Given that Karen Friedman Agnifilo had a lot of experience in sex crimes, her involvement would have been invaluable. Instead she was forced to tuck herself away. Eventually the charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn were dismissed under a case that famously collapsed. During the preceding 18 months, the Agnifilos had found themselves in similarly entangled situations two dozen times.
In his acclaimed 2017 book, “The Chickenshit Club,” the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jesse Eisinger begins with the question of how it came to pass that virtually no one was prosecuted in regard to the 2008 financial crisis. He determines that a growing sense of coziness and collusion between the business and legal professions, emergent since the beginning of the current century, have limited both the ability and commitment of prosecutors to tackle corporations and the people who run them. Several years ago, Eric Holder, who has endorsed Ms. Farhadian Weinstein (she worked for him in the Obama Justice Department), briefly embraced the idea that certain banks are “too big to jail.”
Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights lawyer who is essentially a dismantlist, sits at a very different end of the continuum. She is in favor of cutting the budget of the police department by 50 percent, and her antipathy to incarceration extends to a refusal to prosecute a long list of offenses, including harassment in the second degree, which, as Ms. Farhadian Weinstein astutely pointed out in the most recent debate, would include shoving a person on a subway platform out of bias.
Even the Five Boro Defenders, a group of lawyers and social justice advocates deeply sympathetic to Ms. Aboushi’s worldview, pointed out in their voting guide that they found it “concerning” that “she frequently lacked a clear understanding or vision” for accomplishing her objectives. Some opposed to Ms. Aboushi’s approach resent her inclusion in a race that they worry could detract from the other leading progressive, Alvin Bragg, the only Black candidate in the field. Nonetheless, Ms. Aboushi has the support of the influential Working Families Party.
A native of Harlem, the son of a math teacher and a father who worked in social welfare, Mr. Bragg has a long and impressive résumé, having served as a federal prosecutor under Preet Bharara (who has endorsed him) and in various top positions in the state attorney general’s office. There he oversaw an investigation into the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program and found that only one-tenth of 1 percent of stops, over a period of three years, resulted in convictions for a violent crime. He also worked to repeal 50-a, the law that shielded the misbehaviors of the police from the public for so long.
“The thing about Alvin is that you don’t have to worry about his sincerity as a reformer,” Zephyr Teachout, the legal scholar who challenged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from the left in the Democratic primary six years ago. “He has done the work.”
Whoever becomes the next D.A. will inherit the case against the Trump Organization and all the major legacy potential that comes along with it. In the eyes of many New Yorkers, Manhattan’s next district attorney will either be the one to finally bring Donald Trump to account — or be remembered as the one who failed to do so. For the moment at least, there is no evidence that anyone running would need to back away from the challenge of that.