Thirty-five years ago, Robert Morgenthau began what is now hailed as a legendary run as the Manhattan district attorney. Yesterday was his last day. And in an exclusive interview he spoke to CBS 2 HD about the planned terror trials in New York City. What he said won’t make Washington happy.
On his last day Morgenthau had a steady stream of well-wishers. He has already heard “good luck” from mayors and presidents. But now, well, Thursday was for the staff, a farewell to the man they call simply “The Boss” – long before that fella from New Jersey.
It was a strangely empty room Thursday, but, characteristically, that boss of 35 years said his reputation is really because of his staff.
“The heavy lifting is all done by a lot of other people. And I’ve been lucky to have the best,” said Morgenthau, now 90.
CBS 2 HD: “But I’ve talked to your staff. And they’re here because of you. People want to come here — from every college in the United States — to practice criminal law. Here — because of you.”
Morgenthau: “Well, I mean the thing that I tell ’em: you prosecute cases without fear or favor; no case is too small; no case is too big. Strictly non-political.”
Strictly non-political huh? We decided to test this son of Democratic Party legends about the Democratic administration that’s moved the terror trials to New York.
CBS 2 HD: “Now let me use the parlance of your business: you’ve opened the door. Should they have those trials here? Or should they be in Guantanamo?”
Morgenthau: “I think trying it in New York City, in this crowded area, is a huge mistake. I mean, one thing people tend to forget: the reason that the World Trade Center was bombed was that the terrorists wanted to get the maximum public attention. And they knew that if it was in Manhattan, downtown Manhattan, they would be willing to give up their lives to do that. So, we’re just playing into their hands.”
Morgenthau made it clear: if it’s a civil trial, it should be in the continental United States. Just not, said the man known as “Mr. D.A.,” in New York City.
He hit us with a bombshell — on his last day.
Morgenthau will be replaced by Cyrus Vance Jr. Sis plans for the DA’s office include assigning prosecutors to focus on offenders with mental health problems and tasking teams of prosecutors to individual police precincts to drill down on crime patterns and prevention.