Cy Vance takes over as Manhattan DA

January 4, 2010 4:21:36 PM PST
The last time there was a new district attorney in Manhattan, Gerald Ford was president. The vietnam war hadn't ended, and New York was near bankruptcy. Now, for the first time since 1975, there's a new DA. Cyrus Vance, Jr. is the son of a former secretary of state, but is very much his own man. He was sworn in Monday evening. Vance is already hard at work. He started Friday as the top prosecutor in New York, replacing legendary DA Robert Morgenthau, who retired at 90 after more than three decades in office.

Vance defended his advocacy of rehab instead of prison time in some cases, saying that does not translate into soft on crime. He calls it just smart public safety.

"Where we can reduce crime by intelligent application of re-entry programming, alternatives to incarceration, utilizing programs that reduce crime, those go hand-in-hand with achieving public safety," he said.

In the last couple of weeks, Vance was faulted by some for hiring several top lawyers who once worked for Eliot Spitzer. Actually, it's only two out 11 top staffers, but still, Vance said he's glad to have them.

"Well Governor Spitzer hired a number of great people in his administration, and I think their talents are independent of his problems," Vance said.

Vance's priorities include a crackdown on white-collar crime, like the massive Ponzi scam run by Bernie Madoff. He also wants a new focus on domestic violence. And he wants his office out and about in the city, which is one reason why the ceremony was held at City College in Harlem.

"I don't know if it signals a change in how this office operates, but it certainly reflects my view that the Manhattan DA's office represents and serves all of Manhattan," he said.