By: Greg B. Smith
The bar association representing New York criminal defense lawyers took the unusual step Tuesday of questioning the qualifications of Diana Florence, one of eight Democrats running for Manhattan district attorney.
The New York Criminal Bar Association cited accusations of prosecutorial misconduct leveled against Florence last year shortly before she stepped down as head of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s construction task force, resigned from her job and began running to become his successor.
“While the NYCBA does not typically comment on candidates running for district attorney, we have concerns about the character and fitness of one of the eight candidates for that office, Diana Florence,” the group said in a statement.
Florence tweeted a statement in response, “I won’t stand for this sexism meant to protect the concierge system of justice perpetuated by the current district attorney.”
She wrote that she’d refused the group’s request to submit to an interview to explain her handling of a high-profile construction bribery case in which she was accused of withholding damaging information about her star prosecution witness.
Florence, one of six women running in the June 22 primary for the top prosecutor post, noted she had been singled out as the only candidate to face such an inquisition.
“I will not stand for this sexism and I will not give the NYCBA a platform for their kangaroo court,” she tweeted.
Asked to respond to the specific concerns cited by the NYCBA, Florence referred THE CITY to her statements on Twitter.
A Tale of the Tape
The 50-year-old NYCBA represents hundreds of criminal defense lawyers with clients across the city. A larger lawyer group, the New York City Bar Association, has yet to weigh in on the Manhattan DA’s race but expects to release its assessment on whether individual candidates are qualified shortly before the primary.
In its statement, the NYCBA took issue with Florence’s handling of one of the construction task force’s biggest cases, unsealed in April 2018, charging several firms with bribing a city inspector to approve their real estate projects.
The case resulted in some defendants pleading guilty, one defendant convicted in a non-jury trial and millions of dollars in restitution levied against the firms.
But in late 2019, Florence revealed the existence of a 38-minute tape of her star witness insisting under oath that he’d bribed no one. She also turned over thousands of previously unrevealed emails.
Prosecutors are obligated by law to share all evidence in their possession, including any information that supports a defendant’s claim of innocence.
Vance opened an investigation into how the cases were handled, and judges tossed out all charges filed against the defendant convicted at trial and another who was about to go on trial. One judge labeled the last-minute disclosure in the pending case “staggering.”
(This article originally appeared on the www.TheCity.nyc web site)