Queens Leads NYC in Prosecuting Abusers

Posted on: Monday, October 25, 2010

Keywords: Queens domestic violence, domestic violence convictions, Safe Horizon government affairs, Family Justice Center, Scott Kessler, Queens District Attorney's office

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Scott Kessler, Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau in the Queens County District Attorney’s office, has long been a fierce advocate for victims of domestic violence.  Safe Horizon staff work closely with ADA Kessler at the Queens Family Justice Center and in Criminal Court, and have found him to be a valuable partner in providing assistance to victims.  The New York Daily News took notice of ADA Kessler’s success in prosecuting offenders who prey on the borough’s most vulnerable population -- immigrant women replica watches.

Michael Polenberg, Safe Horizon’s Vice President of Government Affairs, spoke to the Daily News reporter about the innovative approach that ADA Kessler takes to prosecuting offenders in the city’s most diverse borough.

(QUEENS, NY - 10/25/10) - Queens prosecutors are leading the city in locking up wife beaters, despite traditions and fears that keep many foreign-born victims from cooperating with authorities.
In the most diverse county in the nation, prosecutors have an astonishing 62% conviction rate of batterers - almost double the 33% conviction rate in the rest of the city, state figures show.
"They've done a terrific job bridging cultural barriers," said Michael Polenberg of Safe Horizon, a victim advocacy group.
"A lot of cultures in Queens and throughout the world are patriarchal," said Scott Kessler, chief of the domestic violence bureau of the Queens district attorney's office, describing the daunting challenge confronting him.
"Women are embarrassed, shamed and it is against their cultural beliefs to press a case against their husbands," he said.
He's made it his mission to persuade women to take on their abusers in court. But if that fails, he turns to old-fashioned shoe-leather investigative techniques.
Statistics show abusers should think twice before using their fists in Queens.
Just 13% of Queens domestic violence arrests last year ended in acquittal or charges dropped by prosecutors -  compared with the citywide average of 60.4% in the other boroughs.
Take, for instance, the case last year against disgraced Queens pol Hiram Monserrate, convicted of striking his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, in the face with a broken glass.
When Giraldo refused to cooperate, Kessler used surveillance video of Monserrate dragging her out of his apartment building in December 2008, blood streaming down her face.
Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault and expelled from the state Senate.
Kessler's team faced similar hurdles in prosecuting Mohammed Kahn, who in 2008 walked into the assisted-living facility where his wife, Nazreen, worked and repeatedly hacked her with a meat cleaver.
When the case came to trial this year, Nazreen Kahn, a 37-year-old Guyanese native who had fled her home after more than a decade of abuse, told jurors she couldn't identify her attacker.
" She told me, 'In my culture, if a woman [walks out on] her husband, she deserves what comes to her,'" said Assistant District Attorney Joyce Smith, who prosecuted Mohammed Kahn.
Prosecutors persuaded Queens Supreme Court Justice William Erlbaum to allow them to tell jurors that Nazreen Kahn refused to take the stand because she feared her husband.
Jurors were convinced. They found Mohammed Kahn, 44, guilty of assault. In May, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
by Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
"Queens reigns supreme with whopping 62% conviction rate for wife beaters"

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