Brooklyn, NY – His entire legal career has been spent working in various divisions of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, but after serving as acting district attorney for nearly a year following the death of his boss, Eric Gonzalez hopes that Kings County voters will give him the opportunity to spend four more years fighting for equal justice, public safety and fairness when they head to the polls in September.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez first began working in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in 1995 under then district attorney Charles Hynes.
The father of three boys was invited by Ken Thompson to join his executive team when Thompson succeeded Hynes as district attorney in January 2014.
After sharing the news that he had cancer in October 2016, Thompson named Gonzalez to fill in as acting district attorney while he was undergoing treatment. When Thompson died unexpectedly just days later, Gonzalez was tapped by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve out the remainder of Thompson’s term, which runs through December.
Gonzalez played a large role in one of Thompson’s key initiatives, overturning wrongful convictions, with 23 innocent individuals released from prison to date since Thompson took office in 2014.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, Gonzalez is one of seven Democratic hopefuls who have their eye on becoming Kings County’s next district attorney.
With just over seven weeks left before the September primary, I sat down in an exclusive VIN News interview with the acting district attorney hoping to hear his plans for the future, should he win the election and his thoughts on the vital issues affecting Brooklyn’s large Jewish community.
Gonzalez, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, did not disappoint, observing that while Brooklyn may be an extremely diverse borough, most residents share common goals.
“The number one thing that every community wants is safety and to make sure that the criminal justice system is fair,” Gonzalez told VIN News.
That sense of equity was the cornerstone of Thompson’s office, noted Gonzalez, who said that he has been perpetuating that legacy as acting district attorney, and hopes to be able to continue on that path if elected to serve a full four year term.
“People need to know that they will be taken seriously if they are a victim of a crime and that when they are accused of a crime the criminal justice system won’t look to make an example out of them,” said Gonzalez.
While Gonzalez said that he could not comment on claims that during his time in office Hynes showed favoritism to the Jewish community, he said prosecutors in sexual abuse cases were often unable to make their cases because victims were unwilling to come forward.
When charges were eventually dropped due to lack of evidence, many accused Hynes of going soft on members of the Jewish community. In fact, Gonzalez said that he felt that the Jewish community had been treated unfairly when it came to the handling incidents of sexual abuse, whose religious angle often drew significant media coverage.
“It gave the impression that the community had a problem that didn’t exist in other places,” said Gonzalez. “I had done some work in special victims and sex crimes as a young ADA and I can tell you that the issue of sexual abuse happens in all communities.”
Gonzalez also addressed the growing problem of drug addiction, stressing the importance of awareness and culturally sensitive treatment programs designed to help members of different religious communities who struggle with addiction.
Brooklyn’s first Latino district attorney, Gonzalez said he never dreamed as a child that one day he would be heading up the district attorney’s office, and that while at times the notion of practice law privately has entered his mind, he prefers to continue his work on behalf of the citizens of Brooklyn.
“I really love my job and feel lucky to be able to do this work,” said Gonzalez.
Watch the full 12 Minutes exclusive video interview with Assistant District Attorney Gonzalez below.