After working both as a criminal defense attorney and as a prosecutor, Liz Crotty believes she has the right experience and perspective to become Manhattan’s next District Attorney.
“I’ve spent 21 years in the courthouse on both sides of the courtroom. I think there was a real voice missing [in the race], which is realistic and honest to what happens in the courthouse,” Crotty told Our Town in a recent interview on her candidacy. “I really am the seasoned practitioner and I think you need that to really lead an office that protects victims, provides public safety, fairness to defendants, and restores the public trust in the office, which are my goals.”
Crotty is running on the duality of her experience in hopes to succeed DA Cy Vance, who announced last month that he would not be seeking another term. His departure has opened the door for Crotty and the eight other candidates who are running to be the borough’s next DA.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Crotty received her law degree from Fordham University and has been practicing law in the city ever since. She spent six years as an Assistant District Attorney in both the Trial Division and the Investigation Division under former DA Robert Morgenthau. After leaving the DA’s office in 2006, Crotty spent a few years in civil litigation before starting her own criminal law practice. Her duties as a defense attorney have been her main focus for the past 12 years.
In a race upon which much of the focus has been reforming the office, Crotty says the best way to do so is by doing the job correctly. In her work as a defense attorney, Crotty said she sees prosecutors misusing certificates of readiness to prolong misdemeanor cases, seeking orders of protection without investigations, and plenty of Brady Doctrine violations, which occurs when a prosecutor fails to turn over evidence materially favorably to the accused.
She said racial inequality plays out in the criminal justice system, but she would not call the system itself racist.
“I think it’s really socio-economic. In Manhattan, it plays out racially, but it’s really socio-economic,” said Crotty. “[To fix it] you have to go into communities and really work on better schools, investment in opportunities, and safety. Those are the things that are going to really provide a racial equity.”
Three Main Priorities
If she’s elected, Crotty said she would have three main priorities: public safety, tackling so-called white color crime, and establishing a bureau for sex crimes and domestic violence cases.
On public safety, Crotty said she has experienced recently of feeling unsafe in the city, and it’s also a concern she’s heard from voters.
“Crime has gone up in New York. People see every day what’s going on in the post-COVID world,” said Crotty. “The other day I was walking down Sixth Avenue, and there was a guy walking down with his pants around his ankles completely naked, and the police drove by.”
She clarified that she doesn’t believe that individual should be arrested, but she said situations such as that one that make New Yorkers feel unsafe in their neighborhoods, and that needs to be addressed.
Additionally, Crotty said the DA’s office has not done enough to investigate and prosecute white collar crime, and that she would ramp up that effort if elected.
“I think that, minus the Trump investigation, there haven’t really been that many investigations of note under the Cy Vance tenure,” said Crotty. “Mr. Morgenthau used to always say, ‘You can’t have peace in the streets if you don’t have it in the suites.’ And I think that that we really need to look at white collar crime that affects every day New Yorkers, including banks, corporations, false reports, manipulating stocks; these things affect New York.”
As a prosecutor and a defense attorney, Crotty said she’s taken on more than a thousand cases of domestic violence and sex crimes. Often, she said, these cases can be messy and complicated. There is currently a dedicated united at the DA’s office which handles sex crimes, but Crotty said she wants to establish a new bureau for sex crimes and domestic violence.
“I think you have to have more seasoned assistance really working on these cases because they are complicated,” she said. “Also I think you need to staff this bureau with social workers who know how to deal with the emotional trauma of these cases, rather than lawyers, dealing with the emotional trauma of these cases.”
For someone who has spent so much time in family court handling these cases, Crotty said it can be frustrating to be debating these issues with some of her opponents, who she said don’t have the firsthand experience.
“Other people in this race have a lot of ideas about this, but they’ve actually never done any of these cases,” said Crotty. “Being on a committee is not experience.
It’s this experience she wants voters to be thinking about when they pick Manhattan’s next DA.
“When you’re a prosecutor, you have an amazing weight on you to stay objective, empathetic and do the right thing. And being a good defense attorney starts with listening and understanding the scope of what’s going on, and you really get to hear the other side of the story in a way that you never really get fully to as a prosecutor – and you really understand the collateral consequences of a criminal record and how that affects people,” said Crotty. “It’s a full view of what the office does, and how to do it you know and I was always a defense attorney, and I was always as a prosecutor for that matter, who really worked hard to try and do the right thing, and that’s what I’m out campaigning on.”
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“Crime has gone up in New York. People see every day what’s going on in the post-COVID world.” DA candidate Liz Crotty