Guide to the Democratic Candidates for Queens District Attorney - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Originally published in the June 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

Guide to the Democratic Candidates for Queens District Attorney

Katz, Malik, Caban, Lugo, Lasak, Lancman and Nieves

Primary Day is June 25, 2019

Seven candidates are running in the very important June 25th Democratic Primary to replace late District Attorney Richard A. Brown. Here we present information about who they are and what they hope to accomplish. These biographies were taken directly from the candidates' campaign pages.

Tiffany Caban

Public Defender

Tiffany L. Caban is a career public defender who is running for Queens District Attorney to bring change to the borough she calls home.

Tiffany was born in Richmond Hill, Queens to Puerto Rican parents who grew up in Woodside Houses. Her father worked as an elevator mechanic and her mother took care of other people's children. Tiffany attended PS 62 in Richmond Hill and JHS 210 Elizabeth Blackwell in Woodhaven, and later attended St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows.

Tiffany earned a bachelor's degree in Crime, Law, and Justice from Pennsylvania State University, and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School. Passionate about the relationship between law, policy, and social inequity, she entered law school knowing that she would one day become a public defender.

In four years at New York County Defender Services (NYCDS) and three years at the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Defense Practice, Tiffany has represented over a thousand indigent clients in cases ranging from turnstile jumping to homicide. Throughout her professional career, she has used the law to help New York City's most vulnerable communities, and her experiences advocating on behalf of her clients have helped her identify some of the worst inequities of our criminal justice system. It is a system that criminalizes poverty, mental health issues, and substance use disorder.

Every day, Tiffany uses a holistic approach to work with clients to build stability in their lives. That approach is rooted in her personal experiences with violence, mental health, substance use disorder, and economic insecurity. She helps clients navigate the immigration system, research education or job-training opportunities, and secure employment. Tiffany has helped undocumented survivors of domestic violence obtain VAWA or U-visa status, represented individuals in Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income hearings, and advocated for housing and healthcare benefits. Her advocacy extends beyond normal office hours, and she volunteers with NYCDS' Community Outreach Committee and facilitates community-based Know Your Rights trainings throughout the city.

Tiffany currently lives in Astoria and is the proud mom of two rescue dogs, Natalie and Coltrane. An athlete since childhood, she enjoys participation in several LGBTQIA+ sports leagues and is a diehard sports fan.

Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President

Throughout her career, Melinda Katz has worked to expand all people's access to justice and gained experience in the legal, legislative and community services arenas.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude with honors from the University of Massachusetts, Melinda attended St. John's School of Law and authored for the Legal Journal. Upon earning her law degree, Melinda interned for then-Judge (and future US Attorney General) Michael Mukasey for the Southern District of NY and interned with the US Attorney's office in the Southern District of NY. She later served as an adjunct professor of constitutional law at Queens College.

In her five years as an Assembly Member, Melinda authored and passed crucial legislation, including the first bill to extend the Statute of Limitations for sexual abuse of a child, a law that increased to a felony certain classes of endangerment of the welfare of a child (Keindl's law) and created legislation that provided women direct access to gynecological services by a doctor.

As a member of the New York City Council, Melinda used her legal foundation to steward major projects and work with communities and the administration to pull NYC out from the economic downturn that occurred after 2001.

In her current role as Queens Borough President, Melinda is partnering with communities to partake in the new law allowing individuals with two misdemeanors or a non-violent felony and misdemeanor that were over ten years ago, to seal their convictions and worked with the District Attorney on warrant forgiveness in order to promote second chances.

Melinda's history of working with the Queens community to address issues ranging from child sex abuse to gun violence has given her a unique perspective on crime reduction and criminal justice.

As District Attorney, she'll continue using this same approach, make the DA's office a partner with every community to reduce crime in every corner of the borough, while making sure that every community feels protected and respected by law enforcement.

Law enforcement and our approach to criminal justice must change. The era of stop & frisk, arrest quotas, and mass incarceration must end, and a new era of community-based, prevention-driven justice must begin. And it starts with us. ALL of us.

Rory Lancman

New York City Council Member

Councilman Rory Lancman chairs the Committee on the Justice System, overseeing the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the district attorneys in all five boroughs, the City's special narcotics prosecutor, the public defender organizations, the civil legal services providers funded by the City, and the courts.

As Chairman, and as a member of other Council committees that oversee the police department and Rikers Island, Councilman Lancman has been a leading advocate for ending overpolicing, mass incarceration and racial inequality in our criminal justice system, for focusing more criminal justice resources on protecting women, immigrants and wage earners, and for making legal services available to poor and working people in New York City.

Councilman Lancman's hearings, budget actions, and legislation have been on the leading edge of criminal justice reform. His committee has conducted oversight hearings on broken windows policing, bail reform, speedy trial failures, wrongful convictions, ICE operations in courthouses, New York's antiquated criminal discovery laws, discriminatory marijuana enforcement, and raising the age of criminal culpability.

Councilman Lancman has authored laws protecting women from internet harassment; reducing the City's use of the criminal justice system for quality-of-life offenses; tracking City agencies' issuances of criminal summonses; exposing unequal enforcement of fare evasion against black and Latino New Yorkers; making public the police department's use of force data by precinct; and protecting the ability of those arrested to notify their family.

Additionally, Councilman Lancman was instrumental in directing critical alternative to incarceration funding to women defendants in the City's Human Trafficking Courts, to expanding supervised release programs, and to reducing the use of cash bail for poor defendants.

Councilman Lancman is a proud product of New York City public schools, Queens College of the City University of New York, and Columbia Law School. Prior to his election to public office, Councilman Lancman served as an infantry officer in New York's own 42nd Infantry Division, and as an attorney in private practice representing clients facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and injuries due to corporate malfeasance and negligence. He lives with his wife and three children near St. John's University in Queens, where he taught as an adjunct professor of law.

Greg Lasak

Deputy Administrative Judge (resigned for campaign)

Greg Lasak is an experienced progressive prosecutor running for Queens County District Attorney.

A lifelong Queens resident, Greg grew up in Woodside, the son of a mechanic and a homemaker. After graduating Holy Cross High School, his interests took him to Queens College and New York Law School and landed him, a young prosecutor, in the DA's office. He was quickly promoted in the office and, at the age of 30, was named Chief of the Homicide Bureau. He was then made Executive Assistant in charge of the Major Crimes Division where he launched the office's first-ever Domestic Violence Bureau. Throughout his years in the office, Greg supervised the investigation of more than 2,500 murder cases. He prosecuted cop killers and the likes of the perpetrators of the Wendy's Massacre and the College Point Massacre, the largest mass murder in Queens history.

In the same period, Greg began reinvestigating cases where defendants had been wrongfully prosecuted or convicted of murder, rape, and robbery. His work led to the release of almost two dozen men from prison and, in 2003, prompted Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project to say of Greg, "He personally corrected more injustices than any prosecutor I can recall offhand."

Greg left the District Attorney's office in 2003 when he was elected Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. He was appointed Deputy Administrative Judge and re-elected in 2017. Greg resigned from the bench in September of 2018 to launch his campaign for District Attorney.

As DA, Greg will bring an experienced, progressive prosecutor's eye to the job. He'll end cash bail on and decline to prosecute low-level, non-violent offenses, which will speed up the justice system and he'll divert cases where appropriate. He'll work to strengthen relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. And he'll continue his work to make sure those who believe they were wrongfully prosecuted are able to have their cases looked at anew. But he'll be tough on violent crime and ensure we keep our neighborhoods safe.

Greg is married to his high school sweetheart, Patti. They live in Richmond Hill and have three grown children.

Betty Lugo

Trial Attorney

Betty Lugo is a founding member of Pacheco & Lugo, PLLC. Pacheco & Lugo, PLLC is the first Hispanic women owned law firm in New York, established at One World Trade Center in 1992.

Ms. Lugo leads the firm's litigation practice in the areas of general and commercial liability, construction, restrictive covenants, labor law, real estate, and white-collar crime. She conducts trials, hearings, arbitrations, and appeals in complex matters in both State and Federal Courts.

Betty Lugo received her Juris Doctor degree from Albany Law School of Union University and her Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She is admitted to practice in New York, as well as before the U.S. District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. She began her legal career as the first Hispanic woman to work as an Assistant District Attorney in the Nassau County District Attorney's Office from 1984 to 1987.

Ms. Lugo served as the President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association in New York (PRBA) during its 59th year from 2015-2017. She currently serves as Chair of the PRBA Judiciary Committee.

She lectures as a provider of Continuing Legal Education on matters involving commercial matters, litigation and diversity of the legal profession for various bar associations. She serves on the New York City Mayor's Marshall's Committee and is a member of the Brooklyn College Pre-Law Advisory Council.

Ms. Lugo is General Counsel to the Association for Puerto Rican Education and Empowerment (APREE) and General Counsel to the Latino Court Officers Society and serves as advisor to numerous not for profit organizations. She is a founding member of 100 Hispanic Women, Inc. and has served as an instructor with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. She has lectured in real estate, corporate and diversity for various organizations and institutional lending agencies including the Federal National Mortgage Agency, State of New York Mortgage Agency, lending institutions, for profit and not for profit organizations. Ms. Lugo has lectured on diversity and inclusion, ethics and matters encouraging interest in the legal profession throughout New York State at Law schools, colleges and universities, high schools and elementary schools.

Mina Malik

Deputy Attorney General, District of Columbia

Mina Malik is Deputy Attorney General for the District of Columbia and a Lecturer on Law and Senior Advisor to Harvard's Fair Punishment Project. Prior to this, Mina served as the Executive Director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the largest police oversight agency in the nation which investigates allegations of police misconduct. As Chief Executive Officer, she oversaw a staff of 180 and the agency's day-to-day operations, including several high-profile police brutality cases.

During her tenure, Mina and her team were responsible for spearheading change and improving the organization at all levels including enhanced investigations and training, more proactive prosecutions, greater data collection and analysis, improved reporting on policing issues, and increased community outreach. In an effort to increase transparency and make the agency's wealth of data open and accessible to the public, Mina also launched the interactive Data Transparency Initiative (DTI), which was the first of its kind to be implemented by a police oversight organization. In conjunction with the University of Michigan, the agency continues to work on another ground-breaking initiative, the CCRB's Early Warning System, a predictive model for police misconduct.

Prior to her work in police oversight, Mina served as Special Counsel to the late Honorable Kenneth P. Thompson in the Kings County District Attorney's Office where she counseled and assisted the newly-elected Brooklyn District Attorney in the day-to-day operations of the agency consisting of 1,200 employees. Mina advised the District Attorney on the restructuring of the agency, personnel matters, policy issues, and cases involving sex crimes, wrongful convictions, child abuse and homicides.

In addition to her work in Brooklyn, Mina also served the Honorable Richard A. Brown in the Queens County District Attorney's Office where she prosecuted a broad range of felony cases and argued numerous appeals. Her concentration was in Special Victims where she oversaw the investigation, prosecution, and litigation of child homicides, child physical and sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and adult sex crimes.

Mina also worked for the venerable D.C. Public Defender Service as a Criminal Investigator. She has been a visiting faculty member of the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop since 2010.

Jose Nieves

NYS Attorney General's office – Deputy Chief, Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (resigned for campaign)

Jose Nieves fought for his country in Afghanistan as a Captain in the United States Army. He will fight to protect Queens residents and families as Queens DA. Jose has been a strong advocate for justice in our City and State and as Queens DA, he will advocate for fair and equal justice in Queens.

As a young man of color growing up in this City in the 1980s and 90s, he saw how violent crime can tear apart families and communities. On the other hand, he also grew up being subjected to racial profiling by police and have seen how unfair police practices deteriorate the community's trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. Jose spent the last 18 years working in law enforcement reconciling the tension between these two realities and believes that we can reconstruct our Criminal justice system to promote public safety while also respecting the rights and dignity of individuals. In this extraordinary moment in history, in this election for Queens District Attorney, we have an opportunity to make fundamental policy and procedural changes in our criminal justice system to ensure fair and equal justice for all Queens residents. As Queens District Attorney, Jose will broaden the core function of the office to more than merely obtaining criminal convictions.

Jose is running for Queens County District Attorney because he wants to redirect the focus of the Queens District Attorney's Office away from merely charging and incarcerating Queens residents in all criminal cases. Rather, he will focus the office's resources on diverting non-violent defendants away from the criminal justice system, engage in meaningful alternative to incarceration sentencing practices, carefully considering a defendant's collateral immigration consequences when negotiating plea agreements and identifying new ways to reduce the risk of recidivism of defendants by supporting a defendant's reentry and reintegration process into our community. His progressive view of criminal prosecution will allow him to focus the work of the approximately 300 prosecutors in the District Attorney's office on protecting all Queens families and residents by zealously prosecuting violent crimes, sexual assaults, domestic violence, hate crimes, human trafficking, public corruption, fraud and the illegal sale and distribution of guns and drugs in our communities. Jose's progressive agenda as District Attorney will integrate the reconstruction of our Criminal justice system with the core prosecutorial functions of public safety and the pursuit of justice in society.

June 2019 Juniper Berry Magazine

June 2019 Table of Contents