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Clueless Joe, Time To Go

November 5, 2007

It’s time for Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes to do the right thing — resign.

After two decades in office Hynes still loves looking at himself in the mirror, so he probably won’t step down. But maybe he’ll do the next best thing: announce he will not seek re-election in 2009.

It’s not merely that the D.A. blew one of the biggest cases of his career, following revelations that his star witness, mob moll Linda Schiro, gave a contradictory version of events to reporters Tom Robbins and Jerry Capeci.

It is that Hynes knew what he was dealing with in Schiro. Her stories changed with the wind.

"There's no way we would have brought a prosecution if we had that information," Hynes said after dropping his case against ex-FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio.

Largely on Schiro’s testimony, Hynes had charged DeVecchio with leaking law enforcement secrets to the mob that led to four murders.

But a decade ago Schiro told Robbins and Capeci that DeVecchio had played no role in at least three of them. Robbins had the tape to prove it.

The Post reported Saturday that two months before Hynes indicted DeVecchio, writer Sandy Harmon had alerted Hynes’ office in an email about Schiro’s interviews with Robbins and Capeci.

And Hynes’ own detective, Thomas Dades, told the Daily News yesterday that Schiro had also told him about her contradictory versions of events.

“So for anyone to say they are surprised now that she had inconsistent stories, they aren’t being truthful,” Dades was quoted as saying.

Don’t think for a moment that Hynes was taken in, as he would like you to believe. He may be lots of things but an ingénue he is not.

In fact Hynes is a consummate pro, when he chooses to be. That’s what makes his indictment of DeVecchio, in light of all he knew about Schiro, so disturbing.

When DeVecchio’s indictment was announced a year and half ago, Hynes held a news conference, with maps, diagrams, flow charts, timelines and pictures of the victims.

He called DeVeccho’s actions in leaking information to Scarpa “the most stunning example of official corruption I have ever seen.”

Such sincerity characterized Hynes in his salad days as a prosecutor. After his election as Brooklyn D.A. in 1989, his first spokesman, Pat Clark was quoted as saying when he departed the News to work for him, “I believe in Joe Hynes.”

Your Humble Servant did too.

What happened since then? Since becoming district attorney, he’s become a different person. The enthusiasm has turned to cynicism.

Bored in his job, he tried to run for attorney general, then governor, but got nowhere close to either office. He hired former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden for $125,000 a year as something like a community liaison, while making sweetheart deals with Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews, whose political support he sought.

Take the case of Simon Jacobson, who the NYPD’s special frauds unit tracked after he bilked people out of their life savings. Hynes indicted Jacobson but dropped charges for what he said was lack of evidence, although three witnesses were prepared to testify against him. It turned out Jacobson’s lawyer happened to be the husband of Hynes’ liaison to the borough’s orthodox Jewish community.

Hynes is not Mike Nifong, the North Carolina prosecutor who knowingly indicted the three Duke University lacrosse players on charges they raped a black stripper in their fraternity house, despite evidence to the contrary.

The difference is that there is evidence, even as the case of DeVecchio revealed, of dangerous liaisons between the FBI and the Mob. We already know about Boston, where two special agents were convicted of the same crimes DeVecchio was accused of — giving information to Irish mobster Whitey Bulger, which allowed him to clip to his Italian rivals.

Bulger, who disappeared some years ago, is now, ironically, on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

Then there’s that 1964 Mississippi civil rights/murder case. Never acknowledged, or refuted by the FBI are reports that the Bureau recruited Scarpa to help solve the Ku Klux Klan murders of three civil rights workers. Schiro testified to this in DeVecchio’s trial and presiding judge Gustin Reichbach blasted the FBI for their actions.

Instead of pursuing Schiro for perjury as Hynes has threatened to do — [It’s a no-win proposition, Joe, you’ll only look worse.] — perhaps as his last good deed, he can pressure the Bureau into admitting they actually used Scarpa to do their dirty work.

In the interests of good government, this reporter last week sent an e-mail seeking an answer to that question to Lane Bonner, the late J. Edgar Hoover’s spokesman, who is still around and kicking. No response from Mr. B.

This reporter sent a similar e-mail to the Bureau’s current stealth spokesman John Miller. No response from him as well.

And no response from Hynes’ spokesman as to the chances of his retirement.

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Copyright © 2007 Leonard Levitt