Vance will continue strengthening Manhattan communities, reforming the justice system, and combating 21st-century crimes through end of 2021
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. today announced that he will not seek reelection for a fourth term in office, which would begin January 2022. The full text of the D.A.’s memo to the Office’s prosecutors and staff is copied below.
“Representing the People of New York during this pivotal era for our city and our justice system has been the privilege of a lifetime,” said District Attorney Vance. “When I ran for this job in 2009, I said that a District Attorney’s responsibilities should extend beyond obtaining convictions in court, and that a 21st century prosecutor’s mandate is to move our justice system and our community forward. Working in partnership with Manhattan communities, the D.A.’s Office we built together over the last decade has taken us beyond the ambitious blueprint we laid out in 2009.”
“One, we built safer and stronger communities – not just by winning in court, but by making sustained investments in our neighborhoods so that fewer people became involved in the justice system in the first place. Two, we made enduring, systemic reforms – using the power of our discretion to massively reduce our criminal justice footprint and the inequities that underlie unnecessary prosecutions. And three, we modernized our office to future-proof our neighbors against cybercrime, terrorism, trafficking, and other 21st-century threats. Together, we took one of the great public law offices of the 20th century and transformed it for the 21st.”
“I never imagined myself as District Attorney for decades like my predecessors. I never thought of this as my last job, even though it’s the best job and biggest honor I’ll ever have. I said twelve years ago that change is fundamentally good and necessary for any institution. Having secured these lasting impacts in our communities, our public policy, and our crimefighting capacity, the time has come to open the pathway for new leadership at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office.”
“This doesn’t mean the work stops. One of the best parts of the job is that I work with hundreds of the nation’s best attorneys, supported by an exceptional professional staff of hundreds more, who work every day to deliver justice, keep us safe, and leave behind a fairer system than the one we inherited. Over the next nine months we’ll work harder than ever to support New Yorkers and their communities, and to move justice forward in court cases large and small.”
D.A. Vance has led some of the most high-profile and consequential courtroom victories in recent history, including Trump v. Vance and People v. Weinstein, along with aggressive, successful investigations against eleven of the world’s biggest banks. D.A. Vance then directed hundreds of millions of dollars in forfeited proceeds of the economic crimes committed by those banks to 50 community-grounded organizations that are supporting young people, crime survivors, and reentering New Yorkers in underserved Manhattan communities.
D.A. Vance has made justice reform a central mission of the Office. In addition to right-sizing the justice system by slashing the Office’s total prosecutions by 58 percent, D.A. Vance established ground-breaking initiatives that helped end the era of mass incarceration, including New York State’s first-ever: Conviction Integrity Program, College-in-Prison Program, Citywide Supervised Release Program, Implicit Bias Review, and Equity and Social Justice Advisory Board.
Under D.A. Vance’s leadership, the D.A.’s Office repositioned itself to confront contemporary threats to New Yorkers, including international cybercrime, white nationalist terrorism, human trafficking, and the national rape kit backlog. D.A. Vance co-founded and co-chairs Prosecutors Against Gun Violence and the Global Cyber Alliance, and in Washington, D.C., he successfully advocated on behalf of New Yorkers to stop the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act and enact the first-ever Congressional appropriations toward ending the rape kit backlog.
In 2020, D.A. Vance won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Trump v. Vance, which established that Presidents are not immune from criminal process, and People v. Weinstein, a “landmark step” in the field of sex crimes prosecutions. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he proactively consented to the release of more than 300 New Yorkers from Rikers and converted the D.A.’s Office’s West Harlem Youth Opportunity Hub into a major food bank site. Amid mass arrests during peaceful demonstrations against structural racism and police violence over the summer, D.A. Vance declined to prosecute protest cases and established the Equity and Social Justice Advisory Board.
Over the last decade, D.A. Vance has expanded the impact of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office beyond its traditional courtroom role to include investing in underserved communities to prevent crime and justice-system involvement, reforming the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration, and reinventing the Office to take on 21st century threats, such as cybercrime, terrorism, and trafficking.
Below is a summary of select achievements by the Office during D.A. Vance’s consequential tenure:
Building Safer, Stronger Communities
- Established the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative to prevent crime and justice-system involvement in historically underserved Manhattan neighborhoods. Invested $250 million seized in D.A.’s investigations against major banks in 50 community-grounded organizations that support young people, crime survivors, and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.
- Co-founded Prosecutors Against Gun Violence to strengthen gun violence laws and prosecutions across the U.S. Dismantled 20 violent street gangs. Led proactive gun trafficking investigations yielding 36 indictments against 94 traffickers and removing more than 1,800 guns from New York City streets.
- Tested 55,000 backlogged rape kits across 20 states, resulting in 251 new arrests, 271 new felony prosecutions, 105 new convictions, and counting.
- Investigated major banks for falsifying records and violating sanctions, resulting in fines and forfeiture of $14 billion. Prosecuted series of employers for wage theft, resulting in restitution of $7.4 million to workers.
- Created the signature NYC youth violence prevention program Saturday Night Lights. Opened Manhattan’s first Family Justice Center and bilingual community office in Washington Heights.
Reforming Our Justice System
- Cut the Office’s prosecutions by more than half. Ended the routine prosecution of marijuana smoking and possession, subway fare evasion, unlicensed vending, nonpayment of fines, loitering for prostitution, peaceful protest, and summons cases.
- Established Project Reset, Project Green Light, and Manhattan Hope to provide free service interventions in lieu of prosecutions.
- Established first Conviction Integrity Program and first implicit bias review on East Coast. Opened first Alternatives to Incarceration Court and hired first immigration-consequences counsel in New York.
- Funded New York’s first statewide college-in-prison program, New York City’s citywide supervised release program, and the largest-ever investments by a prosecutor in health care, education, and housing for reentering New Yorkers.
Modernizing the Office
- Established internationally renowned cybercrime unit to investigate, prosecute, and prevent complex digital crimes. Built state-of-the-art, 17,000 sq. ft. Manhattan D.A. Cyber Lab, the first in a U.S. prosecutor’s office. Co-founded the Global Cyber Alliance and NYC Cyber Critical Services and Infrastructure Project.
- Created the intelligence-driven prosecution model, harnessing data to proactively target crime trends and drive Manhattan shootings down.
- Formed the Manhattan D.A. Counterterrorism Program and secured the first-ever state terrorism convictions of both Islamic extremist and white nationalist terrorists.
- Created specialized practices being replicated across the U.S., including the Cold Case/Forensic Sciences Unit, Hate Crimes Unit, Antiquities Trafficking Unit, Construction Fraud Task Force, and Crime Strategies Unit.
The full text of the D.A.’s memo to the Office’s prosecutors and professional staff is below.
Dear friends and colleagues –
Eleven years ago, I asked our Manhattan community to return me to this extraordinary office where I began my legal career – a place where hundreds of the nation’s best attorneys, supported by an exceptional professional staff of hundreds more, work every day to deliver justice, keep us safe, and leave behind a fairer system than the one we inherited.
At the time, I told my family and friends that I didn’t aspire to be District Attorney for decades like my predecessors. I said that this wouldn’t be a “forever job” for me or even my last job, although the fact is, serving the People of New York is the best job and biggest honor I’ll ever have. Instead, I said I would give it my all for two or three terms, then begin a new chapter in my life and open the pathway for new leadership in the D.A.’s Office. I believed then – and I believe now – that change is a fundamentally good thing for any institution.
Today, I’m writing to let you know that I will not seek reelection as District Attorney. Knowing this wouldn’t be a forever job doesn’t make this announcement easy. I love this office. I love the community we serve. I love the work we are doing right now to uplift our neighbors, balance the justice system, and advance racial equity during this uniquely challenging, watershed moment in our City and country’s history.
Most of all, I am grateful to all of you – the incredible people who have made this office the powerful and unwavering force for justice that it is today. Your unparalleled commitment to justice, public service, and community safety make me reluctant to leave. Your hard work and dedication, in thousands of cases that never make the news, continue to inspire me every day. But I have zero doubt that you will continue to serve, support, and advocate for New Yorkers with the same level of dedication that you have shown me and our community since 2010.
Looking back today over the last eleven years, I’m proud of what we accomplished. We’ve made our neighborhoods stronger and healthier, not only through proactive prosecutions that dismantled violent gangs and took thousands of guns from City streets, but with catalytic investments of the millions we seized from banks to support young people and reentering New Yorkers to help prevent justice involvement and recidivism. We’ve used discretion and diversion to slash our caseload by 58% – massively reducing our criminal justice footprint and the inequities that underlie unnecessary prosecutions. And we’ve expanded the perimeter of 21stcentury crimefighting in New York – having built a world-class cybercrime operation, a counterterrorism practice that has convicted international and white nationalist terrorists, and an aggressive approach to economic crime that has yielded billions in fines and forfeitures from big banks and executives.
In the past year alone, as an ongoing pandemic and racial justice reckoning have tested our City and our profession like never before, we have secured landmark victories in Trump v. Vance and People v. Weinstein, provided crucial lifelines and credible messengers through our Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, seamlessly transitioned to a new remote practice, and guaranteed the right to peaceful protest in the crossroads of the world. We are, every day, moving our justice system and our community forward.
There are no small cases – every case you handle is important to those affected by it, whether they are the survivor or the person accused. But for each of us, there are cases that speak to us about why we do this work. For me, when I think back on all of the cases of our time together, I keep returning to Etan Patz and his family. Because of this Office’s unmatched talents and relentless pursuit of justice, we were able to solve one of the City’s most infamous and formative unsolved crimes: the murder of a 6-year-old boy who left to catch the school bus on the Friday before Memorial Day in 1979, and was never seen again. For Etan and for his family, this Office never gave up. For thousands of crime survivors and their families – from small children to seniors – you have never given up. I know the emotional toll this exacts from each of you, and eleven years in, I continue to be amazed by your resilience every day.
Working here in the 1980s, I recognized quickly that the Manhattan D.A.’s Office – thanks to its jurisdiction, its expertise, and especially its people – was a uniquely special institution. Working here in 2021, I have never felt more optimistic about the future of this office after witnessing daily on Zoom and in socially distanced meetings the everyday acts of heroism in your public service. Thanks to you, the People of New York are in excellent hands.
Over the next few months, while the election goes on outside, our work – powered by your talent, ethics, and unbending professionalism – will continue. Inside, our investigations and trials – from the high-profile to the ones that never make the newspaper – will proceed. Our investments to uplift our neighborhoods during this hour of need will continue. And our mission to move our justice system forward will remain our driving force, because that mission is, by definition, never complete.
Muhammad Ali once said, “don’t count the days, make the days count.” For me, now that I’ve tipped the hourglass over, every minute of every day left as District Attorney counts to me more than ever. It’s hard to convey the excitement and pride I feel about the continued opportunity to do this work over the next months with you, the finest group of lawyers and public servants I’ve ever known.
The work continues.
With great admiration and affection,