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NYS Exposed: NYS to spend $5.5 million to investigate bad prosecutors

August 30, 2018 06:32 PM

The final hearing on the future of Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio is next week. 

She was suspended by the state agency that investigates judges.

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Now, Governor Cuomo just created a similar commission to look into prosecutors. New York State Exposed asks: Is it worth the millions it's going to cost?

We know it's going to cost at least $5.5 million to fund this commission because that number is in the bill the governor signed into law.

Prosecutors say what the legislature and governor created is redundant and illegal. 

The governor's office created the state's commission on prosecutorial conduct to, in the words of his office, "root out abuses of power."

The commission will be a board of appointed people to review alleged ethical misconduct. 

Sandra Doorley, Monroe County District Attorney: "Let me make it clear, we're not opposed to a review of our conduct." 

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is the upcoming president of the state's Association of DA's. 

In July, she wrote a letter to the governor asking him not to do it. The letter says the commission is unconstitutional, for instance the panel includes elected judges which state law does not allow.

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "What's wrong with having an organization that holds people with power accountable, like prosecutors who try to put people in prison?" 

Doorley: "Right, there is such an authority. Every single department, there are four departments within the state, we have the Attorney Grievance Committee." 

News10NBC checked with the Grievance Committee for lawyers in western New York. 

The committee could not tell how many cases it has involving prosecutors and how many prosecutors it has disciplined. 

Last year, the Innocence Project, which tries to exonerate people in state prison, said there have been 224 wrongful convictions overturned in New York. 

Doorley says the grievance system works and her own office reviews complaints against prosecutors.

Brean: "So I guess what you're saying is that there is a process in plan to hold prosecutors accountable." 

Doorley: "Absolutely." 

Robert Tembeckjian, NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct: "I think that it is fair and reasonable to expect that there be some meaningful oversight of any public officials." 

Robert Tembeckjian is the director of the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct, that's the agency that investigated and suspended Judge Astacio.

The new prosecutor commission is modeled after his commission. 

Tembeckjian: "My own view is that there is nothing to fear in it. If done right, it can have a significant impact on public confidence."

Tembeckjian had to scratch and claw for more money from the state this year. His commission did receive an extra $112,000, it's first raise in almost a decade. 

So, where did the $5.5 million come from for the prosecutor commission? 

That's what New York State Exposed is going to investigate on News10NBC at 11. 

Credits

Berkeley Brean

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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