Written by Pat Grace Friday, 23 October 2009 00:00On Nov. 3, voters in Nassau County will select their representative for Nassau County District Attorney. Joy Watson will challenge incumbent Kathleen Rice. The candidate’s profiles are listed below.
Kathleen M. Rice is running for reelection to a second term as Nassau County District Attorney on the Democratic, Working Families Party, and Independence Party tickets.
Rice resides in Locust Valley. She is a graduate of Garden City High School, Catholic University, and received her law degree from Touro Law School.
From 1992-1999 Kathleen Rice was Assistant District Attorney, Homicide Bureau; from 1999-2005 was Assistant United States Attorney (Clinton and Bush administrations); and from 2006-present has been Nassau County District Attorney
Rice, in keeping her central campaign promise from 2005, lists as accomplishments during her first term that she has overhauled and strengthened the office’s plea bargaining guidelines and her policies that have led to this success have since been copied by the Suffolk County DA’s office.
Rice has also authored and successfully lobbied for passage of the state’s first DWI-specific homicide law, Aggravated Vehicular Homicide. Her office has already used the law twice, both times successfully.
Rice has received national attention for her fight against drunk driving and her efforts to fight drunk driving have been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes.
In 2005, Rice promised to add resources to the Online Sexual Predators unit and now the unit has three prosecutors (up from one prosecutor under the previous DA) and two investigators. The office has a 100 percent conviction rate on nearly 50 online predator cases.
Additionally, her increased focused on sex crimes and domestic violence cases have caused the number of top-count convictions to double and have led to a 15 percent increase in the felony conviction rate for sex crimes and incidents of domestic violence.
In her first term Rice focused on community education programs including the Not My Child program,which teaches parents and school officials how they can recognize the signs of heroin use among children, and the Elder Abuse program which is presented to nursing facilities to help employees identify the signs of physical abuse and financial exploitation of the elderly.
Two of Rice’s biggest accomplishments during her first term revolved around the investigation and prosecution of corruption. She indicted and convicted a group of North Hempstead building department officials who accepted bribes, favors and unethical outside income from those doing business with the town, in exchange for expedited permitting and official action on properties.
More recently, Rice released a grand jury report documenting widespread and systemic fraud in the state’s pension systems involving lawyers and employees of special and municipal districts in Nassau County. The report will be the basis for what Rice hopes will be her successful efforts to help overhaul the state’s embattled pension system.
Under Rice, the office has improved the quality of its attorneys through hiring and an improved and revamped training process for young prosecutors.
Rice has brought in more than $8 million in forfeiture (seized money) from criminals during her first term in office, a huge increase from the prior administration. Forfeiture money is put back into the community and used to fund law enforcement initiatives like the recently successful Gun Buy-Back programs (that removed more than 1,100 guns from the streets).
Rice has prosecuted more than 60 gang members for gang-related crime since taking office, including members of the Bloods, Crips, MS-13, and the Latin Kings. Rice instituted mandatory debriefings and interviews for all individuals arrested for heroin possession, so that authorities can work their way up the chain and target suppliers and kingpins. This year alone, law enforcement has done more than 350 arrests – twice a typical year- for possession or sale of heroin.
What will Kathleen Rice do in a second term? Rice has five major priorities for her second term:
- Committing more resources and initiating several new crackdowns targeting gang proliferation in Nassau County.
- Adding more resources to the prosecution of online sexual predators
- Drafting and passing a sweeping pension reform bill in Albany, saving taxpayers millions and restoring their trust in the fairness of the system.
- Passing a luring statute in Albany that adequately criminalizes predators who lure children online to locations in our community. Right now there exists a dangerous loophole in state law that seriously under-criminalizes these offenses.
- Expand community education programs to include more locations and more topics
Joy Watson is running for Nassau County District Attorney as the Republican and Conservative candidate.
Joy Watson is a lifelong Nassau County resident who resides in the Village of Hempstead with her family, Roger, 19, Nick, 21 and her husband Tom Mancusi. She received her BA Degree from the University at Albany and her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law. After serving on the Pepperdine faculty as a Teaching Fellow for one year following her graduation, Ms. Watson began her career as a professional prosecutor in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office in 1986. She served as an assistant district attorney for 20 years, working her way up through the ranks and being promoted to leadership roles, serving seven years as the County’s Chief Sex Crimes Prosecutor handling the most sensitive cases, prosecuting rapists and pedophiles and over seven years in the Major Offense/Homicide Bureau, three years as Deputy Bureau Chief, handling the County’s most serious crimes, including murder in the first degree, kidnapping, robbery and home invasion burglary cases. Ms. Watson has been called upon to give expert testimony which was instrumental in enacting New York State Civil Confinement laws, which keep sex offenders confined after finishing their prison terms.
Ms. Watson’s commitment to Nassau County goes beyond the criminal justice system. She is a mentor at the Hempstead Middle School, serves on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters Long Island, is on the faculty of the Criminal Justice Department at Molloy College, teaching classes on the U.S. Supreme Court and Special Victims. She has lectured on Elder Abuse and was published in the New York State Bar Association Journal on Domestic Violence and orders of protection. Ms. Watson (Joy) is a Kiwanian, recording secretary for Irish Americans in Government, vice president of the Nassau County Women’s Bar Association and past president of the American Academy of Professional Law Enforcement. She also serves on the WE CARE Advisory Board of the Nassau County Bar Association, the charitable arm of the Bar Association.
“I am running for district attorney” she explained, “because tougher prosecution approaches are needed to combat the crime which impacts our families and lives, such as the ever-increasing number of drug dealers selling to our children. Headlines may help get you elected, but they don’t allow members of law enforcement to go after the kingpins, who bring dangerous drugs into our county. Giving drug dealers a walk will also not be part of my administration.”
“The DA’s office” Watson expressed, “must also be non-political, staffed by residents of Nassau County, committed to our neighborhoods and families. Over $7 million of our tax dollars are currently being spent annually on salaries to out-of-county residents. I would enforce the county residency requirement to provide jobs for Nassau County residents and to ensure a commitment, similar to my own, to the families of Nassau County. Part time positions for qualified attorneys would also return to the office. Duplication of efforts, such as DA investigators doing the same work we pay our police departments to perform would end.”
Watson believes the DA’s office must also stay current with forensic technology. To that end she would create a Forensic Evidence Bureau, responsible for overseeing all forensic evidence, thereby bolstering prosecutions and making certain that innocent people are not wrongfully prosecuted.
And, Watson said, “Public corruption will be dealt with in a tough, thorough and serious manner, with criminals not receiving a mere slap on the wrist.”
She is proud to have been recognized by Parents of Megan’s Law as a Champion for Children and to have received the award for prosecution by the Court Officer’s Benevolent Association of Nassau County. She has been endorsed by the Nassau County Detectives Association, Hempstead and Freeport Village PBA’s, Long Beach PBA, Nassau County Fire Marshal’s Association, Nassau County Probation Officers’ Association, Nassau Veteran Police Association, Nassau Community College Adjunct Faculty Association and the Nassau County Police Conference, which represents the 19 village and city police departments in Nassau County.
“The district attorney,” Watson said, “is one of the most important leaders in local government. Experience, good judgment and a personal and professional commitment to the community are paramount in this office. I have proven my commitment and professional integrity, which I will bring to the office if given the privilege to serve as your district attorney.”