini, a graduate of American University in Washington, DC and Brooklyn Law School, worked for about a year as the Suffolk County Deputy Director for Public Safety under County Director Steve Bellone, who has him appointed county police commissioner.

Sini was commissioner for 18 months. He was elected Suffolk County District Attorney in November 2017.

Sini, who was recently elected president of the association of state prosecutors, said if re-elected he would continue to invest in new technology and “make the office a national model.”

Tierney, a graduate of Brown University and St. John’s University Law School in Queens, began his career in the Suffolk County Attorney’s Office.

For 14 years in the office, Tierney pursued two men accused of the near-fatal beating of Shane Daniels outside a Westhampton Beach nightclub in 1996, as well as cases of rape, domestic violence and child pornography.

Tierney joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District in 2008. He has pursued cases against the MS-13 gang and political corruption cases against former Nassau County leader Ed Mangano , former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and former Suffolk Conservative Party Leader Edward Walsh. .

In 2019, Tierney joined the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, where he oversaw units focused on violent criminal enterprises, crime strategies and police-worn cameras.

He served there for about a year, before moving to Suffolk OTB.

As a challenger in the DA race, Tierney focused on Sini’s case as a district attorney, arguing that the incumbent is “gentle on crime”.

Tierney’s main argument is that Sini’s office has not charged enough suspects, including in dozens of cases of illegal gun possession.

Tierney says he would charge in all possible gun possession cases.

Tierney has held weekly press conferences focusing on issues such as a spate of fentanyl overdoses in the East End in August, a murder in April in the Bay Shore and a shooting there in September.

Of the suspects in those cases, three had been released on bail or released on court order for previous arrests for crimes such as illegal possession of firearms and assault, court records show.

Tierney says Sini’s office should have charged the suspects immediately after their first offenses, or on more serious charges.

If this had happened, the judges who treated them as accused after subsequent arrests might have taken the cases more seriously and would have been more likely to have set a higher bond or dismissed the accused in prison, according to Tierney.

“They presented a clear and present danger to the community,” Tierney said of the defendants. “You get this fellow off the street as soon as possible.”

Sini has defended his performance in all of the cases cited by Tierney, and said his office has fought to secure higher bail or to return defendants to jail when the law permits.

“There is literally not a single thing in this procedural story that can even be said from a distance that was treated other than appropriately by my office,” Sini told Newsday.

The three cases Tierney focused on in his press conferences on the indictment issue involve black defendants

Jason Williamson, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at New York University, said campaign stories such as Tierney’s play on “Existing Fears and Stereotypes” about black men.

Tierney responded that by raising the question of whether Sini was pursuing aggressively enough, he was speaking on behalf of victims of crime in the county, which include people of color.

Lawyers for some of the defendants say Tierney is accusing their clients of serious past crimes for which they were not convicted, when they deserve the presumption of innocence.

Sini said his prosecutors used their discretion to seek charges in an appropriate manner.

When an indictment was not filed immediately for previous criminal allegations, prosecutors negotiated plea deals with defense attorneys, gathered more evidence for a wider investigation, or attempted to protect witnesses or victims who did not want to be identified in court, Sini said.

“Any prosecutor knows there are circumstances where you don’t charge,” Sini said. “But let’s be clear, we have indicted thousands of cases.”

In New York, indictments handed over by grand juries in secret proceedings represent the main avenue for prosecuting crimes, legal experts have said.

Yet indictments are only pronounced in a relatively small percentage of cases, according to data from the state’s Courts Administration Office.

With 101,369 adult felony arrests statewide in 2020, there were 12,394 felony charges, according to the data.

In Suffolk County, there were 3,560 felony arrests last year and 438 felony charges.

In Nassau, the rate was higher in 2020: 4,607 felony arrests and 971 indictments.

Hofstra University criminal law professor Alafair Burke said it was unusual for defendants to be arrested for crimes pending resolution of previous charges.

In New York City, for example, 14% of those released on bail on felony charges were re-arrested on other charges in 2020, according to the New York Police Department website. Such statistics are not available for the counties of Nassau and Suffolk.

Burke, a former Portland, OR attorney and novelist, said the only way to ensure the defendants do not reoffend while on bail would be to send them all back pending trial, which is not ” neither practical nor fair “.

Nonetheless, said Burke, “it’s every prosecutor’s nightmare – you don’t charge a case for some reason and then something bad happens.”

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