Grievance Against Brad Leventhal

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in May 2021 against attorney Brad Leventhal, alleging Leventhal engaged in misconduct while prosecuting George Bell, Rohan Bolt, Gary Johnson, and Lenworth Brown on behalf of the Queens District Attorney’s Office (QDAO). The complaint was filed with the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh & Thirteenth Judicial Districts, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in the Queens. The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on People v. Bell and People v. Brown. According to the complaint, in Bell, the Queens Supreme Court ruled that Leventhal and his colleague, Charles Testagrossa, suppressed exculpatory evidence, misled the trial court and other parties, and permitted false testimony to stand. In People v. Bell, the court reversed the wrongful conviction of George Bell, Rohan Bolt, and Gary Johnson after 24 years of incarceration. Brad Leventhal and Charles Testagrossa prosecuted the trial of George Bell, and Leventhal alone prosecuted the later trials of Rohan Bolt and Gary Johnson.

In the Bell, Bolt and Johnson cases (all addressed in People v. Bell), the complaint notes that the prosecution failed to provide crucial exculpatory evidence to the defense, including evidence that other people may have committed the crimes charged against these three men. While agreeing to reverse the convictions, the Queens District Attorney’s Office claimed that the prosecution of the three men had been “in good faith.”

The Queens Supreme Court found that circumstances cast “significant doubt” on the claim of “good faith.” Instead, their actions left the Court with the “distinct impression… [of a] pattern of behavior that was calculated to deprive the defendants of fair trials, which is particularly egregious given that the death penalty was being sought against 19-year-old George Bell.” The court found that the prosecution “completely abdicated its truth-seeking role.”

The complaint also alleges that in 2006, in a separate case, the Appellate Division found that Leventhal engaged in summation and cross-examination misconduct in People v. Brown

What rules are involved: The complaint notes that prosecutors wield immense power, the power to seek punishment on behalf of the state, and should be held to the highest ethical standards. The grievance alleges that Leventhal’s conduct violated the following ethical rules:

  • Rule DR 7-103(b) (from the Code of Professional Responsibility, later replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct) required the prosecutor to make “timely disclosure…of the existence of evidence, known to the prosecutor or other government lawyer, that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense or reduce the punishment.” 
  • Rule DR 7-102(a)(3) and DR 7-109(a) required disclosure of, and prohibited knowing concealment of, evidence.
  • Rule DR 1-102 prohibited attorneys from engaging in conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, or engaging in any other conduct that adversely reflected on their fitness to practice law.

What can be done about it: The law professors’ complaint calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including disbarment (revoking Leventhal’s law license). It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether QDAO’s supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.

Update: As of January 1, 2024, the Grievance Committee has not informed the complainants whether there was (or will be) an investigation, what any investigation revealed, and whether discipline was (or will be) imposed as a result of this alleged misconduct. Deprived of such information, the public has no way to evaluate whether this government body is doing its job. We call on the Grievance Committee to make its proceedings and findings in this matter transparent to the public.

Any member of the public is able to see an attorney’s record of public discipline on the Attorney Detail Report.

Note: This is a summary based on the grievance, click on the grievance below for more detail. The grievance authors do not have personal knowledge of any of the facts or circumstances of the attorney or case(s) mentioned; the grievance is based on court opinions, briefs and/or other documents cited therein.