In a new campaign video, Manhattan District Attorney candidate Dan Quart is ceding the spotlight to New Yorkers who he sees as victims of a criminal justice system in dire need of reform.
With narration from actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his portrayal of Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire,” the video tells stories of injustice, including a wrongful murder conviction, overzealous prison sentencing, and a woman targeted by police for being Black and transgender.
“We deserve a justice system that sees people, not just criminals. And we need leaders who see the difference,” Williams says in the video.
This message, Quart said in an interview, is the driving focus of his campaign for district attorney.
“We wanted to tell a more specific story of why I’m running for district attorney and doing it through other people’s voices and other people’s stories,” said Quart, who currently represents the Upper East Side in the State Assembly. “We hope it is a powerful message and demonstrates my commitment to help real people.”
The message is consistent in what Quart has promised to do so far if elected as Manhattan’s next DA, which is to shrink the prosecutor’s office, end mass incarceration, hold police accountable, target white collar crime and prosecute hate crimes.
Working for “Real People”
The video also alludes to Quart’s work as a defense lawyer, highlighting his former client Joanne Morgan, who was taken to housing court and threatened with eviction as she struggled to make ends meet.
“I know firsthand from others’ experience what it’s like to be on the precipice of eviction or to be the courtroom without a lawyer,” said Quart. “The work I’ve done representing real people in the courtroom, as well as fighting for everyday New Yorkers in the legislature through legislation that had made a difference in the lives specifically of some of the people in that video, is why we wanted to highlight individuals in the video.”
Quart said the inclusion of TS Candii – a Black transgender woman who was arrested for loitering for purposes of prostitution – was particularly fitting as he was a part of the vote this month to repeal the law in the state legislature that put her in jail. He said passing the “Walking While Trans” ban is a start, but there is still work to be done.
“It’s a larger issue. It’s all these predicates within the penal law that are used to harass and arrest working people, or so called others; people who are easy targets,” said Quart. “This has been a lifelong commitment – or at least in the legislature in the last 10 years – of repealing all these different laws that allow unnecessary interactions between law enforcement and regular people.”
On top of Michael K. Williams’ assistance in narrating the campaign, Quart has also earned the actor’s endorsement. The two met through criminal justice reform advocate Derrick Hamilton, who Quart said he’s been working with to create a conviction integrity unit at the state level. Williams told Politico he was attracted to Quart’s commitment to reforming the system, particularly on plea deals, wrongful convictions and combating violence against Black trans women.
“I believe him when he tells me that he wants to change,” Williams, a Brooklyn native, said in an interview with Politico. “As a born and bred New Yorker, I feel it’s my responsibility to get involved. Being silent is part of the problem ... it’s time to make my voice and my platform matter for something.”
“I know firsthand from others’ experience what it’s like to be on the precipice of eviction or to be the courtroom without a lawyer.” Dan Quart