Queens DA Richard Brown is dead at 86

Queens DA Richard Brown died Friday night. He was 86. AP PHOTO/FILE

Queens DA Richard Brown died Friday night. He was 86. AP PHOTO/FILE

By David Brand

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the borough’s longest-serving top prosecutor, died Friday night. He was 86.

Brown was first appointed Queens DA in 1991 after a tenure on the bench in Queens Criminal Court, Queens Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, Second Department. Brown previously served as counsel to the state Assembly. Throughout his career as Queens DA, Brown’s friends and colleagues affectionately called him “Judge.”

Earlier this year, he said he would be stepping down from  the office on June 1 and recalled his tenure in his announcement.

“When I was appointed District Attorney by then Governor Mario M. Cuomo in 1991, one of my chief goals was to elevate the standards of professionalism in the office by hiring people on merit, not political connections,” Brown said. “Without question, we have overwhelmingly achieved that goal.”

Brown presided over major reductions in violent crime during his career as a prosecutor. In 2018, Queens recorded 63 murders, the lowest number since 1965.  Brown attributed the drop in crime in part to various initiatives enacted by the DA’s office over the past three decades.

“I am grateful that the many specialty courts we pioneered — like having one of the state’s first Drug Courts, as well as a Mental Health Court and Veterans Court — have enjoyed enduring success and have been duplicated around the nation, Brown said. “Our Queens Treatment Intervention Program (QTIP) is making great strides to address the scourge of opioid addiction by not only avoiding criminal convictions but by saving lives and providing treatment and counseling.”

Brown had Parkinson's Disease, which hastened his retirement.

“It had been my hope that I would be able to finish out this term in office. Unfortunately, that is not to be,” he said in a statement. “Given the current state of my health and my ongoing health issues, it has become increasingly difficult to fully perform the powers and duties of my office in the manner in which I have done since 1991.” 

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Ryan took over the duties of the office and will serve as Acting DA until a newly elected DA takes over Jan. 1, 2020.

Ryan recalled Brown’s life and service on Saturday.

“Judge Brown — as he has long been affectionately called — was a public servant like no other,” Ryan said. “He topped a spectacular judicial career and was appointed the district attorney of Queens County in 1991 by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. He was proud to serve the millions of people of Queens for nearly 28 years and was re-elected  to six terms in office.”

“Judge Brown’s goal as District Attorney from the very start was to elevate the standard of professionalism by hiring on merit, not political connections,” Ryan continued. “And he made it a priority to have the most talented, capable and dedicated professionals imaginable.”

Brown is survived by his wife Rhoda, their three children Karen; Todd and his wife Monica; and Lynn and her husband Bruce.

Brown’s granddaughter Leah is entering her last year at West Point. His other granddaughter Alana will start her first year at West Point in September.