By Kevin Rucker
I was born late December 1975. The year I was born, Nicholas Ferraro was elected as the new Queens District Attorney but resigned in 1976 to accept a Supreme Court judgeship. Ferraro was then replaced by John Santucci in an appointment. Santucci then won the special election.
I was a year old when that happened. Half of my life was dictated by his legal decisions; the other half was dictated by another district attorney when in 1991, Richard Brown was elected after John Santucci resigned from office. I heard from my parents and other elders that Santucci was actually well liked by them from what I can remember. which probably explains his resignation.
Richard Brown was another story however. When he took office, he made a point to begin a tough on crime campaign that created terror and fear in my neighborhood of the police that terrorized my community. The summer of my 18th year was when Richard Brown gave me his belated birthday gift; my first adult arrest. I watched Richard Brown's policies destroy the lives of practically every one of my childhood friends and cripple an entire community. I had no idea – just like most of the young men I grew up with – that the district attorney is an elected position.
With the death of Richard Brown, we are now in a position to select a different path for our lives and our experiences within the criminal justice space. For the first time in my life, Queens residents will decide who sits in the seat that will shape our crime policies for the borough in the near future, and I was determined to be a part of the conversation.
There are currently six candidates running for district attorney. After doing my research, there is only one candidate that I will support unconditionally, and that is Mina Malik.
Without question, Mina’s heritage and family reflects the rich diversity of Queens, the most culturally diverse place in the world. She is an immigrant, woman of color, wife and mother – one son is a student at West Point and readying to serve our country in the military.
And while Mina hasn’t created the lofty headlines that others in this race have sought, nor has she received the endorsements from the political establishment, Mina has spent the last 20 years with her head down implementing the kinds of reforms that others in this race can only talk about enacting.
Mina has mentioned that she was so moved by the injustices in her Corona/Elmhurst community while growing up that she first decided to take the NYPD exam (she passed), but instead went to law school and then began work in the D.C. Public Defender Service to be a voice for underrepresented people.
As an Assistant District Attorney in the Queens DA’s office, Mina fought for victims of violent crime, including sexual assault and child homicides. Unlike others in this race, it is the reason why Mina knows that decriminalizing all avenues of the sex trade will not keep Queens safe.
I agree. I remember Queens in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when white men would drive over to my neighborhood in Southeast Queens to pick up girls I went to school with — or drop them off. Mina knows that real reform requires helping those in the sex trade out of that lifestyle — if they so choose — and arrest the pimps and johns that traffic and prey on some of our most vulnerable. That is how we make the changes within the criminal justice system to ensure fairness and accountability.
Mina was an architect in the nation’s first Conviction Review Unit under District Attorney Ken Thompson, who revolutionized and transformed the justice system in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s CRU is now considered the gold standard of review units and has, to date, overturned more than 25 wrongful convictions. Mina personally oversaw the release of Queens resident, David McCallum, who was convicted for murder at age 16 and imprisoned for 29 years.
Mina also was the Executive Director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the largest police oversight agency in the nation that prosecuted police misconduct, including the killing of Eric Garner.
Mina’s decades of experience landed her a position lecturing at Harvard Law School, where Mina shares her vision and imparts her field-tested best practices in creating a more fair and just system.
Mina left her job as Deputy Attorney General to Attorney General Karl Racine, who leads the nation’s Democratic Attorneys General in innovative criminal justice reforms because after a full career of service, she is ready to bring her voice, vision, and lifelong pursuit of justice to making Queens, her hometown, safer for everyone.
I wonder what my life and the lives of my friends and family would have been had Mina been the district attorney during my formative years, but I can try my hardest to make sure what happened to us doesn't happen to our children.
Others are treating this race as a game of chess and our community is being used as the pawns. The role of district attorney is not political. It is serious with serious repercussions and cannot be given to a novice lawyer just six years into her “career,” or a career politician with no legal or courtroom experience.
The choice is yours. I am voting for Mina Malik.
Kevin Rucker is a Queens County Committee Member representing ED-2 which is inclusive of downtown Jamaica in Southeast Queens.