Lawyer Kenneth Thompson, advocate for victims in high-profile cases, throws hat into ring for Brooklyn DA

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Attorney Kenneth Thompson

Attorney Kenneth Thompson, the lawyer for Nafissatou Diallo, speaks to the media outside of a Manhattan court on August 23, 2011 in New York City. The Manhattan District Attorney's office has filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Strauss-Kahn by Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Kenneth Thompson, the prominent New York defense attorney and the lawyer who represented hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo in the recent suit against Dominique Strauss Kahn, announced his plans to run against incumbent Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes this fall.  Charles Hynes has been the Brooklyn District Attorney for the past 23 years.

Thompson, a founding partner at Thompson Wigdor, LLP, is an experienced trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor with many high profile cases under his belt, including the successful prosecution of an NYPD police officer for beating and torturing Abner Louima.

Thompson says his decision to jump into the race goes back to his family values.  “It all comes back to my mother, Clara Thompson,” he told theGrio about his bid for Brooklyn District Attorney. “As a single mother raising three young children in New York City public housing projects, and struggling to provide for her family, she did not collapse under the pressure she faced – instead she fought for our future.”

Thompson’s mother was a police officer in New York City who joined the force in 1973.  “[M]y mother became one of the first female police officers ever to patrol the streets of our city. She served the people of New York – putting her life on the line every day – for 21 years.”  Thompson says he will use his mother’s legacy as a model for justice and fairness, as he seeks the role of Brooklyn’s District Attorney.

His run against the incumbent Democrat, Hynes, and another challenger, Abe George, has the added benefit of being financed by a number of high profile donors including an assistant to comedian Chris Rock, Pauletta Washington (who is married to Oscar winner Denzel Washington), and former Jets quarterback Curtis Martin.  Thompson raised $341, 568 in the latest filing period. His campaign has $264,252 in cash on hand.

Thompson acknowledges that, “Brooklyn is maybe the best-known county in the country – and it’s in a tremendous position to lead the nation on criminal justice issues.”

One criminal justice issue that has grabbed the national spotlight this year is the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, which Thompson says is, “clearly an overused tactic in Brooklyn and throughout New York City, but it can also be a valuable law enforcement tool – if used in the right way. Specifically, the necessary standard of ‘reasonable suspicion’ must be met to guarantee that the civil rights of all New Yorkers are protected, and to produce evidence that is useful to prosecutors.”

“When stop-and-frisk is done right, it can save lives. But when it’s done wrong, it can only erode the relationship between the community and the police,” says Thompson.

Thompson’s representation of Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault is a prime example of his lifelong mission to be “an effective and strong advocate for victims — victims of violence, discrimination at work, civil rights abuses and sexual assault.”

Thompson saw himself as an advocate for a female victim going up against not only a “media circus,” but also a man who was planning to run to become the president of France. After successfully representing Diallo, Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not run for the French presidency.

“I’m honored that I was able to get her justice in the civil courts, so that she and her young daughter can now put the pieces of their lives back together and continue to pursue the great promise of America,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s legal experience on the side of victims, from Louima to Ms. Diallo, is clearly attractive to donors, as both he and the other challenger Abe George, are outraising District Attorney Hynes at this point in the race.

“We’ve only been fundraising in earnest for about a month now, and this is just the beginning,” Thompson said.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell at @ZerlinaMaxwell