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Queens district attorney race heats up after challenger calls for Katz to reject court officers union endorsement

With less than five months to go until the Democratic primary, the gloves have come off in the Queens district attorney race.

Challenger George Grasso is calling on Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to rescind her endorsement from the New York State Court Officers Association (NYSCOA) and repudiate its president Dennis Quirk.

The union leader was suspended from his position as a court officer in August 2021, after he published the home address and vacation home address of then-Chief Judge Janet DiFiore on social media after a dispute over COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Grasso, who retired as the administrative judge of Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term, in August to challenge Katz, said Quirk endangered DiFiore and her family by releasing the personal information approximately one year after her name and photo were found in the possession of an anti-feminist gunman, who opened fire into the New Jersey home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, killing her son and wounding her husband in July 2020.

“District Attorney Katz claims that she wants to make a ‘modern’ district attorney’s office,” Grasso said. “In a recent New York Law Journal interview, she highlighted her office hallway, which is lined with portraits of powerful women in law, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore is the subject of one of those portraits. Yet, District Attorney Katz proudly accepted the endorsement of a union headed by someone who endangered DiFiore and her family and publicly referred to her with a sexist and misogynistic slur. The level of hypocrisy is striking.”

Grasso served in the NYPD for more than three decades, rising through the ranks to become the first deputy police commissioner before stepping down in 2010 and heading to the bench.

“District Attorney Katz needs to remember that she is the chief law enforcement officer of Queens. She needs to set an example that the types of actions and sexist language described herein will not be tolerated by anyone for any purpose,” Grasso said. “I have the highest respect for our court officers who work to protect the judiciary and the courts every day. As difficult as it is, we must acknowledge that it is President Quirk who plays a leading role with respect to NYSCOA endorsement decisions. Those who seek or accept an endorsement must consider the source.”

Katz campaign spokesman Max Kramer fired back at the retired judge.

“The district attorney is proud to have the support of the men and women who protect our courthouses, the judges, the employees that work there and the community present every day,” Kramer said. “Her opponent’s attack is a desperate plea at relevance and to deduce this to political gamesmanship is to spit in the face of those men and women. It’s sad that he’s got such contempt for the people who kept him, his employees, and those in our community who partake in the criminal justice system safe.”

Quirk told QNS that it should surprise no one that the people that worked closely with Grasso during his time on the bench would endorse against him in the race against Katz.

“You want to know why? Because Judge Grasso is a buffoon. He was a puppet of DiFiore’s and he screwed around with every court employee, okay?” Quirk said. “We would not endorse Grasso because he treated everbody like [crap], and when he was in the police department, he treated people like [crap]. He would be the worst district attorney for the people of Queens, he’s a buffoon and that’s why we’re supporting Melinda Katz, she’s a great district attorney.”

When told of Quirk’s disparaging remarks, Grasso found him to be in contempt.

“You know what, this is straight out of the Quirk playbook, when he gets questioned publicly he comes out with a pejorative attack on whoever criticized him, like when he called Justice DiFiore the b-word,” Grasso said. “I stand by every word I said about him and his conduct as head of that union whose members are sworn to protect those in the judiciary. I’ll put my record at the NYPD and on the bench up against his record any day of the week.”

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