Issues

 America’s justice system is changing – and Manhattan needs to set the national example.  Here’s how Tali will approach building a fairer, safer system for New Yorkers:

FAIRNESS FROM THE START

Tali believes prosecutors must do less to do more. The district attorney must lighten the heavy hand of the criminal justice system by foregoing prosecutions that send people into the system unnecessarily and unfairly, and that perpetuate racial injustice. Then, prosecutors must use their resources to pursue the cases that legitimately promote public safety. As a national expert and professor of criminal justice reform at the local level, and drawing on her experience as part of the executive leadership team implementing reform at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Tali believes in a DA’s office that is ethical, fair, and advances equity for all New Yorkers.

As district attorney, Tali will:

Reduce Incarceration 

  • Commit to bail reform and reduce the number of people detained before trial.
  • Reduce significantly the use of incarceration and criminal conviction as a response to low-level, non-violent crime.
  • Offer and support community-based programming to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior, and favor, wherever possible, investments in programs that stop crime before it happens.
  • Incorporate sensitivity to mental health and addiction problems.

Increase Fairness

  • Prioritize robust pre-arrest investigation.
  • Ensure charges are truthful and reflect the facts of the case. 
  • Consider collateral consequences in charging and sentencing decisions. 
  • Monitor, and commit to eliminating racial and other unacceptable disparities in charging and throughout; and regularly make data on disparities publicly available.
  • Engage in fair plea bargaining. 
  • Treat everyone who has contact with the office with respect.

GUN VIOLENCE

Gun violence poses an unacceptable threat to public health and safety. As a former federal prosecutor, Tali took on gun violence, including murders, and understands the district attorney must have a fearless, diverse and complex plan to stop this ongoing threat. To help execute this plan, Tali will appoint a Gun Violence Coordinator on her Executive Leadership Team, to work across divisions and bureaus directing and monitoring firearms-related investigation, prosecutions, and initiatives.

As Manhattan district attorney, Tali will implement the following 10-point plan: 

POINT 1: Prioritize gun trafficking investigations and prosecutions by:

  • Increasing the investigative capacity of DANY’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit—the specialized division responsible for prosecuting gun trafficking cases, and which will work with the Gun Violence Coordinator.
  • Ensuring unit ADAs get the training and resources required to lead complex, multi-agency, and interstate trafficking investigations. 
  • Building out trafficking cases through partnerships with state prosecutors, the NYPD, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regional law enforcement agencies.
  • Supporting increased enforcement at the Port Authority bus terminal—a common point of entry for traffickers. 
  • Identifying and prosecuting non-compliant online firearm sellers.
  • Participating in federal, state, and local efforts to build out gun trace databases and gun tracing capacities. 
  • Support local and national legislative efforts to further prohibit ghost guns.

POINT 2: Implement a “ghost gun” initiative that:

  • Prioritizes enforcement of the new ghost gun laws.
  • Coordinates with other NYC district attorneys, city agencies and the NYPD to develop best practices. 
  • Recognizes a national lack of data on untraceable firearms by requiring tracking and reporting of annual ghost gun prosecutions.  

POINT 3: Accelerate gun prosecutions by:

  • Working with the city and courts to open a Gun Court, a dedicated courtroom for Manhattan gun prosecutions, allowing for critically important speed in case resolution. Ideally, cases will be closed within six months.
  • Instructing the Gun Unit and Gun Violence Coordinator to collaborate with the NYPD and other law enforcement officials to track gun violence patterns, and proactively identify key perpetrators and potential retaliations. 
  • Advocating for improving the speed and efficiency of forensic evidence gathering, including DNA and latent fingerprint testing.

POINT 4: Inaugurate a specialized Domestic Violence team, which will:

  • Focus on responding to high-risk cases within a new Bureau of Gender-Based Violence.
  • Encourage robust enforcement of New York criminal law requiring domestic abusers subject to a temporary order of protection to surrender their firearms.
  • Hire a dedicated investigator focused on ensuring individuals charged with a DV offense have surrendered all guns.

POINT 5: Develop a diversion program for young people facing gun possession charges.

  • Modeled after two such programs in Brooklyn, the Manhattan initiative will be open to young people who meet various criteria and have no history  of violence.
  • The rigorous program will include mentorship, counseling, education or employment, and community service. Successful completion will result in dismissal of criminal charges—and a second chance. 
  • Incorporate anti-gun and anti-violence education into other youth diversion programs supported by the DA’s office.

POINT 6: Initiate a Juvenile Prosecution Unit, which will:

  • Develop policies that embrace the spirit of Raise the Age and favor removal to Family Court. 
  • Handle all juvenile gun cases that remain in criminal court. 
  • Include supervisors working with local public schools to develop anti-violence educational programming, run relevant training workshops, and participate in career fairs and other school events. 

POINT 7: Expand Violence Interruption Programs.

  • Use asset forfeiture funds to support and advocate for local violence interruption organizations.
  • Work with the city and existing organizations to expand violence interruption programming to hospitals located in the neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence. 
  • Audit DANY-supported and led prevention and education programs across the borough, in order to better direct institutional resources. 

POINT 8: Provide direct support for communities impacted by gun violence by:

  • Working with communities in public housing to learn how DANY can better support them and address their specific vulnerabilities to gun violence.
  • Providing funding for, and encouraging ADA participation in, local greening initiatives. 
  • Expanding DANY’s existing Gun Violence Prevention Fellowship.
  • Launch a summer employment program for high school students from high-violence neighborhoods.

POINT 9: Enforce New York’s Red Flag Law.

  • Train ADAs to identify cases in which an Extreme Risk Protection Order (“ERPO”) may be appropriate and to file applications as appropriate. 
  • Work, through a new position of Title IX Liaison, to ensure both public school and higher education officials are aware of the Red Flag Law and educated about the ERPO application process. 

POINT 10: Institute gun buyback programs which:

    • Design and publicize efforts in partnership with local community groups that have legitimacy in the neighborhoods most affected by gun violence. 
    • Designate places of worship, community centers, and non-profit buildings — rather than government offices — as drop off locations.
    • Limit financial incentives to guns that are most often illegally trafficked.
    • Require participants provide proof of New York residency to ensure New Yorkers, not out-of-state gun dealers, benefit from buybacks. Participant information will not be recorded or retained. 

 

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

Gender-based violence – crime directed at people because of their biological sex or gender identity – remains an unacceptable crisis across the country and in New York City. Significantly underreported and under prosecuted, our criminal justice system routinely fails the victims of these crimes. While law enforcement cannot address this crisis alone, we must do our part and do it better.  As district attorney, Tali will transform DANY’s response to gender-based violence and integrate her approach into the broader agenda of criminal justice reform. This starts with establishing a new bureau reporting directly and regularly to her: The Bureau of Gender-Based Violence (BGBV). 

BGBV will house the Sex Crimes and Domestic Violence units, as well as human trafficking, elder abuse, stalking, and gender-based hate crimes. Headed by experienced, extensively-trained prosecutors, the BGBV units will follow a victim-centered, offender-focused approach. And it will share a mission of a sustained, focused, and expert commitment to investigation, prosecution, and reducing this violence.

Historically, successful prosecution of gender-based crimes has faced significant hurdles, including a lack of data and the nature of the crime itself. These are surmountable. The successful investigation, prosecution, and prevention of gender-based violence depend on an array of strategies, and – in keeping with the BGBV Guiding Principles – Tali is committed to proceeding with vigor and adequate resources.

BGBV STRATEGIES:

COMMUNITY INPUT

DANY will survey as many affected parties as possible to source relative data and descriptive feedback and include opportunities to propose concrete and specific changes to DANY practices.

DATA ASSESSMENT

Tali will establish a BGBV data analytics department to track all NYPD sex crimes and domestic violence reports, alongside substantive information on DANY investigations and prosecutions, and eventually making it available to the public.

OVERSIGHT AND MEASURING SUCCESS

Conviction rates cannot be the benchmark for a good prosecutor or a successful bureau. Tali will develop new markers to evaluate ADAs’ work and implement new evaluation standards across DANY.

RESOURCES & STAFFING

Tali will increase the capacity and skill set of the BGBV by hiring in-house investigators and qualified experts, including forensic scientists, medical professionals and victims advocates.

TRAINING

Prosecutors will receive specialized instruction to improve victim response and trial strategies pertinent to the prosecution of sexual violence, including cultural and gender-sensitivity training.

VICTIM SERVICES

Whether or not prosecution is feasible under the New York penal law, the BGBV will serve as a resource and improve community outcomes. Tali is committed to expanding support to victims and their families by:

  • Establishing a second Family Justice Center in Northern Manhattan.
  • Expanding the Witness Services Aid Unit
  • Increasing the number of support staff and enhancing their roles to provide personalized and practical services.

IMPROVING ACCESS FOR HISTORICALLY UNDER-RESOURCED GROUPS

To increase access and improve the experience for community members who historically have faced greater barriers to justice, Tali will prioritize:

  • Directing resources where they’re most needed.
  • Orders of protection.
  • Creating a culturally competent and empathetic workplace.
  • Facilitating the reporting of all crimes.
  • Protecting non-citizens.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

In addition to its public data-sharing commitment, the BGBV will develop education and training programs for communities and groups that have opportunities to prevent and report on gender-based violence.

Click here to read Tali’s plan for the Bureau of Gender-Based Violence and its sources.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Domestic violence was already a public health crisis in Manhattan before COVID-19, exacting a terrible physical, psychological, and generational toll on so many vulnerable people. The movement restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus made the domestic violence crisis worse, trapping women and children in abusive situations. Tali believes the prevalence and stubborn persistence of domestic violence in Manhattan demands a focused and sustained response.

As district attorney, Tali will: 

  • Create a new Bureau of Gender-Based Violence, which will be comprised of a Sex Crimes Unit and Domestic Violence Unit and which will report directly to, and be closely monitored by, the district attorney.
  • Begin with an audit of domestic violence investigation and prosecution in the borough, to understand what is not working and what is.  
  • Partner with stakeholders across the city – including providers of victim services, government partners, and survivor leaders – to institute best practices in prosecution and prevention. 
  • Work with community leaders to ensure all victims, including non-citizens, are comfortable approaching law enforcement and feel their needs are met. 
  • Advocate for the establishment of the borough’s second Family Justice Center in northern Manhattan, where close to half of the borough’s domestic violence reports currently occur. 
  • Focus on computer-facilitated domestic violence.  
  • Develop, with community partners and issue experts, an effective emergency response plan and outreach system – before the next crisis.

SEX CRIMES

Sexual violence – including sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse – is pervasive, underreported, and under-prosecuted. Victims of these crimes report a lack of confidence in the criminal justice system. As district attorney, Tali is committed to a wholesale transformation of the borough’s response to sexual violence.

Tali will create a new Bureau of Gender-Based Violence, which will be comprised of a Sex Crimes Unit and Domestic Violence Unit and which will report directly to, and be closely monitored by, the district attorney.

Tali will lead a victim-centered, offender-focused practice, concentrating investigations on the offender’s actions and intent, rather than on the victim’s behavior. Prosecutors will receive regular training on trauma-informed interviewing, challenges of evidence, implicit bias including race-based bias against victims, cultural competency, the special challenges and vulnerabilities of non-citizen victims, and the availability of victim resources. 

Complicated and sensitive cases including drug-facilitated sexual assaults, stalking and other computer-faciliated crimes, and nonconsensual pornography must get the attention they deserve.  Tali will prioritize cases involving serial abusers, and institutions and employers who enable their employees’ crimes. She will also address sexual violence on the borough’s college campuses and sex crimes on public transportation. Finally, Tali recognizes New York is a leading entry, transit, and destination point for sex trafficking and will make the investigation and prosecution of these cases a priority. 

In this and all other areas, the likelihood of securing a conviction should not, on its own and particularly early in an investigation, determine a prosecutor’s decisions. Instead, prosecutors should thoroughly investigate all reports, closely engage with victims, develop evidence, and use appropriate resources and experts before determining whether a case is viable. 

IMMIGRATION

Tali immigrated to the U.S. as a child and became an American citizen when she was 19 years old. Ensuring fairness, safety, and justice for the approximately 230,000 non-citizens who live in Manhattan is a top priority for her, and an extension of her life’s work as a champion for immigrant communities. As General Counsel in the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Tali led the team that successfully sued I.C.E. over the agency's policy of arresting non-citizens in and around state courthouses. Together with the New York State attorney general, Tali directed the litigation establishing that the policy causes non-citizens to be fearful of law enforcement and thereby interferes with local prosecution’s core mission. She also supervised a variety of other matters involving fairness to non-citizens in Brooklyn.

As district attorney, Tali will:

  • Incorporate sensitivity to non-citizens into every area of the office’s practice from the way prosecutors interact with non-citizen victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, to charging decisions that take into consideration all collateral consequences, including those related to citizenship status. 
  • Work to build trust and community engagement with the immigrant community, both documented and undocumented, so that victims and witnesses feel safe coming forward.  
  • Hold accountable those who target and exploit immigrants through fraud and other crimes.
  • Hire dedicated and specialized attorneys to train all staff on immigration issues. These attorneys will advise prosecutors throughout the office on plea offers and sentencing recommendations for non-citizen defendants, to avoid disproportionate collateral consequences – such as deportation – while maintaining public safety.

HATE CRIMES

Hate crimes are intolerable. They go beyond harm to a specific victim, creating an atmosphere of exclusion and terror in targeted communities. From her own upbringing and life experiences, Tali knows the sting of discrimination and will stand up for those who experience it. The recent surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York is unprecedented; others have been targeted based on race, sexual orientation, and more. The uptick in hate crimes related to misconceptions about the coronavirus pandemic against Asian-Americans and others is equally alarming, as is the spreading of misinformation and hate in internet subcultures and on social media.

In 2020, Tali was appointed to the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Domestic Terrorism and Hate Crimes, a group of leaders of the bench and bar whose mission is to examine the factors that have led to the recent increase in hate crimes and help better educate the public on the value of diversity and inclusion. Their June 2020 audit resulted in legislative and policy recommendations, as well as suggestions for improvements to the federal and state legal system’s response to hate crimes.

Under Tali’s leadership, the district attorney’s office will work both to prosecute and to prevent hate crimes through community outreach, education about diversity and inclusion, and services with particular focus on reaching young people and the mentally ill two groups who, tragically, commit a disproportionate number of these crimes. 

LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCOUNTABILITY

The police are our partners in delivering public safety. But misconduct by law enforcement hurts us all by damaging public trust; when people do not have faith in the criminal justice system, everyone suffers. And communities of color across the country have disproportionately borne the brunt of misconduct by law enforcement. Tali believes firmly that no one is above the law, and there must be one standard of justice for law enforcement and civilians alike. As General Counsel for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Tali led the design, creation, and supervision of a new stand-alone Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau. She also led the team that created an internal process for identifying officers the district attorney’s office (not courts or outside institutions) considers unreliable, to ensure prosecutors do not work with those officers – a first in New York City.

As Manhattan’s district attorney, Tali will:

  • Commit to investigating thoroughly claims of police misconduct, following the evidence wherever it leads and holding law enforcement officers accountable when they offend – from false statements and perjury to serious acts of violence and excessive use of force.
  • Prioritize transparency and engagement with victims and communities at every stage of the process.
  • Build on her work in Brooklyn to make sure police officers’ credibility is regularly assessed and fairly disclosed.
  • Support evidence-based policies and legislation for police reform, and support scaling up community-based alternatives to policing wherever possible.

POST-CONVICTION JUSTICE

Too many people are in prison today that need not be there. Tali believes the work of ensuring fairness and justice is not done at sentencing. The District Attorney’s responsibilities continue until each incarcerated person returns to the community safely. And it is the current District Attorney’s responsibility to make efforts to correct the mistakes and excesses of the past – including wrongful conviction and excessive sentencing. 

As General Counsel for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Tali led the design and creation of the nation’s first Post-Conviction Justice Bureau, which includes the nation’s premier (and largest) Conviction Review Unit (CRU). Under Tali’s leadership and in partnership with the Innocence Project and WilmerHale, the CRU published a first-of-its-kind report detailing its first 25 exonerations — including prosecutorial and police misconduct. Tali also developed and drafted sentencing review legislation proposed by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and introduced in the 2020 legislative session, which would allow courts to reduce excessive sentences. She is a strong advocate for legislation that would correct excessive sentences and reduce mass incarceration.

Under Tali’s leadership, the Brooklyn Bureau also supported incarcerated people seeking parole and clemency and established new protocols for prosecutors to support parole.

As district attorney, Tali will use her experience in Brooklyn to establish the nation’s most robust Post-Conviction Justice Bureau in Manhattan. The Bureau will have components responsible for conviction review, parole and clemency proceedings, conviction sealing, and excessive sentencing review. And it will have enough resources — including dedicated investigators — and independence to conduct its work quickly and rigorously.

Tali knows the Conviction Review Unit of the new Bureau must be completely independent of the prosecuting units to preserve its objectivity and demonstrate the immense value the office places on its work. Tali will make the Conviction Review Unit’s work transparent, including publishing reports and retraining prosecutors based on its findings of wrongful conviction.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

We are all entitled to live and work in a healthy and clean environment. Too often, environmental crimes go unchecked and disproportionately affect our low-income neighbors and communities of color. Several Manhattan neighborhoods exceed the rest of the borough — and in some cases the entire city — in poor health outcomes and elevated risks related to environmental inequity. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this injustice. Poor air quality, pollution and other respiratory hazards put Manhattan third of 3,100 US counties for higher death rates, while unaddressed environmental issues in public housing are suspected of contributing to increased COVID infections and deaths of seniors. 

The Manhattan DA’s office still does not have a specialized unit targeting environmental injustice. As DA, Tali is committed to: 

  • Establishing a new Environmental Crimes Unit, staffed with dedicated investigators to help prosecutors build cases and serve as a resource for advocates against corporate polluters.
  • Holding individuals and corporate polluters accountable for contaminating our neighborhoods and endangering our health. Priorities include hazardous materials in public housing; sales of harmful, unregulated materials; dumping; idling and air pollution; unsafe food; waste transfer; and financial wrongdoing linked to environmental crimes. 
  • Working in tandem with city and state offices to prosecute environmental crimes.
  • Collaborate with the city’s Environmental Justice Board to identify legal challenges before they occur. 
  • Directing funds to promote community education of climate change and environmental justice.

ETHICS AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE

As district attorney, Tali will emphasize fairness, trust in law enforcement, and equal access for all New Yorkers, and that begins with her candidacy and campaign contributions.  There should never be a question - perceived or real -  that the district attorney’s office will pursue justice based on facts and not influence. 

Accordingly, New Yorkers for Tali will accept a maximum contribution of $1.00 from criminal defense attorneys, from law firms with a criminal defense practice in New York City, and from lawyers employed by firms that maintain a criminal defense practice in New York City. Her campaign will not accept contributions from attorneys currently employed by the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, or from unions that represent members of law enforcement agencies that work with the District Attorney’s Office.

WORKER PROTECTION

All New Yorkers have a right to make an honest living and trust that their workplace is healthy and safe. Unfortunately, unscrupulous employers often cheat, harm, and discriminate against them. Tali recognizes that these workers are the backbone of our city and will fight for fair and equal treatment on their behalf. As district attorney, Tali will:

Establish a Bureau of Worker Protection

  • The Bureau of Worker Protection (BWP) will house a dedicated team of investigators and prosecutors from the Construction Fraud Task Force and DANY’s white collar, financial fraud, immigration, community partnership and other relevant units. Because some workplace abuses involve human trafficking, sexual assault and gender-based crimes, the BWP will also work closely with Tali’s newly-formed Bureau of Gender-Based Violence. 

Investigate and Prosecute Workplace Violations & Incidents 

  • The BWP team will demonstrate a commitment to investigating and charging labor crimes and workplace abuses across all industry sectors.
  • The bureau will focus on wage theft, prevailing wage and overtime violations; labor trafficking; health and safety violations; worker’s compensation, insurance, payroll, tax and benefit fraud; and harassment, retaliation and sexual assault claims.
  • The bureau’s investigations will be proactive; where possible, an ADA will respond in real time to workplace accidents and fatalities in coordination with the relevant involved agencies.
  • Because many labor crimes are multi-jurisdictional, Tali will collaborate with the state Joint Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Employee Misclassification; the state Attorney General’s office; the state Dept. of Labor and economic justice agencies; the NYPD; and the city’s Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection, as well as its immigrant, consumer affairs and other relevant agencies. 

Elevate Wage Theft Prosecutions

  • Nearly 70 percent of low-wage workers encounter a wage violation in any given week, and legal aid workers note that implementing the state’s minimum wage increased the abuse. Tali’s new BWP will make wage theft prosecution a priority, putting dishonest employers on notice. 

Engage Community Groups & Victim Advocates

  • Having eyes and ears “on the ground” is key to targeting workplace injustice. Manhattan has a wealth of advocates with established credibility in communities who can help educate and inform workers of BWP’s mandate and facilitate communication with prosecutors.
  • Tali will increase outreach, collaboration and, wherever possible, funding with and to organizations crucial to helping reach abused workers, many of whom are wary of engaging law enforcement. 
    • BWP will seek input from the NYCOSH/Manhattan Justice for Workers Collaborative, Make the Road New York, other workplace justice organizations, worker unions, labor, and immigrant rights lawyers to build an engaged and effective bureau.

Protect Immigrant Workers

  • Many immigrant workers don’t report employers for fear of retaliation, including calls to ICE. They also may be unaware of protective laws or don’t know where to ask for help. Nearly 40 percent of undocumented immigrant workers report experiencing wage theft in the previous week, and 85 percent of immigrant workers report suffering overtime violations. The BWP will work with advocates to inform immigrants and employ multilingual interpreters to make the process easier for non-English speakers. 

Support Legislation

  • As DA, Tali will use existing laws to prosecute labor law violators and will support legislation that expands worker protection and/or enhanced penalties and employer liability including, among others:
    • The EmPIRE Act (Empowering People In Rights Enforcement). Currently in committee in both the state Assembly (A.2265) and Senate (S.1848), the act would allow workers, whistleblowers, and organizations representing them to file claims against an employer on behalf of the state for any labor law violation, rather than relying solely on the underfunded and backlogged Dept. of Labor. The legislation would also generate an estimated $17.7 million in revenue from civil penalties recovered to help fund DOL labor violation efforts.
    • Assembly Bill A.6795/Senate Bill S.4405. Currently in committee, the legislation would add wage theft to the types of activities included in the crime of larceny. 
    • Carlos’ Law. (A.4508A/S.4373B). Named for 22-year-old construction worker Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in a worksite trench collapse, the bill would establish the crime of endangering the welfare of a worker, and increase fines on negligent developers, as related to construction. The legislation is in committee in the Senate and on the Assembly floor calendar.