By David Brand
Less than a month after resigning from the Criminal Court bench, former Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak officially announced his candidacy for Queens District Attorney Tuesday morning.
Lasak, a longtime prosecutor and former executive director of the Queens district attorney’s office, resigned from the bench Sept. 14. During his time as judge and prosecutor, Lasak earned a reputation for handling the borough’s toughest cases — the same sorts of cases he said he would prioritize as district attorney.
“I spent 39 years with violent vicious criminals, mostly murderers, rapists, armed robbers,” Lasak told the Eagle. “My main concern is to keep the people of this county safe from violent criminals.”
Part of that work means decreasing the caseloads of assistant district attorneys so that they can focus on violent crimes, he said.
“By declining to prosecute some low-level nonviolent offenses and diverting others to programs, we’ll free up some resources,” he said. “There is a limited amount of resources [especially] If we load up the assistants on low-level minor crimes.”
Lasak was elected Criminal Court justice in 2003 and began his first term in 2004. He was reelected in 2017.
He joined the Queens D.A.’s office in 1978 and was named chief of the homicide bureau in 1984 when he was just 30. Lasak attended Queens College and earned his law degree from New York Law School in 1978.
Lasak’s former boss, District Attorney Richard A. Brown, has held the office since 1991. Last month, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said Brown has not yet determined whether he will run for reelection next year.
A lifelong Queens resident, Lasak said he has long aimed to become his home borough’s top prosecutor.
“I grew up in Woodside, raised my family in Richmond Hill and went to work every day in Kew Gardens,” Lasak said in a statement. “My friends joke that I vacationed in Rockaway. Queens is my home. So I'm running for District Attorney to serve my neighbors.”
He is the second person to declare his candidacy for DA in recent weeks.
Last month, Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the council’s Committee on the Justice System, announced he would run on a reform agenda that includes ceasing the prosecution of low-level offenses like marijuana possession and fare evasion, introducing open discovery and ending cash bail.
Unlike Lancman, Lasak declined to make sweeping policy statements and instead told the Eagle he would handle each defendant and charge on a “case by case basis.”
“I plan to decline to prosecute low-level nonviolent offenses where appropriate and divert others to programs because they disproportionately affect people of color,” Lasak said.
In a statement accompanying his announcement, Lasak also said he would end cash bail for low-level, nonviolent offenses and review convictions.
“We'll continue strengthening relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” he said. “And we'll resume my work that led to almost two dozen exonerations before I left the [district attorney’s] office.”