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Longtime Queens District Attorney Richard Brown Dies At 86

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Long-serving District Attorney Richard Brown has passed away.

The 86-year-old served as Queens' prosecutor for 27 years. He passed away Friday night, reports CBS2's Lisa Rozner.

Brown announced in January that he would not seek re-election but would serve out the end of his term. Then, in March, he said he would step down on June 1 because of health problems associated with Parkinson's disease.

Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan was sworn in on Saturday as acting district attorney.

When Brown took office as Queens district attorney in 1991, crime was at record highs. Through his seven terms, he earned a reputation for being the first in the office, last to leave, and worked weekends. He regularly visited crime scenes.

"He was a person of conviction and personal integrity on what he felt was right or wrong, and he didn't bend with the wind," said Councilman Rory Lancman.

"Judge Brown - as he has long been affectionately called - was a public servant like no other. He topped a spectacular judicial career and was appointed the district attorney of Queens County in 1991 by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. He was proud to serve the millions of people of Queens for nearly 28 years and was re-elected  to six terms in office," said Chief Assistant District Attorney John M. Ryan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo mourned Brown as "a giant of the legal community and dedicated public servant."

"Richard Brown was committed to making this city safer and brought hundreds of men and women into law enforcement," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "Our prayers are with Judge Brown's family and loved ones."

Queens DA Richard Brown
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announces indictments against three police officers involved in the Nov. 25, 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell on March 19, 2007 at the Queens County District Attorney's Office in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

"I thank the people of Queens for their much appreciated support over the years. It is has been my honor to serve you. I particularly want to express my appreciation to all those who have worked so professionally and diligently in this office as Assistant District Attorneys, Investigators and members of our support staff. Together we have built what I believe to be one of the finest prosecutor's offices in the country," Brown said in a statement when he announced his retirement.

FLASHBACKRichard Brown Becoming Longest-Tenured DA In Queens History

Ryan said in a statement announcing the judge's passing:

Judge Brown's goal as District Attorney from the very start was to elevate the standard of professionalism by hiring on merit, not political connections. And he made it a priority to have the most talented, capable and dedicated professionals imaginable. 

Together with his law enforcement colleagues throughout New York City, Judge Brown contributed greatly to making this City the safest big city in the nation. His District Attorney's Office created one of the State's first Drug Courts, as well as Mental Health Courts and Veterans Court - all very successful over the years and their models duplicated across the country.

Many programs followed - a Domestic Violence Bureau, the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Animal Cruelty Unit and most recently the Queens Treatment Intervention Program (Q-TIP) created to address the scourge of opioid addiction by providing a second chance for addicts to avoid criminal prosecution and to literally save lives. 

Judge Brown loved working for the people of Queens. He would often be the first person in the office and very likely the last to leave every day - and sometimes on weekends too. He was known to visit crime scenes, meet with victims and work tirelessly to give them justice.

In January, Judge Brown announced that he would not seek re-election and in March he decided that on June 1, 2019, he would step down due to increasing health problems associated with Parkinson's disease.

The Judge died last night. He is survived by his wife Rhoda, their three children Karen, Todd and his wife Monica, and Lynn and her husband Bruce. Judge Brown was exceedingly proud of his granddaughters Leah, who is entering her last year at West Point, and Alana, who will start her first year at West Point in September.

He was re-elected to six terms in office until his announcement of not seeking re-election this year.

The Queens DA will also be remembered for the major cases he prosecuted.

Notable cases prosecuted under brown include the police involved shooting death of Sean Bell on Bell's wedding day in 2006, and more recently, the Chanel Lewis trial for the death of Karina Vetrano.

In 1996, he won a conviction against the "Zodiac" killer, who murdered three people. And in 2001, he successfully prosecuted the two men who carried out the Wendy's massacre in Flushing, where five people died.

"This was as horrendous a crime as one could possibly imagine," Brown said at the time.

Before becoming district attorney, Brown served as a judge, and even presided over the arraignment for the notorious "Son of Sam" killer in 1977.

Brown's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, Queens.


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