Justice, Crime, and Punishment
Chuck began his legal career as a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York. He was the first lawyer selected for the “continuity unit,” an experimental approach to the delivery of criminal justice service that provided one lawyer to each defendant from the beginning to the end of their case. Because of the success of that innovative concept, it became the model for public defender services throughout the nation. When Chuck left the Society for private practice, he served as appointed counsel in the state and federal courts on many challenging cases that often made the headlines. His extensive experience handling those cases gave him a unique insight into the workings of the criminal justice system. Chuck served as lead counsel in death penalty cases in both federal and state courts. His knowledge proved invaluable when capital punishment was re-evaluated during his first year in the Assembly. He played a critical role throughout the Assembly’s public hearings, the most extensive ever conducted on the subject of capital punishment. He is proud that those hearings persuaded influential legislators to oppose the death penalty in New York State. His experience representing violent criminals gave him a keen insight into the pain inflicted on their victims. As a legislator, his dedication to protecting the rights of victims and his command of the issues have helped to institute important reforms such as the lengthening of the statutes of limitation to prosecute sexual criminals, taking DNA from criminals and drunk driving laws that carry stiffer penalties. Chuck has also been a leader in bringing common sense reform to the unreasonably harsh “Rockefeller Drug laws” that removed discretion from judges and forced irrationally long jail sentences on non-violent drug offenders. He knows first-hand the scourge of gun violence that plagues our communities. In 1972, one of his first Legal Aid clients was charged with possessing a “zip gun.” Those home-made weapons were soon obsolete as cheap illegal hand-guns became easily available on our streets. Chuck has written a bill that will protect our citizens from wanton gun violence. If a criminal commits a crime with a gun, he serves every day of the jail sentence for that crime and then has to start serving an extra 7 years in jail for simply having had a gun. The criminal can get out from under that extra 7 years if he honestly discloses, to the satisfaction of law enforcement, the identity of the person from whom he got the weapon. That information will empower us to prosecute the profitable underground networks that smuggle illegal guns into New York. The law will also provide valuable information that will help law enforcement combat gangs, which can only thrive in secrecy. Their ability to function will be severely damaged once their members start “talking” to the police in order to avoid serving an extra 7 years in jail. During the course of more than 30 years of court room experience, Chuck developed a sub-specialty of representing high-ranking cooperating witnesses in important federal prosecutions. Those experiences, which at times meant that he and his clients were hidden away in safe-houses in undisclosed locations, taught him that the power to gather “intelligence” is the most effective weapon in our arsenal to combat crime locally and at the international level. Chuck has been accused of having forgotten that he was a criminal defense lawyer because he has fought so hard for the rights of crime victims. Another member of the Assembly publicly stated that members on both sides of the aisle listen when Chuck speaks on the subject of criminal justice. That says a lot.