Cyrus Vance Jr.
Cyrus Vance Jr.
|District Attorney of New York County|
|Assumed office |
January 1, 2010
|Preceded by||Robert Morgenthau|
Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr.
June 14, 1954
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Peggy McDonnell (1984–present)|
|Education||Yale University (BA)|
Georgetown University (JD)
Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr. (born June 14, 1954) is the incumbent District Attorney of New York County, New York, encompassing the island of Manhattan and Marble Hill, as a Democrat. He was a principal partner at the law firm of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello, & Bohrer, P.C. He is the son of the late Cyrus Vance, former Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter. He is known as an outspoken critic of encryption of mobile devices. In October 2018, several news organizations reported that Vance and his office were under investigation for allegedly refusing to prosecute the adult children of Donald Trump following reports of improprieties in real estate transactions.
- 1 Youth, family, and education
- 2 Legal career
- 3 Public service
- 4 2009 Manhattan District Attorney election
- 5 Manhattan District Attorney
- 6 Affiliations
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Youth, family, and education
Vance grew up in New York City. He is the son of Grace Elsie (Sloane) and Cyrus Vance Sr., who served as Secretary of the Army under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Johnson, then Secretary of State to President Jimmy Carter.
Vance attended the Buckley School and Groton School, and then went on to graduate from Yale University. He then earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982. While in law school, he planned campaign trips for Colorado Senator Gary Hart.
Upon graduating from Georgetown, Vance joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as an Assistant District Attorney, where he supervised grand jury investigations and prosecuted cases involving murder, organized crime, career criminals, political corruption, international art fraud, and white-collar crime.
In 1988, Vance moved to Seattle because, according to Vance, he wanted to build a name for himself independent of his father's influence. In 1995, Vance co-founded McNaul Ebel Nawrot Helgren & Vance. During this time, Vance taught trial advocacy as an adjunct professor at Seattle University School of Law.
In 2004, Vance returned to New York, where he joined Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, P.C. as a principal.
Vance is admitted to the bar in New York State, Washington State, and Washington, D.C., and to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of New York and Western and Eastern Districts of Washington, and the U.S. Second and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.
Vance was a consulting expert to the Office of Family and Children Ombudsman in its investigation of the Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions, and served as Special Assistant Attorney General representing the state in investigations and litigation. He has served on sentencing commissions in two states, including New York, where he served on the Governor's Sentencing Commission, which helped overhaul New York’s Rockefeller drug laws.
Vance also served, by appointment of the Governor of New York, as a member of the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, Judicial Screening Panel which makes recommendations on judicial appointments. Vance is a member of the Criminal Justice Council of the New York City Bar Association, the Federal Bar Council, and the New York Council of Defense Lawyers.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Modern Courts, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. Cyrus Vance Sr., Vance's father died of Alzheimer's Disease in 2002.
2009 Manhattan District Attorney election
In 2008, Vance announced his intention to seek the District Attorney’s office only if current District Attorney Robert Morgenthau decided to retire. On March 9, 2009, ten days after Morgenthau made his decision to retire public, Vance officially announced his candidacy for the office. In an April 8, 2009 appearance on Charlie Rose, Morgenthau said of Vance, “I think Vance is by far the best qualified. Good lawyer, fair.” Morgenthau officially endorsed Vance on June 25.
Other Democrats who endorsed Vance included former Mayor David Dinkins, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, Gloria Steinem, Caroline Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of The Innocence Project. The New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, and New York Amsterdam News also endorsed Vance.
Vance stated that as Manhattan District Attorney, he would develop a program of “Community Based Justice”, in which teams of prosecutors would be aligned to specific precincts and communities so as to develop a working relationship with community members, police officers, and local organizations. According to Vance, the Community Based Justice Program would make crime reduction a central measure of performance. Vance has also proposed a plan designed to reduce the year-long case backlog in the New York Criminal Court where the overwhelming majority of criminal cases are brought. In addition to processing cases, Vance has expressed his commitment to establishing a conviction integrity panel to carefully review allegations of wrongful conviction and promoting alternatives to incarceration that do not compromise public safety.
Vance states that he has always been opposed to the death penalty.
Vance emerged victorious after facing former judge and 2005 D.A. candidate Leslie Crocker Snyder, and Richard Aborn, another former Assistant District Attorney and gun control advocate, in the September 15, 2009 Democratic primary. The victory ensured that Vance would become only the fourth person to run the office since 1941, given the traditional absence during Morgenthau's tenure of a Republican backed opponent.
On November 3, 2009, Vance won the general election with a 91 percent share of the votes cast.
Manhattan District Attorney
Vance was sworn into office as the Manhattan District Attorney on January 1, 2010. Within a few months, he established or consolidated numerous new bureaus and units in an effort to modernize the District Attorney's Office. Vance's administration established a Conviction Integrity Program, Crime Strategies Unit, Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, Forensic Sciences/ Cold Case Unit, Hate Crimes Unit, Public Integrity Unit, Special Victims Bureau, and Vehicular Crimes Unit.
In 2011, a New York prosecutor from Vance's office argued on behalf of billionaire and sex offender Jefferey Epstein, to New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholtz, asking for Epstein's sex offender status to be reduced. The reasoning was that Epstein had not been indicted and his underage victims had failed to cooperate in the case. The judge, however, denied the petition, and expressed bewilderment that a New York prosecutor would make such a request on behalf of a serial sex offender accused of molesting multiple girls: "I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this. I have done so many [sex offender registration hearings] much less troubling than this one where the [prosecutor] would never make a downward argument like this,". Jennifer Gaffney, then deputy chief of Cyrus Vance Jr.’s sex-crimes unit, stated at the hearing that, “There is only an indictment for one victim. If an offender is not indicted for an offense, it is strong evidence that the offense did not occur.”. Pickholz rejected Gaffney’s arguments and gave Epstein the highest sex-offender status – Level 3. While Vance denies having been aware of the hearing until years later, some law enforcement sources find it unlikely that he was clueless that his office was handling a sex-offender case involving a Manhattan mogul with close ties to Democrats. In 2019, Epstein was arrested and charged with sex trafficking .
Vance's recent successes include the sentencing of a serial rapist to 428 years to life in prison; sentencing of a man to 23 years to life in prison for a domestic violence murder; indictments against 26 individuals living in Manhattan who possessed graphic images of child sexual assault; the sentencing of a man to at least 15 years in prison for a 2000 rape; a sentencing of a man to 25 to life in prison for a 1997 home invasion and murder; an indictment against another man for a 1986 rape and murder; and the guilty plea of a man for attacking a woman in the restroom of a bar in Hell's Kitchen.
Vance has also won convictions in an October 2009 drunk-driving incident that killed 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, resulting in the creation of Leandra's Law; and a case of two men in a 2005 murder-for-hire plot. In January 2011, the District Attorney's Forensic Sciences/ Cold Case Unit announced an indictment against noted serial killer Rodney Alcala for two Manhattan homicides in the 1970s.
Vance's newly created Major Economic Crimes Bureau has won convictions in the $120 million-dollar art fraud prosecution of the Salander-O'Reilly Gallery, the gallery's president Lawrence Salander and director Leigh Morse, in which Robert De Niro was one of the principal witnesses for the prosecution; a $100 million-dollar securities fraud scheme in which Yale University was one of the victims; a $100 million-dollar mortgage fraud case; and a $7 million-dollar Ponzi scheme. The District Attorney's Office in June 2011 announced indictments in a conspiracy involving 11 corporations who evaded U.S. economic sanctions on Iran by funneling tens of millions of dollars through Manhattan banks. To date, Vance's administration has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements to New York City.
Cyrus Vance prosecuted programmer Sergey Aleynikov for duplicating computer code from Goldman Sachs, following the reversal of his federal conviction by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The state case found Aleynikov guilty. However, on July 6, 2015, a New York State Supreme Court justice overturned that decision, but an appellate court reinstated the jury's guilty verdict on January 24, 2017. 148 AD3d 77 [1st Dept 2017], affirmed, 31 NY3d 383 .
Abacus Federal Savings Bank case
In 2009, Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small Chinese-American family-run bank in New York City's Chinatown, self-reported a mortgage fraud committed by an ex-employee to its regulators. It led Cyrus Vance's office to later accuse the bank itself of mortgage fraud. In an unusual move characterized by critics as an effort at at grandstanding, Vance's office orchestrated a parade of ex-employees of the bank in a chain, handcuffed to each other, in front of reporters. After Vance spent five years and $10 million prosecuting the bank for larceny, the bank and its employees were found not guilty on all 80 charges.
The bank was the only New York bank so charged during the Great Recession, although Vance said that Citibank, among others, had behaved badly. The episode was covered in a feature-length documentary by Steve James, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, which characterized Vance as throwing the bank's owners under the bus in an effort to appear tough on white-collar crime. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, was broadcast on PBS Frontline in 2017, and was nominated for an Oscar.
Motor vehicle prosecution
Transportation advocates have criticized Vance's office for what they see as a history of failing to fully prosecute motor vehicle offenses that result in death or serious injury to pedestrians and cyclists.
In July 2010, no charges were filed when an MTA tow truck struck and killed a seven-year-old boy standing on the sidewalk. In October 2010, Vance declined to press charges in the dooring death of Marcus Ewing, on the rationale that, because the engine was not running and because the person who opened the door into Ewing's path did not have the keys in his possession, that person could not be prosecuted as a driver.
In August 2013, a cab driver hopped a curb, injuring several pedestrians and severing the leg of a British tourist. Despite a history of driving offenses, and admitting that he intentionally hit the gas before entering the sidewalk, the driver was able to regain his cab license, and after a two-month investigation, no charges were filed.
In October 2014, Vance's office offered a plea to a driver accused of intentionally striking a cyclist with his car. The deal reduced charges of third-degree assault, punishable by up to a year in jail, to leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. The motorist paid a $250 fine.
The lack of prosecutorial aggressiveness from Vance's office, in spite of recently passed vulnerable user laws and Vance's own initiatives has led to widespread media commentary on whether New York City cyclists can reasonably expect protection from the justice system.
Additionally, during an investigation into faded white flags flown over the Brooklyn Bridge in July 2014, Vance's office subpoenaed a farcical Twitter account, purporting to be the bicycle industry lobby, which had jokingly taken responsibility for the flag swap. The flags were later revealed to be the work of German artists.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn case
Vance initially came under criticism by the media for his handling of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case, where the French head of the International Monetary Fund was arrested based on the accusations of an employee of the Sofitel hotel. However, Vance was praised by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Ed Koch, former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and other prominent litigators and government officials for adhering to prosecutorial protocol and acting "with integrity".[further explanation needed] Vance has also been applauded in editorials by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Daily News for making a "tough but fair and just call"[clarification needed] in "an exceptional case" in which a woman made a "credible" accusation against a very powerful man. The Wall Street Journal wrote: "DSK got neither more nor less than he deserved—something for which he can blame, and thank, Cy Vance and America's justice system." Nevertheless, he was forced to drop all charges against the defendant on August 11, admitting that he could not prove beyond reasonable doubt the credibility of the accuser Nafissatou Diallo.
On March 13, 2019 Vance filed 16 indictments charging mortgage fraud against Paul Manafort, former chairman of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Vance said the charges stemmed from an investigation launched in March 2017.
Political contributions and non-prosecutions
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2017)
From August 2017, allegations appeared across various news media outlets concerning Vance's associations, and certain contributions made to his office in relation to past cases. Under scrutiny are the Manhattan DA's handling of allegations of sexual assault against film producer Harvey Weinstein, and allegations of his handling of improper conduct by members of the Trump family around the Trump SoHo development. Critics have suggested that contributions to the DA around these times were directly linked to Vance not prosecuting these cases. Vance has defended the actions of his office, citing insufficient evidence to prosecute in each case.
In March 2018, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State attorney general will investigate the Manhattan district attorney's handling of a 2015 sexual abuse case involving disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein. NYPD investigators who investigated the 2015 case believed that the sexual abuse case was strong enough to be prosecuted, but Vance opted not to prosecute the case. According to The Guardian, the investigators were at the time under the belief that Vance would undermine the case, given that he had previously dropped a similar case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. NYPD investigators had set up a sting involving the alleged victim where she recorded Weinstein making, what CNN described as, "potentially incriminating comments". The alleged victim was heard asking Weinstein, "Why did you touch my breast?". Weinstein said he was sorry and "I'm used to that", as well as "I won't do it again."
Vance has heavily prosecuted possession of gravity knives, disproportionately arresting and indicting defendants of color. The law banning them, which was interpreted broadly by Vance and is enforced mainly in Manhattan, has been the subject of several repeal efforts in the New York state legislature. Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed two such repeal bills passed in two years by majority votes in both chambers of the state congress. Despite the 70,000 people arrested under this law in ten years, Vance declined to take action against the more than 100 hardware stores selling potential gravity knives in the city.
On March 27, 2019, in Cracco v. Vance, No. 14 Civ. 8235 (SDNY), a federal judge ruled that Vance's office had applied the law unconstitutionally, resulting a in a lack of notice of prohibited behavior as well as allowing for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Soon after, state lawmakers Dan Quart and Diane Savino introduced a third iteration of the bill repealing the gravity knife ban. On May 31, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law, making gravity knives legal to possess in the state of New York.
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- Cyrus Vance For District Attorney (official campaign website)
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- Commission on Sentencing Reform Recommendation Announcement
- 'In Manhattan, District Attorney Sees DNA as Tool to Solve Cold Cases', Al Baker, The New York Times, June 14, 2011
| District Attorney of New York County