In the News

Read top news headlines below. You may also read this month's press releases issued by the DA's office as well as releases from previous months and years.

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The District Attorney’s Office (DAO) has been actively involved in working groups preparing for the change in legal status of 16- and 17-year-old offenders. The law goes into effect Oct. 1, 2018, with the enactment of the New York State 2017-2018 budget legislation which includes raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18. New York was previously one of only two states that automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. The new legislation includes statutory amendments that among other things creates a new Adolescent Offender (AO) classification and establishes a new Youth Part in Superior Court.

The law creates a new category of juvenile offender. Any 16- or 17-year-old charged with a felony or a misdemeanor as part of the same crime will be considered an Adolescent Offender (AO).  All AOs will be arraigned in the newly established Youth Part of the Superior Court. Nonviolent felonies will be heard in Family Court unless the District Attorney files a motion to keep the case in the Youth Part. Any case where a the defendant is alleged to have displayed a weapon, committed criminal sexual conduct or caused significant physical injury will remain in the Youth Part. 

An AO diverted to Family Court will be eligible for adjustment services through probation. These programs will be tailored to the specific needs of each individual. Furthermore, special rooms will be made available for questioning youth who have been arrested, similar to what is now available in Family Courts. Parental notification requirements will also be extended to include 16- and 17-year-olds.

In Westchester, ADAs will staff the newly formed Youth Part which will handle violent and certain nonviolent felonies. The Youth Part will operate daily during regular court hours to accommodate all arraignments and returns on warrants issued by the Youth Part.

Raise the age is a major change in the criminal process. New York State further explains the implementation of Raise the Age which affects all law enforcement and the justice system. Read more.

Sept. 6, 2018 -- White Plains, NY -- Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. announced a new video series, “Why I Became a Prosecutor,” introducing some Westchester County Assistant District Attorneys. These prosecutors represent the people in the courtrooms of Westchester County from the village, town and municipal courts throughout the county to the Daronco Courthouse in White Plains and the New York State Court of Appeals. Their job is to advocate for justice on behalf of victims, whether they be individual victims of crime at any level or the taxpayers and voters of the county who may have been taken advantage of by public servants.

DA Scarpino said, “We are excited to introduce our dedicated Assistant District Attorneys to the residents of Westchester through this video series. I am proud of the work each of them do and how they bring their valuable life experiences, education and commitment to justice to our office and to the courts every day. In these videos, their passion for justice comes through. As several of the interviewees will tell you, they believe being a prosecutor is where they get to “do the right thing every day” and advocate for the victims they serve.”

Video Series
In each video interview of the “Why I Became a Prosecutor” series, you will hear from Assistant District Attorneys (also called prosecutors) of varied levels of experience, from a wide array of cultural backgrounds, and whose life experiences have contributed to their commitment to public service and prosecuting crime. Each one represents a different division, branch or bureau of the District Attorney’s Office.

The DA’s Office
With over 115 prosecutors of a total staff of over 200, DA Anthony Scarpino leads the largest district attorney’s office north of New York City. In addition to the main office in the Richard J. Daronco Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, the District Attorney’s Office has eight local criminal court bureaus and branches serving the county in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Greenburgh, White Plains, New Rochelle, Yorktown, Northern Westchester (located in Mount Kisco) and Rye.

See the first two videos today. These and future videos can be accessed through this Web site or on our Westchester District Attorney YouTube Channel. New videos will be posted periodically over the next few months. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @WestchesterDA, or register for our monthly e-newsletter through our website home page for the latest news from the DA’s Office (WCDA).

Planned rollout of Fall 2018 video series

Sept. 6
Meet Assistant District Attorney Shameika Mathurin, White Plains Branch Chief of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. With 12 years serving as a prosecutor, ADA Mathurin has had a wide breath of experience which she now brings to her leadership role as Branch Chief.

Meet Assistant District Adrian Murphy of the Investigations Division Identity Theft Unit of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Murphy joined the DA's Office three years ago and is on the cutting edge of prosecuting identity theft.

Sept. 20
Meet Assistant District Attorney Michelle Lopez, Chief of the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Lopez has served as an advocate for victims and a role model in the community for more than 20 years.

Oct. 4
Meet Assistant District Attorney Wayne Williams, a prosecutor in the New Rochelle Branch of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Williams joined the DA's Office two years ago.

Oct. 18
Meet Assistant District Attorney Joyce Miller, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureaus of the Special Prosecutions Division of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Miller has served as a prosecutor with the DA's Office for 12 years.

Nov. 1
Meet Assistant District Attorney Raffaelina Gianfrancesco of the Appeals and Special Litigation Division of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. ADA Gianfrancesco is a seasoned prosecutor who has been with the DA's Office for 10 years.

image of a group in a roomSept. 18, 2018 -- With the school year underway, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. kicked off the first meeting of the Westchester County School Safety Commission (WSSC). In attendance were Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins and leaders representing schools, students, educators, mental health experts and law enforcement throughout Westchester County. The Commission has been formed in collaboration with County Executive George Latimer. 

The mission of the WSSC is to implement best practices in safety evaluation and procedures in schools of all levels throughout Westchester County to keep our students safe in the event of a credible threat or violent incident.  A primary focus is to increase and enhance communication and cooperation between schools and local law enforcement, and issue guidelines for countywide protocols.

image of the district attorneyIn his opening remarks, DA Scarpino said: “This is what keeps me up at night--What happens when someone bent on violence enters one of our schools?” And in light of that, he told the commission what he would like it to accomplish: “The State already mandates that each public school and BOCES file annual updated building-level Emergency Response Plans. Part of our agenda is to explore how those individual plans can be incorporated into countywide responsiveness. And that ties in with the greater mission of this Commission: to create a program of consistent protocols in response to threats or emergencies in any building, on any campus-public or private; and appropriate training and understanding for all stakeholders including students, parents and community members.”

DA Scarpino also renewed his call for the State Legislature to pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, or so-called Red Flag Law, that empowers community members to report concerns about people in crisis, and give law enforcement and the legal system a way to temporarily take weapons out the hands of someone who may harm themselves or others.

image of school resource officer presenting to a groupSpecial Presentations
As part of the kickoff, several attendees gave presentations on key area of concerns:

  • “Active Shooter” presentation by Joe Tadrick, Protective Security Advisor, US Dept. of Homeland Security, Office of Infrastructure Protection.
  • School Resource Officers training presentation (SRO) by Sergeant Amery Bernhardt of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety
  • Mental Health training and services presentation by Commissioner Michael Orth, Westchester County Department of Public Health.
  • Presentation on student health and education privacy laws (FERPA/HIPAA) by Attorney Adrienne Arkontaky, V.P./Managing Attorney at Cuddy Law Firm, White Plains

Next Steps
The members of WSSC are assigned to committees to work on specific research and reporting. The two committees are “Crisis Management” and “Threat Prevention and Intervention.” They will collaborate on how to evaluate and secure buildings in advance of and during an incident; how to communicate with law enforcement, other facilities, families and students before, during and after an incident; learn awareness about the red flags that a person in crisis may be exhibiting; and train teachers, staff and volunteers in these best practices. Dates for future meetings are pending. The WSSC expects to release a report by the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

County Executive Latimer said of the Commission:  “As Westchester school children head back for the beginning of the year, County officials are continually working to ensure the safety of all of our schools. This Commission, a joint effort between my Administration and DA Scarpino, is tasked with finding solutions which meet the needs of all parties involved by both keeping our children safe while also making sure schools are places where our kids feel at ease and can focus on learning. That is why these efforts and those undertaken by our County Police, including constantly working to be prepared through communication and training for any type of horrific incident, are so important. I look forward to many positive meetings like the one we held today.”

Scarpino reminded the gathering that the School Safety Commission supports the District Attorney’s mission to create a safer community. “By bringing together a group of stakeholders with the knowledge, expertise and communications skills to develop protocols focused on keeping our schools safe places for teaching and learning, we will be better positioned to respond to and take a more proactive approach to possible threats in the future.”