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Why Scarsdale's Mimi Rocah is Running for Westchester County District Attorney

PreetandMimiPreet Bharara and Mimi RocahFormer Assistant U.S. Attorney, legal analyst and Scarsdale resident Mimi Rocah is running for Westchester District Attorney. During her 16 years in the U.S. Attorney’s office she was involved in the prosecution of organized crime, gun traffickers, corrupt public officials, narcotics dealers and sex traffickers. Before joining the U.S. Attorney’s office she clerked for the Honorable John Gleeson in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District and the Honorable Chester Straub in the U.S. Court of Appeals. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a law degree from NYU.

At the Westchester County Convention in January 2020 she came extremely close to winning the delegates’ vote taking a 48.4% share. Commenting on her performance she said, “For all of my supporters who are fighting for the kinds of reforms we need, this is a win. For all the women who have had enough of the old boy's network and are demanding an equal seat at the table, this is a win. For everyone who knows that we need a DA office free from politics and conflicts and that prioritizes modern day threats like human trafficking and hate crimes, this is a win… We went from zero to 48% in less than two months, and in five months, we're going to finish what we started by winning the primary in June."

We asked Rocah a few questions and here is what she shared:

Are candidates for District Attorney endorsed by political parties? Are you running on a party line?

I am running in the Democratic primary to earn the Democratic party line for the General Election. Local Democratic organizations can endorse, but it’s ultimately up to the voters on June 23rd. I would not accept the endorsement of other parties such as the Conservative Party as my opponent did in 2016.

Now that you are running, will you still appear on MSNBC?

My contract with MSNBC as a legal analyst ended when I announced my campaign. I can still appear on shows to discuss significant issues like impeachment as a Legal Expert when the campaign schedule allows.

If elected, what would you like to see changed in Westchester?

I will be an energetic and proactive District Attorney who will ensure that we are: first, doing all we can to make Westchester safer by getting guns out of the hands of violent people, effectively addressing hate crimes, and the opioid epidemic, and creating a Human Trafficking Unit and, second that we are making our justice system more fair through a Conviction Integrity Unit, greater transparency in the administration of the office and ethical standards that keep politics out of the DA’s Office.

Please comment on the recent spate of hate crimes against the Jewish community. How do you think law enforcement should act to deter anti-semitism and hate crimes in general?

The rise in crimes motivated by anti-semitism is deeply personal for me. My father and his family fled the Nazis in 1939 and some in his family did not escape. We cannot look at crimes against the Jewish community in isolation. We must do more at every level to address all bigotry and keep our communities safe for everyone. We need to use every tool of the DA’s office at our disposal to combat this hate, and I will use prosecution, community partnerships and outreach, educational campaigns, to work to prevent hate crimes, investigate when one occurs, and hold the perpetrators accountable. As DA, I will:

-Allocate more resources to the Hate Crimes Unit so that they can quickly and thoroughly investigate all hate-motivated incidents and hate groups in the area;

-Direct the Westchester Intel Center to categorize hate crimes as an offense for easier sharing of information, intel, and resources immediately with other law enforcement agencies to give them the attention they deserve;

-And partner with schools across the county to educate our youth to ensure our young people are better informed about this issue and our schools have the resources to combat it.

As you know, NYS just imposed new laws regarding cash bail. What’s your view on these reforms and how do you think they might affect Westchester?

These reforms were long overdue and will make our criminal justice system more fair. Bail is not supposed to be punitive or coercive – it is a means of making sure people show up for their court date. And there are much cheaper - and less socially destructive - means of doing this than jailing people. Some have argued that bail is a means of keeping dangerous people off the streets, but if someone is a danger to the community, it shouldn’t matter how much money they have.

New York’s new system is much closer to the federal system which I worked in for 16 years. The new bail reforms may need adjusting, such as finding alternatives to cash bail as conditions for release and making sure that anyone likely to commit a violent crime is not simply released into the community. Criminal justice reform is not a “one and done” construct. We must always look at what works and what doesn’t, and the unintended side effects of these practices. My experience in the federal system will be extremely helpful in evaluating the implementation of the reforms and advising the legislature on how to fine tune the reforms.

MimiFundraiserRocah offers remarks at a recent event.

In your view, how can local policies impact the President’s attack on law enforcement on the Federal level? During one of your interviews you said, “the President called our justice system a joke and a laughing stock." I was wondering how actions at the local level could help to restore faith in the system.

Trump and Bill Barr are corrupting our federal government and justice system and using the power of their offices in hurtful ways to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and governing without any accountability. It is more important than ever that local leaders stand up for and govern with integrity, fight for the rights and protections of all people under the law, and ensure that we administer justice fairly and build trust with the community. Local leaders, including District Attorneys, should use every legal tool possible to hold Trump and others who may be violating the law in his Administration accountable for misconduct and illegal activity that may have occurred in local jurisdictions. New York Attorney Tish James is doing this at the state level. Here in Westchester, for example, there have been allegations surrounding the Trump Golf Course that I believe we should look at.

In an interviews you claimed that there is plenty of organized crime - even in Westchester. A few weeks ago I was surprised to read about the arrest of a member of the Gambino organization who lives in Edgemont. Why is it so difficult to uncover this kind of corruption? How do you propose to be more effective at rooting out organized crime?

I prosecuted members of all of the major organized crime families for many years and was Chief of the Southern District’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Unit. In my experience, organized crime is pernicious because it takes over industries like construction or sanitation and makes it difficult for honest people to work without relying on organized crime. We have to partner with other law enforcement agencies that can help us infiltrate these groups and use smart and advanced investigative techniques to root out this kind of corruption.

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