SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK COUNTY OF NEW YORK -------------------------------------ABE GEORGE, CANDIDATE FOR KINGS COUNTY
DISTRICT ATTORNEY IN 2013, AND ABE GEORGE 2013, A POLITICAL COMMITTEE, Plaintiffs, -againstCHARLES J. HYNES, FRIENDS OF CHARLES J. HYNES, CBS CORP., CBS NEWS, A DIVISION OF CBS CORP., AND CBS TELEVISION NETWORK, A DIVISION OF CBS CORP., Defendants. --------------------------------------
Index No.: COMPLAINT
Plaintiffs Abe George, and Abe George 2013, a political committee, by their counsel, Aaron M. Rubin, Esq., hereby allege, upon information and belief, as follows: NATURE OF THE ACTION 1. This is an action for injunctive relief brought by plaintiffs Abe George, a candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney in 2013, and his political committee, seeking to restrain defendants CBS from giving an unlawful campaign contribution to defendant Charles J. Hynes by starring him in a six-week reality show called Brooklyn D.A. as he runs for his seventh term for re-election. 2. This action further seeks to enjoin defendant Hynes from illegally utilizing, diverting and distributing
the public resources of his office and position as Brooklyn District Attorney for the purposes of furthering his personal political campaign. 3. On March 26, 2013, in the critical final months of Hynes’ closely contested political campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney in 2013, CBS News, a division of CBS Corp., announced its plans to broadcast a reality television show called Brooklyn D.A. over its CBS Television Network, starting May 21, 2013. 4. On April 10, 2013, CBS News announced that the start date for Brooklyn D.A. would be pushed back a week to May 28. 5. The broadcast of Brooklyn D.A. is nothing more than an in-kind campaign contribution by CBS to Hynes in excess of the $5,000 legal limit imposed on corporate contributions by New York State Election Law. 6. The defendants’ actions and intended conduct will illegally and unfairly contribute to Charles Hynes’ chances of re-election by maximizing his fundraising efforts and swaying the election in his favor, while causing irreparable harm to the grassroots campaign of Abe George, who is challenging Hynes for his seat in a closely contested race.
7. This complaint is being submitted with the Affirmation of Aaron M. Rubin and Affidavit of Abe George, both dated May 13, 2013, and a memorandum of law, dated May 14, 2012, all of which are incorporated by reference herein. PARTIES 8. Plaintiff Abe George is a Democratic candidate for Kings County District Attorney in 2013, for both the General Election on November 5, 2013, and the Democratic Primary on September 10, 2013. Mr. George maintains a
residence in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. 9. On July 17, 2012, Abe George registered a political committee called Abe George 2013, filed with the New York State Board of Elections for the purpose of his running for election for Brooklyn District Attorney in the Democratic Primary and General Election. Abe George 2013,
a plaintiff, began receiving contributions on July 26, 2013, and raised approximately $210,000 in the filing period ending January 15, 2013. The committee is
continuing to receive contributions for these purposes. 10. Defendant Charles J. Hynes (“Hynes”) is the
incumbent Kings County District Attorney, and as such, a state official, with an office on 350 Jay Street, Brooklyn,
Hynes maintains a residence in Brooklyn.
is running for re-election as Brooklyn District Attorney and intends to compete in the Democratic Primary and General Election in 2013. 11. Defendant Friends of Charles J. Hynes is a
political committee for Hynes that is registered with the New York State Board of Elections, and has an address of 321 Broadway, New York, New York. Friends of Charles J.
Hynes reported approximately $27,000 for the filing period ending January 15, 2013. 12. Defendant CBS Corp. is a Delaware
corporation with its worldwide headquarters in Manhattan at 51 West 52nd Street, New York, New York. CBS is a mass
media conglomerate that develops and broadcasts television shows all over the world in a wide range of genres, including sports, news, morning programs, in addition to programs that CBS describes as “Reality based programming,” including shows such as Big Brother and Survivor – one of the most successful and popular reality shows ever to appear on television. Defendants CBS News and CBS Defendant
Television Network are divisions of CBS Corp.
CBS entities – CBS Corp., CBS News, and CBS Television Network – are collectively referred to herein as “CBS” unless otherwise noted.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE 13. The basis for venue in this Court is the
principal place of business of defendants Friends of Charles J. Hynes, CBS Corp., CBS News and CBS Television Network, all of which are located in New York County. FACTS 14. Defendant Charles Hynes has been Brooklyn
District Attorney since 1989 and has operated under a mounting public perception that he will do anything – including misusing his broad prosecutorial powers – to achieve political gain for himself. 15. That perception of Hynes has been reported
in the press for years. 16. The maneuver by Hynes to swing the election
in his favor – this time with an unlawful campaign contribution – is just the latest example of impropriety of his 23-year political legacy. 17. On March 26, 2013, CBS announced that it
plans to broadcast Brooklyn D.A., a weekly reality television show about Hynes and his office to begin May 21, 2013, (and later switched to May 28) in six one-hour episodes.
Just days before the CBS announcement, Hynes
told Reuters, “If they couldn’t take me out then, boy, you’ll never take me out now.” 19. The CBS show has already perpetuated the
public perception of impropriety relating to Hynes and his politics. 20. Brooklyn D.A. is a reality television
series, not news or a documentary. 21. CBS is a pioneer in the genre of reality
programming, producing some of the most successful reality shows on television with Survivor and Big Brother, to name a few. 22. Hynes, and his defendant political
committee, have coordinated and prearranged his participation, and that of his office, with CBS in a manner and degree that makes Brooklyn D.A. a campaign contribution by CBS. 23. When news about plans for the show first
appeared on March 26, 2013, the improper timing of the show was not lost on the press, which subsequently characterized Brooklyn D.A. as Reality TV, with headlines such as: • Brooklyn’s District Attorney Charles Hynes Gets His Own Reality Show Ahead of Democratic Primary, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, March 26, 2013) (“The hour-long episodes will be broadcast as Hynes fights for his political life in
a hotly contested Democratic primary against two opponents.”); • Bklyn D.A. Hynes to Star in Reality TV Series, PARK SLOPE PATCH, March 27, 2013) (“A little national exposure never hurt nobody! Even the stars who behave badly on reality TV go on to receive loads of fame and a handful of endorsements. Now six-term Kings County D.A. Charles J. Hynes, who’s up for re-election, will get that chance too.”); Jwoww, the Housewives, and DA Hynes? It’s time for a reality check!, BROOKLYN DAILY, April 5, 2013) (“Hynes could do with resuscitating his comatose, long-in-thetooth public image in time for the looming September Democratic primary.”).
Immediately following the announcement of
Brooklyn D.A., Abe George sent a letter, via his attorney, to CBS Corp. President Leslie Moonves on March 27 asking the network to stop the broadcast on the basis that it violated state campaign finance laws. 25. Following his letter, Abe George, through
his counsel, sent CBS an email on April 1 requesting a meeting to discuss various alternative courses of action. 26. In response, a CBS lawyer stated in a letter “Contrary to your
to Mr. George dated April 2, 2013:
suggestion, CBS News’ upcoming series of news programs focusing on prosecutors in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and their cases will not violate New York State campaign finance law or any other laws.” 27. CBS also declined a meeting with Abe George.
But CBS, on March 27, 2013, just a week
prior to its letter to Mr. George, promoted the show on its local television website with the headline “Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes To Star In New CBS Reality Series,” summarizing the show as “A new reality show will give us an inside look into the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.” CBS also expressly categorized its This
announcement on the website under “Entertainment.” website is still available as of the date of this complaint. 29.
In contrast, CBS for example, on May 10,
categorized a recent announcement about its news show 48 Hours under the title “News.” 30. Hynes has used state monies and the
resources of his office to unlawfully participate in the development of Brooklyn D.A. and to promote the show in the media. 31. For instance, Hynes has publicly promoted
Brooklyn D.A. by defending the show in the press. 32. On March 27, 2013, a day after the show was
announced, Jerry Schmetterer, Director of Public Information for Hynes at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, publicly stated: “The CBS people don’t call it I don’t believe it’s
that and we don’t call it that.
accurate to call it a reality show in the genre that we’re used to seeing reality shows.” 33. A few days later, a newspaper reported on
April 2 that Schmetterer stated that Hynes’ office and CBS had met in November 2012 about Brooklyn D.A., and had engaged in “lengthy conversations.” 34. Earlier, on March 26, 2013, the Daily News
reported that it had obtained an internal CBS document about the show that referenced a political agenda in connection with the airing of the show. 35. The next day, Hynes’ spokesman Schmetterer, “What the Daily News was
not CBS, stated to a newspaper:
working off of was nothing that was official and nothing that was vetted for accuracy.” 36. As part of developing Brooklyn D.A., CBS was
given unique access to at least two sensitive sting operations being conducted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office that prosecutors have been working on for months, and for which Hynes is hoping to make arrests on before the show airs. 37. Media analysts publicly expressed their
alarm after the show was announced. 38. The value of the services provided to Hynes
for his political campaign for re-election by CBS in the
promotion and broadcasting of Brooklyn D.A. is well in excess of $5,000. 39. Without an order enjoining the broadcast of
Brooklyn D.A. until after the General Election, the show will result in a corrupt electoral process, both real and apparent, and irreparable harm to plaintiffs. 40. The corruption surrounding Brooklyn D.A. is
reinforced and perpetuated by the long history of impropriety surrounding Hynes and his politics, and this ethical taint has been widely recognized in published reports in the local media leading up to the launch of Brooklyn D.A. 41. There have been several high profile
convictions under Hynes that have come under fire in the media amidst troubling allegations of impropriety by Hynes and his office in prosecuting the cases. 42. There have been several federal judges who
have criticized Hynes in the press and in written decisions over these wrongful convictions.
Hynes has little other political opportunity
available to him other than to remain as Brooklyn District Attorney, a position he has vigorously fought for with tactics that have been publicly questioned. 44. The appearance that Hynes was stumbling
continued in January 2013, when he fell behind his challengers, including Abe George, in his fundraising efforts. 45. The local climate of recent political
scandals in New York involving, among other things, the exchanges of money for favors contributes to the public perception of corruption around the broadcast of Brooklyn D.A. in the final months of the election. COUNT I (Violation of Election Law) 46. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each
allegation in paragraphs 1 through 45 above as if fully set forth herein. 47. CBS’ promotion and broadcast of Brooklyn
D.A. in the final critical months of the campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney is a political contribution to Charles Hynes of services valued for the aggregate year well in excess of $5,000, and, upon information and belief,
in the area of at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. 48. The contribution by CBS is in violation of
New York State Election Law Sections 14-116(b) and 16114(3). 49. Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law
and injunctive relief is appropriate and necessary to maintain a fair election, free from corruption and the appearance of corruption, and to prevent irreparable harm to plaintiff Abe George, a candidate, and his campaign committee. 50. Based on the facts and circumstances alleged
herein, plaintiffs are entitled to a permanent injunction delaying Brooklyn D.A. until after the General Election for Brooklyn District Attorney on November 5, 2013. COUNT II (Violation of NYS Constitution) 51. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege each
allegation in paragraphs 1 through 45 above as if fully set forth herein. 52. Hynes caused the office of the Brooklyn
District Attorney to expend public money and resources to coordinate and assist CBS in its promotion, development and broadcast of Brooklyn D.A. for his own political gain.
Hynes is in violation of Article VII,
Section (8)1 of the New York Constitution. 54. Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law
and injunctive relief is appropriate and necessary to maintain a fair election, free from corruption or the appearance of corruption, to prevent irreparable harm to plaintiffs, and to prevent Hynes from misappropriating state monies. Plaintiffs are entitled to an injunction
restraining Hynes from continuing to use state monies in connection with the promotion, development and broadcast of Brooklyn D.A. for the purpose of furthering his campaign.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs demand judgment as follows: (1) a temporary injunction enjoining defendants from continuing to promote and advertise Brooklyn D.A. pending a determination on a preliminary injunction, (2) a preliminary injunction to stop the broadcast and promotion of Brooklyn D.A. and to maintain the status quo in the election until a permanent injunction is granted delaying the show until after the election on November 5, 2013, (3) a preliminary injunction to stop Hynes from using state monies to further his political campaign
for re-election until a permanent injunction is granted enjoining same and with an order that Hynes account for and reimburse the state said monies, (4) in the alternative, an expedited hearing and discovery prior to May 28 to determine the requests herein, and (5) granting such other relief as the court deems proper. Dated: New York, New York May 14, 2013 ______________________ Aaron M. Rubin, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiffs 9 East 40th Street, 11th Floor New York, New York 10016 (646) 425-8102