There has been much to appreciate about the changes implemented by the new(ish) Kings County District Attorney, Ken Thompson. not the least of which is he’s not Joe Hynes. Thompson has reviewed and tossed questionable past convictions, particularly by lying mutts like disgraced Det. Lou Scarcella. But hard work makes a guy hungry, and how can one do his best prosecuting when his tummy is growling?
When a food order came in from the Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, the officers in charge of protecting him knew the drill: Go pick it up — a bagel or a burger or, at least once, a piece of salmon — and pay out of their own pocket. Later, the district attorney’s office would reimburse them.
That bit of convenience for the elected chief prosecutor in Brooklyn went on for months after he took office in 2014, and included meals for Mr. Thompson when he worked nights and weekends.
The man worked nights and weekends. Do you think Cy Vance works nights and weekends? And misses all those garden parties in the Hamptons? Get a grip.*
But the routine violated New York City’s rules, and on Wednesday the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board announced that it had levied a fine of $15,000 in a settlement with Mr. Thompson. The sanction was among the largest in a decade and the first against a district attorney since the creation of the board in 1990, according to the agency’s records.
Mr. Thompson — who earns a salary of $212,800 from the city and well over that amount in payments from his former law firm, according to city disclosure reports — acknowledged in the settlement disposition spending $2,043 from the district attorney’s office to pay for his weekday meals from January through May 2014, and then an additional $1,489 in office money for dinners and weekend meals through February 2015.
Well, that’s pretty embarrassing for a prosecutor. And at $15 grand, I sure hope it was wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, not that farm-bred crap.
It’s not as if Thompson didn’t offer up an act of contrition:
“I accept complete responsibility for this violation and regret that it occurred,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement. “As Brooklyn district attorney, I am committed to maintaining the integrity of my office.”
Damn good of him to accept complete responsibility, as if someone else might have chowed down on the salmon. But that snarky Appellate Squawk isn’t satisfied. She can be very tough on prosecutors, you know.
This was apparently the same crew that routinely assures ADA’s that there’s no such thing as Brady material that has to be turned over to the defense. Thompson kept on billing the public for his feed until, as he delicately put it, “I later realized this practice violated City rules.”
Slapped on the wrist by the COIB and fined $15,000, he explained that he’d paid back the dinner money, saying, “I accept complete responsibility for this violation and regret that it occurred.” A new era has dawned in Brooklyn.
Law is hard, and who can worry about ethics rules when they’re hungry? Squawk can be so heartless. And why is it not enough that Thompson accepted “complete responsibility”? What does she want of this hungry man?
But Squawk has access to secret transcripts of proceedings that rarely see the light of day, showing the consequences of Ken Thompson’s heartfelt apology.
Judge: The charge is robbery, gun possession and loitering in the park after sunset. How do you plead?
Defendant: I accept complete responsibility for this violation and regret that it occurred. Plus, I gave the wallet back.
Judge: Very well. You will be fined the same proportion of your income as the District Attorney was. Pay the two dollars to the clerk downstairs.
This is what makes our legal system great.
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
You want equality? We got it in spades.
Prosecutor: Violation! Since when is bilking the City out of five and a half grand a violation? It’s a felony if there ever was one – [Supervisor whispers in his ear] Oh, sorry.
Defendant : – and regret that it occurred.
Judge: Of course, how could you possibly have known? The rules are so confusing. Go in peace, my child.
Go in peace, dear readers.
*Then again, Cy has a few bucks at his disposal with which to purchase a delicious meal or two, as long as it’s in his version of the public interest.