NEW YORK— To commemorate the beginning of the National Crime Victims Week and the 10th anniversary of the Victim Services Unit, the Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes honored five local heroes on Monday who aided victims of domestic violence in Brooklyn.
The Victim Services Unit was founded in 1999 and employs social workers who specialize in assisting prosecutors with meeting complex, emotional needs of domestic violence and sex crime victims.
“Crime Victims Week is usually a solemn occasion, but this year we acknowledge the heroics of ordinary people, who felt a need to help domestic violence victims,” said District Attorney Hynes. “It is also a special occasion for my Office, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Victim Services Unit,” he added.
Yvonne Swepson was honored for fending off the attacker of her female neighbor who was stabbed on November 9, 2007. Ms. Swepson came upon Raymond Hampton stabbing his ex-girlfriend outside her apartment. She was able to pull Hampton off his victim and called 911 when the attacker fled. She further testified at Hampton’s trial, leading to his sentencing of 25 years in prison for Assault in the First Degree.
Tracy Bull was recognized for pulling the victim from the train tracks at the Pennsylvania Avenue Train Number 3 platform on December 15, 2007. The attacker, Steven Lightsey, pleaded guilty for pushing his estranged wife onto the tracks and is currently serving seven years in prison.
Dwight Vaccianna, the general manager of Au Bon Pain across the street from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, was praised for his generosity in donating food and Au Bon Pain meal vouchers to volunteers and clients at the Brooklyn Family Justice Center.
Detective Joseph Notwicz of the 94th Precinct was honored for ending the terror of a recurrent criminal who harassed his ex-girlfriend and her mother for more than 12 years while ignoring repeated restraining court orders. George Gallagher had been indicted three times for crimes he committed against the victims, but resumed his threats and harassing calls each time he was released from jail. When Gallagher’s whereabouts could not be identified, Detective Notwicz used a warrant to track his cell phone use, which led to his arrest and a subsequent three to six year prison sentence in 2008.
Detective Michael O’Halloran of the 62nd Precinct was recognized for his investigation of the October 29, 2008 incident where the offender accused his victim of a reciprocal crime. James Spence, who had three open indictments for battering and harassing his ex-girlfriend, accused her of setting up two men to rob him at gunpoint and flee in her getaway car. Detective O’Halloran determined that the sequence of events reported by Spence was not possible, resulting in Spence’s arrest. The case charging him with four counts of Falsely Reporting an Incident is currently pending in Brooklyn Criminal Court.