2019-01-30 17:09:47 UTC
Longtime Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes dead at 83
By Larry Celona and Lia Eustachewich
January 30, 2019 | 8:56am | Updated
Longtime Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has died, his family told The Post.
The 83-year-old former prosecutor — who served as DA from 1990 to 2013 — died around 10:45 p.m. Tuesday at a Florida hospice, son Sean Hynes said.
His health had been on the decline in the past year and he had been moved to hospice care in Deerfield Beach over the weekend, sources said.
Hynes, who has suffered a stroke three years ago, was surrounded by family when he passed.
“From a family perspective, we lost our hero last night,” said Sean Hynes, 53. “It amazes me as his son that he accomplished so much.”
Criminal defense lawyer Arthur Aidala paid tribute to Hynes on Facebook.
“I lost a mentor and a dear friend, The Honorable Charles J. Hynes. Rest In Peace Joe, you deserve it after all of the decades you dedicated to serving all of us,” he captioned an undated photo. “This photo was taken at one of our ‘loyalty’ lunches. As Joe taught me loyalty can only be repaid with loyalty. God Bless the entire Hynes Family.”
Aidala, who was a senior assistant district attorney under Hynes, called his former boss and close friend a “total overachiever.”
“He changed the lives of tens of thousands of people in all of the roles that he filled in public service,” Aidala told The Post.
Hynes, who was born in Brooklyn and went by the nickname “Joe,” lost his bid for a seventh consecutive term in 2013 when he was defeated by Kenneth Thompson. Both men had run in the Democratic primary, which Hynes lost, prompting him to run in the general election on the Republican and Conservative party lines.
At the time, Hynes appeared to take the loss in stride, but Aidala noted, “He was upset.”
“There were a lot of people when he was in power who were his best friends and then when he lost power, he never heard from them again,” he said. “On a personal level, that is what hurt him more than anything else.”
A graduate of St. John’s Law School, Hynes began his legal career in 1963 as an associate attorney for the Legal Aid Society. Six years later, he joined the Brooklyn DA’s Office, where he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming chief of the rackets bureau within his first two years before being promoted to first assistant district attorney.
In 1975, at age 39, Hynes was appointed as the state’s special prosecutor to probe nursing home fraud.
A decade later, he was named special prosecutor in one of the most defining cases of his career — the racially motivated Howard Beach attack. Three black men, Michael Griffith, Cedric Sandiford and Timothy Grimes, were chased through the predominantly white neighborhood by a group of bat-wielding white teens.
The teens hurled racial slurs at the men, whose car had broke down, as they chased Griffith onto the Belt Parkway, where he was fatally struck by a car. Sandiford was beaten with a bat while Grimes escaped unharmed.
Hynes was hailed for winning manslaughter convictions against three of the teens in Griffith’s death during a time when racial tensions were at a boiling point.
As the top prosecutor in Kings County for more than two decades, Hynes created a drug treatment program as an alternative to prison and one of the first domestic-violence bureaus in the country. Opening the domestic violence bureau hit close to home for Hynes — he had spent his childhood watching his father physically abuse his mother.
“I would argue that’s his crowning achievement,” said Sean Hynes.
Hynes also did a two-year stint as fire commissioner in the early 1980s.
“When I think about his career, any one of those things in and of itself would make him very proud of what he accomplished,” the son added.
As DA, Hynes faced criticism of going too soft on sexual-abuse prosecutions against Orthodox Jews — a base he enjoyed strong support from in past years.
His office also prosecuted a little more than a dozen wrongful convictions that have since been overturned, some in part thanks to allegations of misconduct by retired NYPD homicide detective Louis Scarcella.
During his bid for reelection, Hynes publicly blasted Scarcella’s “questionable conduct” in the case of David Ranta, who spent 23 years behind bars for the murder of a rabbi before the case was tossed in 2013.
As a result, Hynes launched investigations into all of the one-time star detective’s cases.
Scarcella — and the Detectives Endowment Association — pointed the finger at Hynes for tarnishing the detective’s reputation.
“Those of us who really knew [Hynes] know he would have never intentionally convicted anyone,” Aidala said. “The fact that there were people who were innocently convicted, he was as upset as anyone else was.”
In his retirement, Hynes passed the time reading books and vacationing with his wife, Patricia, sources said.
But he also found himself on the other end of an investigation by prosecutors who were probing whether he misused public money for his 2013 re-election campaign.
The investigation was dropped in 2016 — but Hynes was fined $40,000 by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board two years later 2018 for using city resources and his on-the-clock staff in his failed campaign. Several ex-staffers were also fined.
Hynes is survived by his wife, Patricia, 77, sons Sean, Kevin and Patrick, daughters Jeanne Cook and Lisa Kellachan and 17 grandchildren.
Carlo Scissura, president of the powerhouse trade group New York Building Congress, who previously headed the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and was chief of staff and general counsel for former Borough President Marty Markowitz, said Hynes leaves behind a rich legacy.
“People forget that this man was among the first transformative district attorneys in New York. They forget that he took charge before he was DA on the racial incidents in Howard Beach. They forget his leadership and innovation on domestic violence prosecution, sex abuse prosecution, and he was a leading prosecutor in an era of New York that had high crime,” he said.
“Brooklyn, parts of the borough, were among the highest crime rates anywhere in the country and Charles Hynes was a steady leader and presence during all of it.”
Funeral arrangements are pending but a funeral mass will likely be held at Saint Thomas More Church in Breezy Point.
“He said, ‘Always do your best and do it with integrity,’” Sean Hynes recalled. “That’s how he lived.”
Additional reporting by Rich Calder