tali farhadian weinstein
Tali Farhadian Weinstein is a self-styled “progressive prosecutor”, a claim easily contradicted by her track record and her campaign proposals. She has amassed a resume of well-regarded, elite positions in public service, resulting in a campaign supported by wealthy donors and peppered with famous endorsements. In her campaign materials, she holds herself out to be a “national expert on the transformation of local prosecution happening around the country today”, but in our interview professed absolute comfort with the status quo, to the extent she understood it. We have significant concerns about her propensity to cause harm to Black and brown communities in Manhattan.
Farhadian Weinstein clerked for Sandra Day O’Connor and Merrick Garland, was counsel to former Attorney General Eric Holder, worked as a federal prosecutor, and, most recently, was an executive in the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. Much of Farhadian Weinstein’s experience is in the federal system rather than in state prosecutions and this was clear throughout her interview. For a national expert she lacked a practical understanding of the impact of local prosecutions on communities most impacted by the policies and practices of Vance’s office. She also claimed to not be familiar with many of those well-known policies and practices because she had never practiced in Manhattan. Whatever the reason, it was clear she had significant gaps in her understanding, a troubling oversight for a person running on a promise to reform the office. Her plans would make her a carceral prosecutor steeped in regressive policies from sentencing to bail, to her potential expansion of the DA’s personnel and budget to support the “expensive” reforms she plans to implement.
Farhadian Weinstein seeks to incorporate many of the most insidious tools of mass incarceration and criminalization in her prosecutorial approach. She would borrow sentencing policies from her federal practice that amount to a trial tax, has a willingness to prosecute cases despite the wishes of a victim, and would continue to prosecute crimes stemming from poverty, mental illness, and substance use. Although she touts reform initiatives that she worked on in Brooklyn, the reality of these programs — such as the gun part and its associated alternative to incarceration programs — too often further entangle people in the criminal punishment system. During our interview, she generally refused to make categorical commitments which we presented as solutions for systemic change and made clear a desire to maintain the discretionary ability to prosecute low-level offenses. Unlike most other candidates, she does not have a list of charges she will decline to prosecute.
One particular area of concern was Farhadian Weinstein’s positions on race and policing. Her approach to racism seems academic; while she does agree that racism in the criminal punishment system exists, as evidenced by data, she would not dismantle any of the systemic mechanisms that perpetrate racism in state prosecutions. She indicated that her office would continue to use the NYPD’s widely-discredited rogue Gang Database as an investigatory tool and potential basis for bail enhancements and voiced support for current gang policing practices, which are abusive and racist in application. She would continue to use conspiracy charges against young New Yorkers, which would inevitably result in unjust dragnet prosecutions such as that of the Bronx 120. Throughout the interview, we noted several other red flags regarding her attitude towards the NYPD. Despite the disbanding of the Anti-Crime Unit in June 2020, public calls to disband the Vice Unit, and rigorous critique of the Strategic Response Group, Farhadian Weinstein could not name a single unit within the NYPD that was problematic.
Farhadian Weinstein made clear that she does not believe the criminal punishment system is fundamentally and irreparably broken, but rather that it simply needs ethical prosecutors operating within it — a model that has repeatedly failed to bring the sort of transformative change so desperately needed. She is clearly knowledgeable about the critiques of the criminal punishment system and current national reform trends, but makes no commitments to how she would implement any actual changes at the local level. She lacks basic familiarity with fundamental aspects of this office, such as the DA’s relationship with the pro-carceral District Attorney Association of New York or current policies and practices under Vance’s leadership that are publicly criticized. Her proposed reforms amount to tinkering around the edges of the Manhattan DA’s functions without fundamentally changing the scope or abusive day-to-day operations of the office.
She will neither decrease the power of the District Attorney’s office nor the number of people trapped in its scope. She has considerable propensity to inflict significant harm on Black and brown communities.