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Bell loss not likely to harm DA Brown’s legacy

Queens DA Richard Brown has long said he looks forward to serving in office as long as the tenure of his Manhattan counterpart, 88-year-old Robert Morgenthau, who is in his 33rd year as DA and counting.

Although Brown lost the most high-profile case of his career Friday when Judge Arthur Cooperman ruled in favor of the three officers standing trial in the Sean Bell shooting, the decision will have no bearing on Brown's goal to remain in office, according to one political observer.

"It's inconceivable to me that this would have any impediment to his re-election," said Evan Stavisky, a consultant with the Parkside Group. "I can't see any circumstance where [the Bell case] would have a negative impact on his re-election."

Stavisky said Brown gave his best effort to win the Bell case.

"For more than 30 years, DA Brown has been one of the most widely respected attorneys in Queens," he said. "There's a good reason why he hasn't faced a competitive re-election opponent" for most of his career. "He's extremely respected by people from both sides of the aisle."

At a news conference he called following the verdict, Brown made the distinction that the case was considered by a judge instead of a jury and that Cooperman had to decide whether the officers were justified in shooting Bell.

"It is important to recognize the law of justification: The defendant is not required to prove justification," the DA said. "I don't want to get myself involved in trying and retrying this case. Bench trials are different from jury trials."

The DA noted that the criminal trial was just one forum to try the case.

"Criminal responsibility is different than civil responsibility," he said. "There are still a number of hurdles to cross before [the officers] are fully exonerated by the Police Department."

The lead assistant district attorney on the case, Charles Testagrossa, stood by the way the prosecution witnesses were handled amid criticism that they were not prepared or used properly.

"In this case, we presented 80 witnesses and called 52 to the stand," he said. "It's very easy for observers of a case to ask why we weren't calling witnesses to the stand, and we didn't try to force our witnesses to conform their testimony to one another."

Brown, who lives in Forest Hills, was an appellate state court judge when he was appointed Queens DA in June 1991 by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo. He was elected to serve his first full term as district attorney in November 1991, which was followed up by re-elections in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007.

While running for re-election last year, he ran unopposed.

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