Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes recognized five local heroes who have gone out of their way, sometimes at great risk, to help victims of domestic violence in Brooklyn in honor of National Crime Victims Week.
“Crime Victims Week is usually a solemn occasion,” Hynes said. “But this year we acknowledge the heroics of ordinary people, who felt a need to help domestic violence victims. It is also a special occasion for my office, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Victim Services Unit.”
The Victim Services Unit was formed in the spring of 1999, to help prosecutors meet the complex emotional needs of domestic violence and sex crime victims. The unit is staffed by specially trained social workers, who work side by side with victims and prosecutors.
On November 9, 2007, Yvonne Swepson heard cries for help coming from the hallway outside her apartment. She stepped outside to find Raymond Hampton stabbing his ex−girlfriend, Swepson’s neighbor.
Without concern for her own safety, Swepson pulled Hampton off his victim, who had been stabbed six times. When he fled, she called 911 and waited with the victim until police came. She testified at Hampton’s trial and attended the 25−year sentencing with the victim, who’s alive today thanks to her efforts.
On December 15, 2007, Tracy Bull and her three children were on the platform of the Pennsylvania Avenue stop on the Number 3 train. She saw Steven Lightsey throw his estranged wife onto the tracks, where she suffered a fracture to her lower spine. Without regard for her own safety, Bull immediately ran to the victim’s aid, helping to pull her off the tracks. Lightsey pleaded guilty to assault in the first degree and is serving seven years in prison.
Dwight Vaccianna is the general manager of Au Bon Pain at MetroTech, across the street from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. He has repeatedly donated food and Au Bon Pain meal vouchers to volunteers and clients at the Brooklyn Family Justice Center. Volunteers teaching ESL classes to domestic violence victims and those who counsel victims in other ways have benefited greatly from Vaccianna’s generosity, since the center opened in July 2005.
George Gallagher terrorized his ex−girlfriend and her mother for more than 12 years, ignoring repeated court orders to stay away from them. He had been indicted three times for crimes he committed against them, served jail time, and each time he was released, he resumed his previous behavior. In 2006, he violated his parole and could not be found. Over the next three years he made threatening phone calls, sometimes as many as 40 per day, to his two frightened victims. During that time Detective Joseph Notwicz, of the 94th Precinct, was in frequent contact with both the victims and the Brooklyn DA’s Office.
Gallagher was eventually indicted, and Det. Notwicz used a warrant to track Gallagher’s cell phone use, which led to his arrest, July 22, 2008. Gallagher is now serving three to six years in prison.