Last month, ProPublica provided the gritty details of a deposition taken in late June from assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione who prosecuted Jabbar Collins in Brooklyn, NY. Collins has launched a $150 million lawsuit against the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for the 16 years he wrongfully spent in prison on account of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Collins is able to proceed with the lawsuit because he met the difficult initial showing that the Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, was aware of his assistant’s unethical behavior and did nothing about it.
Vecchione was “reluctantly” removed from the lawsuit by Eastern District Judge Frederick Block last year because he has absolute prosecutorial immunity. But that didn’t shield him from being deposed in early July, 2013. Propublica spoke to Collins’s attorney Joel Rudin after the deposition to get the details:Vecchione, in fighting Collins’ bid for freedom over the years, had asserted in a sworn affidavit that he had personally made every significant decision in the prosecution of Collins. At 4:54 p.m., almost seven-and-a-half hours after Vecchione’s deposition began, a halt was called. A lot of ground had been covered. Rudin had won some concessions. But Collins and his lawyer were as exasperated as they were satisfied. Vecchione, asked everything from the mundane to the momentous, had answered some version of “I don’t recall” scores of times. Rudin counted them up: 324. … Vecchione’s inability to recall things began early in his deposition and continued until its end. He could not recall some fairly basic things about how the Brooklyn district attorney’s office was run; he could not recall if Hynes, his boss, had ever discussed with him the allegations of misconduct made by Collins in his $150 million lawsuit; he couldn’t recall if he’d ever received formal training in the rules regarding what prosecutors were obligated to turn over to defense lawyers; he couldn’t recall how long the romance he’d had with his fellow prosecutor on the Collins case had lasted.
Rudin likened Vecchione’s behavior to “invasive contempt” if it happened before a judge. He asked Brooklyn Federal Magistrate Judge Robert Levy for additional time to question Vecchione, and to sanction him if he didn’t do better next time around. At a hearing in early July, Judge Levy granted Rudin’s request and gave him three additional hours to question the witness.
The following week, former federal prosecutor and candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson called on Hynes to fire Vecchione, who continues to come under scrutiny for his role in a number of high-profile cases in which prosecutorial misconduct has been alleged.
Instead of firing Vecchione, Hynes promoted him and he is now regularly featured in the new reality TV series Brooklyn D.A.
DA Hynes, who is facing reelection in September, is supposed to be deposed this month for the Collins lawsuit. We will see if he has more to say than Vecchione did.
UPDATE: Hynes will not be deposed until late-September at the earliest, according to filings in Judge Levy’s court.