By Jose Martinez (NY Post)
May 25, 2012
A top sex-crimes prosecutor from the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office is out — just weeks after a sensational sex-trafficking case on her watch began unraveling, The Post has learned.
Lauren Hersh, who headed the sex-trafficking unit under DA Charles Hynes, resigned yesterday, sources said.
The reasons for Hersh's departure are unclear, although her resignation came less than a month after the veteran prosecutor was accused of failing to disclose that a troubled young woman from Crown Heights had recanted rape allegations one day after she made them.
"She was not asked to resign or forced to resign," a Hynes spokesman insisted.
Hersh's sudden departure stunned officials in the DA's office, a source said.
"They were surprised," the source said. "She didn't leave a reason for why she was leaving."
The headline-grabbing case — in which four black men were accused of beating, raping and pimping out an Orthodox Jewish woman for eight years, starting when she was 13 — took a serious hit last month, when two of the men were freed after spending more than a year behind bars.
Darrell Dula, 25, and Damien Crooks, 32, were sprung amid allegations that Hersh knew almost immediately that the purported victim wasn't credible, but didn't turn that information over to defense lawyers.
"How could this happen?" said James Phillips, a lawyer for Dula. "This was a unit chief who presented this case to a grand jury. They had a big press conference, and they were quick to label Mr. Dula as a predator. Yet, they had all these documents in their possession stating the facts were wrong."
Hersh, 36, did not return calls seeking comment.
The arrests of Dula, Crooks and brothers Jawari and Jamali Brockett were touted at a June 2011 press conference at which prosecutors said the victim had been forced to "perform sexually humiliating acts."
But it was revealed last month that newly discovered documents showed the purported victim, now 22, backed off her claims one day after making them in March 2010. She had also said that she'd long had a consensual relationship with Crooks.
"Had the information been made available at the start of the case, [Crooks] likely never would have been incarcerated," said Elliot Kay, a lawyer for Crooks.
Red-faced prosecutors announced when Crooks was freed April 27 that they were "conducting a reinvestigation of this matter."
"This is a true miscarriage of justice," Phillips said. "Those documents should have been made available."
The four men, all of whom have long rap sheets, are still facing criminal charges in the case now being handled by Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Gingold, who took it over in April.
"The district attorney's office chose to provide us only what documents they wanted us to see," Phillips said.
"[Hersh's] departure does not eliminate the need for a thorough investigation by Mr. Hynes."