District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes and challenger Ken Thompson battered each other for skipping debates in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
Hynes blasted Thompson for backing out of an Aug. 27 debate in front of the Brooklyn Bar Association, the borough’s official federation of lawyers. The 24-year incumbent’s camp accused the former federal prosecutor of running scared from a fight before his professional peers.
“He obviously doesn’t feel his record is strong enough to plead his case to the legal community of Brooklyn,” said Hynes spokesman George Arzt.
Thompson’s team said that he was unable to attend due to a “personal conflict,” and had offered to reschedule. The challenger struck back at the incumbent, claiming that Hynes had refused to debate him on WABC-TV last week.
“The brazen hypocrisy and desperation of Joe Hynes has reached new heights,” said a Thompson spokesman.
Arzt fired back, claiming that Thompson was comparing apples and oranges.
“This is atrocious behavior even for Mr. Thompson,” said Arzt. “Mr. Thompson is extraordinarily manipulative and slippery but he can’t wiggle out of a debate then compare that to a forum that was never agreed to or debate that was never scheduled.”
The Bar Association said that Thompson had called to cancel a day in advance, and confirmed that he had offered to reschedule. But the attorneys group said that it would not be able to set up another forum before the primary.
“We’re disappointed. Of course we wish it would have worked out,” said Bar Association president Andrew Fallk.
A WABC-TV source confirmed that Hynes had rejected a televised face-off on the station.
“Hynes turned us down. I offered a number of options, but he said no,” the insider said.
The two have already had several bruising altercations, where Thompson has slammed Hynes for recusing himself from prosecuting disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez on allegations of sexual harassment because of his political ties for the former Democratic Party boss. The challenger has also gone after the incumbent for several wrongful convictions resulting from the alleged misconduct of star assistant district attorney Michael Vecchione and retired police detective Louis Scarcella.
Thompson has also accused the sitting district attorney of being responsible for the unfortunate fates of his past opponents. John Phillips, a prosperous Bedford-Stuyvesant Civil Court judge who was rumored to be interested in running for district attorney, was declared mentally incompetent at Hynes’s request in 2001 and died penniless in 2008 after his legal guardians looted his $10 million estate. Hynes prosecuted John O’Hara, who ran several times against Hynes’s political allies and publicized Phillips’s story, for voting in the wrong election district — making him the only person in history besides suffragette Susan B. Anthony to be convicted of the obscure fraud charge.
In 2003, Hynes’s office filed felony charges against his 2001 primary opponent, attorney Sandra Roper, for allegedly stealing $9,000 from a client.
Hynes argued Thompson lacks the leadership experience to oversee an office of 500 lawyers. The incumbent has also pointed to Thompson’s representation of a hotel maid who accused International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape in 2011 — where the trial lawyer’s conduct triggered an investigation by the Manhattan DA. Hynes has also hit Thompson for defending disgraced state senators Pedro Espada and John Sampson while Thompson was serving as the legislative body’s attorney during the Aqueduct “racino” scandal in 2011.
The race may continue past Sept. 10, as Hynes has secured a spot on both the Republican and Conservative party lines — allowing him to run against Thompson even if he loses the Democratic nomination.