April 29, 2018

April 29, 2018 - Professor Jonathan Oberman is quoted in a New York magazine article profiling Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, which highlights what the article says are differences between the way Vance prosecutes white-collar crime versus the manner in which he prosecutes poor and minority defendants.

"But all the attention on Vance’s treatment of the rich and powerful has obscured a more surprising aspect of his record: The DA, who styles himself a progressive reformer, is actually far more punitive toward poor and minority defendants than his counterparts in other boroughs. According to a report issued last year by a special commission on Rikers Island, Vance’s office was responsible for almost 38 percent of the city’s jail population in 2016, even though it handled just 29 percent of all criminal cases in New York. 'No other borough comes close,' the report concluded. Brooklyn — despite having a million more residents than Manhattan — accounted for only 22 percent of those behind bars."

The article also looks the way Vance's office handled the Harvey Weinstein case, in which he failed to file sexual-assault charges, even though police caught Weinstein on tape confessing to the crime.

"In Weinstein’s case, Vance says, his office’s sex-crimes prosecutor decided the charges were unprovable. 'A judgment was made — that I could not disagree with — that we wouldn’t go forward with that case,' he says. 'It was a B misdemeanor at the time,' he adds dismissively.

Jonathan Oberman, a professor who trains public defenders at Cardozo Law School, also scoffs at Vance’s reasoning. “There are conflicting stories from a witness?” he says. “Okay — then just apply the same standard to poor and low-income people and let them derive the same benefit.”

Read the story in New York magazine.