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.

Marijuana Prosecution Reform Goes into EffectWestchester County District Attorney Scarpino Implements Marijuana Prosecution Reform

Changes in Prosecution of Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Penal Law § 221.05) and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the 5th Degree (Penal Law § 221.10) to take effect Monday, Jan. 14, 2019

Jan. 11, 2019 White Plains, NY -- In a continuing effort to promote fairness in how crime is prosecuted, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. is implementing changes in the handling of low-level marijuana offenses in Westchester County. Under this new policy, the possession of small amounts (two ounces or less) of marijuana will no longer result in a criminal conviction negating the collateral damage such a conviction might impose.

The changes in prosecution of these current laws with take effect Monday, Jan. 14, 2019:
• Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (Penal Law § 221.05, a Violation)
• Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree (Penal Law § 221.10, a Class B misdemeanor)

Specifically, the District Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute (i) the violation offense in Penal Law §221.05, Unlawful Possession of Marijuana, and (ii) the B misdemeanor offense in Penal Law §221.10 (2), Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Fifth Degree, based on the possession of an aggregate weight of more than 25 grams, provided the person is only charged with those offenses.

Regarding the second charge, the DA’s Office will prosecute the B misdemeanor offense in Penal Law §221.10 (1) only as a violation (under Penal Law §221.05 for the Unlawful Possession of Marijuana) when a person possesses, in a public place, burning or publicly viewable marijuana, provided the person is only charged with this offense. This will avoid the stigma of a criminal record for many of our young people with long-lasting negative consequences disproportionate to the minor nature of the offense.

The District Attorney’s review of the prosecution of lower level marijuana offenses is ongoing and further changes will be announced as they are adopted.

DA Scarpino said, “After a careful review of marijuana cases in Westchester, as well as discussions with police, community leaders and advocates, we have made the decision to change how we prosecute such offenses. This decision not to prosecute specific cases will allow many people to move forward with their lives without the stigma attached to criminal records of any kind, records that cause discrimination in housing, job and school applications. Much of this has burdened our minority communities and we believe it is time to rectify that.”

DA Scarpino added, “This change in how low-level marijuana cases are handled is also aimed at a better use of public resources. What has been spent on arrests and prosecutions can now be used to focus on more serious crimes.”

Beyond this decision, DA Scarpino is urging Governor Cuomo and state legislators to create a uniform approach to prosecuting marijuana offenses and end the disparity currently in place from county to county.

This progressive action by the DA’s Office follows bail reform, which was announced last year at this time. The DA’s Office no longer requests bail for defendants whose cases would not end in a sentence of incarceration, eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors. The office found bail on non-violent low-level offenses where the defendant was not a flight risk weighed heavily on poorer defendants.

DA Scarpino said, “These reforms in the bail process and marijuana prosecution are illustrations of our commitment to a fairer system of justice that works for every member of our community, no matter where they live, the color of their skin or the amount in their wallets.”

The DA’s Office reserves the right to continue to prosecute all other marijuana-related offenses.

image of speaker and audienceOn Nov. 7, 2018, the Westchester Jewish Council held its quarterly security roundtable, a working meeting for security officers and officials from synagogue and community centers throughout the county concerned with the safety and welfare of their members. More than 80 attended. While the group has been meeting since 2001, this night had more urgency. It was less than a week after the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 congregants died. Council member Elizabeth Lampert, event co-chair, opened the meeting with a moment of silence and explained that 11 empty chairs in the front of the room represented those who lost their lives. The Council, as the Jewish community’s first responder, facilitates communications and best practices of security among member organizations. 

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr., as the county’s chief law enforcement officer, addressed the group, recommitting the resources of the District Attorney’s Office and its Westchester Intelligence Center to helping secure all sites where residents gather “whether in an urban church, a community mosque, a suburban synagogue, a movie theater, a club or a yoga studio.” Scarpino stressed, “We should not accept hate perpetuated against our innocent brothers and sisters for their religion, race, or the color of their skin.”

Andrew Ludlum, Acting Director of the Westchester Intelligence Center (WIC), with his deep experience as an FBI agent involved in counter-terrorism, delivered a step-by-step outline of how to assess security issues at properties, secure those sites, and monitor possible threats. He explained the WIC’s mission in relation to security in Westchester County. It is to collect, analyze and disseminate actionable intelligence regarding threats and other safety issues to Westchester County law enforcement and to provide community briefings, like this one, regarding public safety to organizations within the county.

Only a few hours later, another mass shooting rocked America, an attack on a local club in Thousand Oaks, California. DA Scarpino issued this statement:

“Just last night, I met with the Westchester Jewish Council at their security roundtable as they continue to find the best possible ways to secure their synagogues and community centers. I spoke about the viciousness of mass violence in America, which strikes our places of worship, our schools and the places we gather to relax and have fun. Last night, just hours later, a gunman killed 12 people at a bar and dance hall in suburban California. Young lives were lost and so was the life of a career law enforcement officer – Ventura County Sherriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus. Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families, friends and colleagues. I said last night, we are all traumatized by these unspeakable acts. But, our trauma should not freeze us. Instead, it should make us more vigilant.”

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).

Meet our ADAs

  • 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 breadth 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.