Press Release: DA Candidate Florence Releases 2021 State Legislative Priorities

Diana Florence

NEW YORK, NY — Today, Manhattan District Attorney candidate Diana Florence announced her legislative priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session- including Carlos’s Law, Rape is Rape, marijuana legalization, and race-based false reporting as a hate crime.

“As the next Manhattan DA, I will not only use the current criminal law to holistically approach each case but direct the office to identify loopholes and partner with lawmakers to close them. We will advocate for laws that strengthen the rights of survivors of sexual abuse and fix our lopsided system that favors the rich and powerful over immigrants, workers, and communities of color. Together we can create a legal framework that ensures opportunity and justice for all,” said Diana Florence, candidate for Manhattan DA.

Carlos’s Law (S621)- Florence helped draft this legislation after winning a historic victory against Harco Construction in the death of Carlos Moncayo – a 22 year-old construction worker who was buried alive at a construction site. The law raises the maximum fine for corporations who kill or injure a person from ten thousand dollars to one million dollars.

Wage Theft (S4405/A6795) – Florence helped draft this bill with Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) to reclassify wage theft as the more serious crime of larceny.

Proposed Legislation: Prosecutorial Misconduct Crime- Florence takes prosecutorial misconduct seriously, especially if that misconduct is used to purposefully convict, prosecute, and/or incarcerate an individual. Florence proposes a bill that a prosecutor who knowingly and intentionally withholds information proving the innocence of an individual convicted of or charged with a crime, he or she shall be guilty of a felony and investigated by the state Attorney General.

Adult Survivors Act (S66/A648)- The Adult Survivors Act would allow survivors of sexual abuse – who were over 18 at the time of their abuse – a one year lookback window to file a civil claim no matter how long ago the abuse happened. The ASA is modeled on the Child Victims Act, and is especially necessary to afford survivors a chance at civil justice when the criminal system has failed them. DA Vance failed to prosecute Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and Dr. Robert Hadden to the fullest extent of the law leaving many survivors beyond the criminal statute of limitations. The next DA must not only aggressively prosecute the powerful, but advocate vociferously for the people- particularly women- Vance failed.

Rape is Rape (A749/S8279)- The rape statute is currently defined as vaginal penetration and treats oral and anal sexual conduct as separate crimes not included in rape. The “rape is rape” bill would remove the penetration requirement to prove rape and define it as either vaginal, anal, or oral “contact.” Expanding the definition to include anal or oral contact would also codify into law the reality that men and trans people can be raped. The current statute is based on the model penal code, drafted in 1962, which relied on outdated notions of sex, including the idea that sex between men was deviant, and therefore confined to the lesser count of sexual assault. The NYS District Attorney’s Association needlessly opposed this bill. DA Vance claimed it would create an insurmountable hindrance to consecutive sentencing. In fact, a simple clarification in the bill language would have allowed prosecutors across New York to more easily hold rapists accountable.

Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (S1527B)- Introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger, this bill would legalize growing and the use of cannabis by persons twenty-one years of age or older and exempts certain persons from prosecution for the use, consumption, display, production or distribution of cannabis. Florence believes our current laws on marijuana prohibition disproportionately targets communities of color and used as a crime of poverty.

CCTV Testimony for Domestic Violence Victims (S609)- This bill would authorize closed-circuit television testimony for the survivors of domestic violence when testifying in court. Florence began her career prosecuting domestic violence cases, and was the first to prosecute a domestic violence case without the witness in open court.

Exonerees Right to Re-entry (S477/A34)- Exonerees should be entitled to the same re-entry services- public housing, claims court, and other benefits- as other formerly incarcerated persons, as well as additional benefits to ameliorate their wrongful conviction.

EMPIRE Worker Protection Act (S12)- This bill would empower workers to file claims against their employers if and when they endanger their workers and violate State law.

Releasing Grand Jury For Historical Importance (S316)- Any person should be able to petition for the release of records of grand jury proceedings on the ground of enduring historical importance. As written in her CNN op-ed, “The grand jury system has endured because its intent was to prioritize the rights of the innocent….But what the [Breonna] Taylor case makes clear is that secrecy can also be used to subvert justice.”

Less is More NY Act (S1343C/A5493)- This bill ensures that The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision focuses resources on helping people successfully complete community supervision and avoid any future return to DOCCS custody or supervision.

Prohibiting Firearms For Those Convicted of Hate Crimes (S2361A/A6262)- From 2010-2015, roughly 46,500 hate crimes involved a gun nationwide. This bill would both protect our city’s diverse populations and prevent gun violence that would target vulnerable communities.

Race Based, False Reporting Calls- In light of this summer when Amy Cooper falsely called 911 on Christian Cooper (no relation) in Central Park, State Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz planned to introduce a bill that would classify racially motivated false reporting calls as a hate crime. Florence and co-author Joey Jackson welcomed the legislation in their joint CNN op-ed.

 

Background:

Diana Florence began her career as a prosecutor 25 years ago in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, focusing on domestic violence cases, then complex frauds and corruption in the Special Prosecutions Bureau and Labor Racketeering Unit, and later becoming the head of the first of its kind Construction Fraud Task Force. She won landmark convictions against companies and individuals for defrauding 9/11 charities, corruption, domestic violence, wage theft, and deadly work conditions. She has taught trial advocacy for over two decades to lawyers in the DA’s Office and has lectured investigators and lawyers from around the world on topics ranging from inter-agency cooperation to prosecuting fraud, racketeering and workplace homicide.

As an ADA, Diana held powerful interests accountable by prosecuting developers and corrupt corporations for cheating workers and taxpayers. In an historic case against Harco Construction, she ultimately secured justice for the family of a 22 year-old construction worker, Carlos Moncayo, who was buried alive at work. Using the existing criminal law, Diana charged the corporations and site supervisors, who had been repeatedly warned of hazardous conditions, with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for Moncayo’s death. As a result, she drafted legislation (A10728) named after Carlos Moncayo, known as “Carlos’ Law” that would establish higher fines for corporations for endangering workers’ lives.

Diana has made prosecuting wage theft a centerpiece of her career, notably working alongside IronWorkers Local 361 to secure $6 million in stolen wages and back-pay from AGL Industries. Diana subsequently wrote a bill (A06795) with Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) to reclassify wage theft as the more serious crime of larceny. Other jurisdictions- like the Pittsburgh City Council and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner- subsequently created similar prosecution models for wage theft.

Diana has worked side-by-side with community based groups, unions, workers centers, and government agencies to create an innovative prosecution model heavily rooted in broad based participation. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker.

She has previously published opinion pieces in CNN, The New York Daily News, El Diario, AM New York, and City Limits, lending her legal expertise to current issues.

 

Platform:

Diana Florence wants to make a new PACT (Power, Accountability, Community and Trust) with New York that puts people first. PACT prioritizes prosecuting “crimes of power”, being accountable and transparent about the decisions of the DA, and working side-by-side with community stakeholders.

As an ADA, Diana created an innovative model of collaborative prosecution known as co-enforcement. Co-enforcement is based on knowledge instead of assumptions. It relies on collaboration with community partners to determine what justice looks like which then drives the priorities of investigation and prosecution. It starts with working alongside advocates, labor unions, tenants, worker centers, elected officials, industry groups, community leaders – the very people who are affected by crimes of power to ascertain the needs and values of the community. Using co-enforcement, the Construction Fraud Task Force Diana led built a trusting relationship with the community it served and together achieved success.

 

Biography:

Born in Manhattan, Diana is a long-time resident of Kips Bay where she lives with her husband and two children. Diana graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, receiving a BA in Art History with a concentration in Spanish as well as her law degree.