Funeral services have been announced for Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who died on Sunday at age 50 after battling cancer. This comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo is weighing "options" about who may succeed him in a special appointment.
The wake will be on Friday, October 14th, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Avenue in Brooklyn. The "homegoing service," which will also be at the Christian Cultural Center, is on Saturday, October 15th, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
According to the NY Post, "An influential group of Brooklyn politicians want Gov. Cuomo to name Public Advocate Letitia James to replace" Thompson. Kings County Politics, which broke the news about James being a frontrunner, reports, "If James was named as the Brooklyn DA, it would likely take her out of the running for mayor possibly next year or in 2021."
However, political pundits often think that being New York City Mayor is something of a dead-end to holding higher political office, whereas being district attorney for the state’s largest county could put James on a different political trajectory and position to possibly run for statewide office.
But the lobbying on James’ behalf is already getting some pushback in state political circles.
“While we mourn the sudden passing of a thoughtful prosecutor, politics takes no days off,” said one Brooklyn political consultant active in both New York City and Albany. “Tish has long been positioned to run for NYS Attorney General in the event the opportunity arises for Eric Schneiderman to run for Governor. Her office has strategically been active in legal matters to burnish her lawyering credentials. The Governor should think very carefully about who he is empowering here, as her supporters are certainly not his friends.”
Currently, Eric Gonzalez, the Chief Assistant District Attorney, has been handling the cases. He said on Sunday, "The executive team and I are committed to leading the Office and carrying out DA Thompson's vision and initiatives." Gonzalez is reportedly up for the job as well.
If James were appointed to the position, it would reset the field for city wide office, with the 2017 election year up ahead; the Post adds, "Borough President Eric Adams and state Sen. Daniel Squadron have been mentioned as potential candidates for a special election for public advocate, should James become DA." Mayor Bill de Blasio used the Public Advocate office to springboard himself into the mayorship.
Politics aside, Thompson will be sorely missed. The NY Times published an editorial praising his legacy, calling Thompson a "visionary prosecutor," noting how "his commitment to a boldly progressive agenda that has become a national model":
Mr. Thompson vowed to clean up the office — a promise he was making good on until his unexpected death on Sunday, at 50, from cancer.
The tragedy is, of course, greatest for his family. But Mr. Thompson’s death is also a big blow to the broader cause of progressive prosecutorial reform nationwide, and to the recognition by law enforcement leaders of pervasive racial disparities across the criminal justice system.
His earliest and perhaps bravest move was to call into question his predecessor’s long record of winning convictions based on dubious evidence or prosecutorial wrongdoing. To date, Mr. Thompson’s conviction-review unit has identified and reversed the convictions of 21 people, all black or Latino, who collectively spent hundreds of years in prison. He also stopped prosecuting people for low-level marijuana offenses and spearheaded a program aimed at helping more than a quarter-million Brooklyn residents erase outstanding warrants for minor offenses. Versions of both programs have now been adopted citywide.