BY LYNN EDMONDS
Former Queens District Attorney John J. Santucci died on Sunday in Mineola, NY. He was 85 years old.
Santucci served as the DA from 1977 to 1991.
During a time when Queens’ population was exploding, he spearheaded a number of initiatives and firsts. Most notably, Santucci was the first DA in New York State to use DNA evidence in court. In 1988, he used DNA evidence to prosecute Victor Lopez, who was convicted of multiple rapes throughout central Queens.
In a New York Times article about the trial, Santucci predicted that DNA evidence would become “an important prosecutorial weapon from now on.’’
The former DA also started a special victims unit for vulnerable populations including children and survivors of domestic abuse and elderly crime victims.
Santucci took a softer stance on first-time offenders than others at the time. In 1985, he started the “second chance program,” which allowed some first-time offenders to expunge their records by doing community service.
According to a 1979 issue of New York Magazine, he also had “a mobile van emblazoned with his name, to take complaints from citizens on street corners.”
The most infamous case during Santucci’s tenure did not actually directly involve the DA. In 1986, five white youths from Howard Beach ganged up on three black men, chasing one of the men onto a nearby highway, where he was killed by an oncoming car. Santucci handed off the case to a special prosecutor at the request of the two living victims. The special prosecutor charged three of the white teenagers with manslaughter.
In addition to serving as District Attorney for four full terms plus an initial one year as a temporary fill-in, Santucci was a City Councilman and State Senator representing Queens.
Current DA Richard Brown said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my predecessor, John Santucci.”
“John’s wife, Edna, and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers,” he added.
Santucci leaves behind his wife of 62 years Edna Ann and their six children: Mary, Thomas, John, Carol, Robert and Edna, as well as 12 grandchildren.
“He was the strongest man we knew. We lost our patriarch this week. Pop was far more than just a public servant, he was a family man,” his grandson John T. Santucci said.
A funeral will be held Thursday morning on June 30 at St. Anne’s Church in Garden City.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana