Apr 9, 2009

Morgenthau on Charlie Rose

Last night, Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan's District Attorney, made an appearance on the Charlie Rose show. After 35 years as DA, Morgenthau is retiring and Rose took the opportunity to reflect on the 90-year-old's rich career.

In response to a question about the current crime problems in this borough, Morgenthau launched into a conversation about his recent prosecutions of entities that sold materials for weapons of mass destruction to Iran through fake companies based in New York (including a case where the English bank Lloyds TSB published a booklet for employees about how to strip identification off of Iranian money headed to the US for purchase of such materials). Another blossoming area of crime that Morgenthau cited was the practice of establishing tax shelters in foreign countries, particularly the Cayman Islands.

What was interesting about this conversation was the extent to which violent and property crime were only secondary crime problems for the District Attorney (to be fair, Morgenthau said multiple times that every crime is important to the victim, and that he had no particular feelings about the best or worst crime in his tenure). This goes without saying, perhaps, but it is hard to imagine any other county in New York (and perhaps in the United States), that has such a wide variety of crime problems with which to contend. While New York sees financial crime at a high frequency (just look at the list of recent prosecutions worthy of a press release from Morgenthau's office), it also contains neighborhoods that receive high numbers of people who have done time for drug crimes, theft, and violence -- most of which crimes they didn't commit in the Cayman Islands. While the jury is still out on who our next District Attorney will be, he or she should look forward to a kind of global crime portfolio. Hopefully, the new DA won't forget those Manhattan neighborhoods that are still contending with drug addition, property crime, and domestic violence.