NEW YORK – Former Richmond County Assistant District Attorney Michael Tannousis is a candidate to succeed Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis the 64th Assembly seat that straddles Staten Island and Brooklyn. He recently spoke with The National Herald about his motivation for running and the issues which are important to his potential constituents.
The National Herald: Mr. Tannousis, let’s begin with talking about you, your Greek/Cypriot heritage, your schooling and your relationship with the Greek-American Community.
Michael Tannousis: I’m the son of Cypriot refugees that came to this country for the American dream. I was born here and attended Greek school on Staten Island. After graduating high school, I became a prosecutor in the Bronx and then on Staten Island. For the past few years, I have been involved in the Greek and Cypriot communities. I am a board member of the Cyprus-US Chamber of Commerce and I am a delegate for the Cyprus Federation of America.
TNH: What are the priorities of your constituency? What are you focusing your campaign on most?
MT: There is no question that the biggest issue our constituency is currently facing is the COVID-19 pandemic. We first have to ensure that all residents are safe and that they are taking the proper precautions. We also have to ensure that those infected by the virus receive the adequate medical attention that they need. Moreover, we have to ensure that our first responders and medical professionals are given the adequate supplies to protect themselves from this epidemic.
Beyond that, I think that public safety is a priority, Last year, I successfully prosecuted two high-profile murders cases on Staten Island. While that was happening, the State Assembly passed the ‘bail reform laws.’ The bail reform laws took away a judge’s ability to set bail on defendants after they are arrested for most crimes and this also applies to defendants who have pending cases and are re-arrested on new charges. By doing that, many career criminals do not have any type of incentive not to commit crimes or even new crimes after an arrest.
The legislature has put New Yorkers lives at risk. This triggered me to leave the District Attorney’s Office and run for State Assembly. Besides public safety, the focus of my campaign will be improving transportation options, fighting the property rights laws that do not give property owners incentives to invest in their properties, and improving education.
TNH: Why do you believe that a public prosecutor can become a successful politician?
MT: As a prosecutor, I believe that I will be a successful elected official because I want to take my fight for justice from the courtroom to the State Legislature. I will bring my skills as a prosecutor to the legislature – the same skills that helped me achieve convictions on some of the biggest cases in recent Staten Island memory. I also have my prior background of working in government before becoming an Assistant District Attorney to help me navigate the day to day of meeting my constituent’s needs.
TNH: At this moment, New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus. Do you think there were mistakes made, at the state level, in preventing and responding to the pandemic? If so, what were some of the main issues?
MT: It is evident that New York City and New York State were not adequately prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. For example, both the city and state are lacking the proper materials to adequately protect our first responders and healthcare professionals who are fighting this epidemic on the front lines. Further, the government did not take action early on to prevent the spread of the virus at Riker’s Island. Instead, the virus has spread on Riker’s Island and the government has now decided to release inmates (some of which are facing serious charges) into the general public.
TNH: You have expressed concern and dissatisfaction with certain laws passed in recent years regarding the penitentiary system and the fight against crime. What are some of your main objections?
MT: I have many objections. However, my biggest objection is to the ‘bail reform’ laws passed last year by the legislature. These laws take away a Judge’s ability to set adequate bail on individuals who are charged with committing most crimes. Moreover, these laws do not allow a judge to consider a defendant’s potential ‘dangerousness’ to the community as a factor for which to set bail. In addition, these laws also require prosecutors to turn over witness information (names and make witnesses available) to the defendant within 15 days of an arrest. As a result of these laws, individual who are victimized by career criminals will be more hesitant to cooperate with authorities.
TNH: Finally, why should the Greek American community in Brooklyn and Staten Island vote for Michael Tannousis (leaving aside the ‘Greek tradition’ that began with Matthew Mirones and Nicole Malliotakis)?
MT: I am the most prepared candidate for this position. I understand how these new and potentially future laws have impacted our justice system and our daily lives. As previously stated, I also have the adequate background in local government that will ensure my constituent’s needs are met on a daily basis. For more information on my campaign, I encourage people to follow me on my Facebook page – Michael Tannousis for Assembly – and visit my website – www.miketannousis.com.