White Plains, NY — Just 48 hours after being sworn in, newly elected Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah is not wasting anytime and hitting the ground running. On Wednesday, January 6th, Rocah announced appointments to her senior executive team, that she feels will bring to the DA’s office talented leaders with years of prosecutorial and other relevant experience.
“We are committed to having a seasoned leadership team that reflects the diversity of our county and is dedicated to keeping our communities safe and making our justice system more fair for all,” said Rocah. “With these appointments and more to come in the coming days and weeks, we will significantly increase diversity in race, gender and sexual orientation at the highest levels of the District Attorney’s office.”
In her remarks at a swearing-in and inauguration ceremony on Monday, Rocah said that the DA’s office would “foster new ideas and rethink systems that no longer work. And, most of all, help restore the public’s trust and confidence in our justice system.” She noted that “We are making overdue changes to address underrepresentation of people of color and women at the highest levels of the office through well-deserved promotions and hirings.”
Amy Finzi will serve as Rocah’s Chief Assistant District Attorney. Ms. Finzi was an award-winning federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where she tried numerous jury trials to verdict and argued many appeals before the Second Circuit. She specialized in multinational investigations of foreign drug organizations in Latin America and the Middle East, oversaw dozens of wiretap investigations and conducted Title III surveillance training for AUSAs across the country. She also worked on a wide variety of other federal criminal matters including domestic narcotics trafficking, violent robberies, various immigration and bank fraud offenses, and gun crimes. She is also a long-time board member of The Focus Forward Project, a criminal justice reform organization working to empower individuals charged with federal crimes to move beyond the stigmas of arrest and conviction.
Focus on Ethics
DA Rocah said that she “will demand the highest standards of integrity from the DA’s Office and the many police forces that serve Westchester County.” She noted that “The DA’s Office will now have more stringent ethical guidelines and a dedicated ethics officer to ensure that every prosecutor knows the immense responsibility of their position and has a place to turn for ethical guidance. We will have a zero tolerance policy for intentional prosecutorial misconduct, and we will increase training and enforcement on disclosure and integrity rules. We will review, as warranted, past police involved-killings, and establish protocols for working or declining to work with officers whose conduct is under investigation.”
Berit Berger will serve as Executive Assistant District Attorney for Policy and Strategic Initiatives and Chief Ethics Officer. Ms. Berger most recently served as the Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School, a partnership between the New York City Department of Investigation and Columbia Law School established to bolster municipal anti-corruption efforts across the country and around the globe. From 2007 to 2018, she was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for both the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. She worked on a wide variety of federal criminal matters including cases involving international terrorism, violent crime, trafficking and racketeering, and was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for Operation High Rise, an investigation and prosecution of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell that plotted to conduct suicide bombings on New York subway trains.
Increasing Diversity and Inclusion
“We now have an Executive-level Officer of Diversity and Inclusion who will work with a committee to coordinate internal office training, ensure diverse hiring and maintain an inclusive environment,” Rocah noted in her remarks.
Lila E. Kirton was promoted to the new role of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Intergovernmental Affairs and Criminal Justice Initiatives and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and will continue to direct the Office of Immigrant Affairs. Ms. Kirton joined the Westchester District Attorney’s Office in 2017 after serving as Chief of Staff for the Westchester County Board of Legislators. Prior to that, she spent 16 years in the Office of the New York State Attorney General in a number of positions, including Bureau Chief of the Legal Recruitment Bureau and head of the Department of Law Diversity Committee. She also was appointed Assistant Deputy Attorney General for intergovernmental relations and served as the chief liaison between the Attorney General and government officials, as well as civic, community and advocacy organizations. She began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens County.
More Support for Cold Cases
DA Rocah also outlined a renewed focus on and investigation of cold cases: “Our duty as prosecutors is particularly significant with cases that have been stalled or ignored. Victims and their families never stop hoping for justice and neither should we. We will create a new cold case unit to look at these cases with fresh eyes and reinvestigate as necessary. We will make it a priority to examine untested forensic evidence, including rape kits, that could help bring answers and justice to victims and their families.”
Daniel P. McKenna will serve as Chief Investigator. Chief McKenna entered federal government service in 1991 after being commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Following his military service, he joined the FBI and was assigned to the New York City Field Division as a Special Agent. He was promoted to FBI headquarters in 2010 as a program manager overseeing international organized crime investigations. In 2012, he returned to New York and was appointed Senior Supervisory Resident Agent, FBI Westchester Resident Agency. In those roles, he diligently investigated and supervised cases throughout Westchester County. He also supervised the Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force, a multi-agency squad consisting of FBI agents, detectives from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties, New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police. He retired from the FBI late last year.
Partnering with Law Enforcement for Greater Accountability
“To our partners in law enforcement I say: We want the same thing. We want our communities to trust us. We want our badges to have respect. We want to be proud of our job and our colleagues,” Rocah stated at the inauguration event. “None of us can do our job effectively when people question our integrity. We will work with you to reduce crime and keep our communities safe in a way that will earn and keep the public’s trust.”
Wade Hardy will serve as Deputy Chief Criminal Investigator for Law Enforcement Accountability, Fairness and Transparency. Mr. Hardy is a former Lieutenant and Detective with the White Plains Police Department, where he worked passionately to build bridges between the department and the communities it served, and advanced initiatives to improve conditions in public housing, neighborhood associations and the central business district. Following his career in law enforcement, he spent 12 years on the corporate security team at Con Edison. He is First Vice President of the Westchester Rockland Guardians Association, where he works to improve relationships between law enforcement and communities of color.
Improved Communications, More Transparency
DA Rocah also noted that the office will “hold ourselves accountable by making public data on racial disparities in arrests and case dispositions, as well as internal data on diversity within the office.”
Dan Weiller will serve as Director of Communications. Mr. Weiller is a former press secretary to the Speaker of the State Assembly and deputy press secretary to the State Comptroller, and also directed communications and media relations for the New York State Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation. He was director of public affairs for the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice and has also worked in the non-profit sector in the city and throughout New York State. Most recently, he was communications director for the 70,000-member New York State Bar Association.