'Brooklyn DA' Stars Face Criticism Over TV Show, Misconduct Allegations

PHOTO: Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes attends the 6th annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 16, 2012 in New York City.Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes attends the 6th annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, Jan. 16, 2012 in New York City.

Top lawyers in the Brooklyn district attorney's office are facing backlash from critics who claim a new TV show starring the prosecutors is a "self-serving" tool to boost their image while the office quietly battles allegations of misconduct.

Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes, who is running for re-election, will appear in "Brooklyn DA," the show focused on his office that debuted on CBS last week, showing the inner workings of the district attorney's office.

Hynes's office is also the subject of a $150 million lawsuit alleging misconduct that is currently in federal court, and the attorney representing the plaintiff says the show unfairly portrays Hynes and his staff in a positive light.

Attorney Joel Rudin is arguing the suit on behalf of Jabbar Collins, who was convicted of murder in 1995 but had his conviction thrown out in 2010 after arguing prosecutorial misconduct by one of Hynes's top prosecutors, Michael Vecchione.

"The danger of this show is that it's a self-serving promotion for the DA's office that has the danger of affecting the jury pool," said Rudin. "It's inappropriate for the district attorney's office or Michael Vecchione to discuss this pending case. It should be tried in a court room not on a reality series."

Rudin alleges that Vecchione, then the head of the homicide division, coerced witnesses into testifying against Collins, keeping them in hotel rooms against their will and threatening them.

Vecchione stars in "Brooklyn DA" with Hynes.

Vecchione and Hynes have denied the allegations. The office did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

"This was horrific behavior on the part of Vecchione," Frederic Block, the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit, said at a court hearing, according to the New York Post. "We are going to have a civil proceeding, and all of this is going to be uncovered. I kid you not."

New York City's Law Department defended the DA.

"Neither Michael Vecchione nor any other member of the District Attorney's Office ever threatened witnesses," Arthur Larkin, senior counsel of the department's Special Federal Litigation Division, told ABCNews.com.

Larkin denied that any witnesses were held against their will in a hotel.

"Mr. Rudin's hyperbolic characterizations of various alleged practices in the Brooklyn DA's Office are irresponsible and absurd. Our court papers fully address the legal issues," he said.

Hynes was also taken to court last week over the show by a political foe, his opponent in the upcoming election, Abe George.

George's suit claimed that the show was tantamount to an illegal campaign contribution, and asked for an injunction to prevent the show from airing, but the request was denied.

He told ABC News today that the show would impugn the fairness of the election but also was unfair to any defendants whose cases were discussed on air.

"It's interesting because ethically there's some issues. They talked about a guy who was accused of an art heist (in the first episode), and here you have a defendant who hasn't yet gotten to trial, and you're talking about it on air. And viewers sympathize with the characters on show, so how does he defend himself? What happens to presumption of innocence?" George said.

"Can the power of a major network television station, under the guise of being a news broadcast, guide voters to go a certain way? (The show) was very sympathetic to the office. It didn't shed light on the huge problems Brooklynites are facing," he said.

CBS News, which produced the show, declined to comment on the specific allegations about the show's effect on the election or Collins' case.

"As a practice, the team on 'Brooklyn DA' doesn't discuss its editorial process. The team of dedicated journalists behind 'Brooklyn DA' prefers to let each edition of the documentary series speak for itself," said Richard Huff, a spokesman for the series.

Collins' lawsuit is still pending in federal court. According to court documents, the city has asked the court to seal any testimony Hynes gives in deposition, and Rudin has filed a motion to prevent the testimony from being sealed.