A perfect example of this is found in former Long Island, New York Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”) Glenn Kurtzrock. After two long years of litigation that was begun in 2019 by the Innocence Project, Kurtzrock’s fate was finally decided in January of 2021 when New York’s Tenth Judicial District’s Grievance Committee’s findings of misconduct against ADA Kurtzrock were affirmed by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division for the Second Judicial District.
The catalyst behind this finding was the second-degree murder and burglary trial of Black citizen Messiah Booker. He spent 18 months in pretrial detention while his defense attorney dogged Kurtzrock for discovery materials with which to prepare for trial. During the 2017 trial, it became apparent Kurtzrock had altered police records in such a way as to delete extensive amounts of exculpatory information, other items, and even the identity of another suspect in the case.
Booker’s trial was stopped midway through by this explosive revelation. Kurtzrock was forced to tender his resignation to District Attorney Thomas Spota while the presiding judge labeled the proceedings a “travesty.” The second-degree murder charges against Booker and three co-defendants were dismissed, and Booker was allowed to plead out for a five year prison sentence on a burglary charge. “Travesty” notwithstanding, the state was going to get its pound of flesh.
In a perfect example of a pot calling the kettle black, DA Spota resigned over misconduct charges soon thereafter. ADA Andrew Weiss, who was Chief of the DA’s Integrity Bureau also resigned for withholding evidence in another trial.
Spota’s replacement, Timothy Sini, began investigating Kurtzrock’s prior cases he prosecuted during his 12 and one half years as an ADA. Four more convictions fell under this scrutiny.
In one of those cases, a judge stated Kurtzrock had illegally withheld a “stunning” total of discoverable evidence exculpatory to the convicted defendant. Yet despite a growing pattern of wrongful convictions obtained by Kurtzrock, the investigation abruptly ceased; maybe the cessation was caused by the growing pattern of wrongful convictions.
Kurtzrock’s sanction by the grievance committee did not even come close to the life sentence Booker had faced. It was not even close to the five years in prison Booker pleaded to in order to settle the charges against him. The committee turned blind eyes to the growing mountain of evidence indicating Kurtzrock may have obtained other wrongful convictions, calling his misconduct in Booker’s trial “a singular bad act.”
All Kurtzrock has to suffer for his prosecutorial misconduct is a mere two-year suspension of his license to practice law.
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