Voters Chose Mike McMahon’s Political Chops Over Joan Illuzzi’s Experience
By Christopher Scott
Michael E. McMahon, a former Congressman and New York City councilman, was elected Staten Island’s district attorney following his victory over career prosecutor Joan Illuzzi earlier this month.
At his acceptance speech following his victory, McMahon said “We will begin the work tomorrow.”
Along with McMahon’s plans to fight drug-related crimes on the Island, he also wants to create a fairer justice system.
In a debate with Illuzzi at the Williamson Theatre last month, McMahon pointed out that good people can make bad mistakes, especially younger individuals.
While his viewpoint is against his opposition, whom he claimed was more focused on locking people up, he wants to help people by preventing them from receiving life-long consequences for what may boil down to a dumb mistake.
McMahon has a wealth of political experience under his belt, but his conservative opposition continually pointed out that he did not have the experience needed for the job of District Attorney.
The definition of district attorney, according to The Free Dictionary, is “an elected official of a county or designated district with the responsibility of prosecuting crimes.”
Additional responsibilities of the D.A. “include managing the prosecutor’s office, investigating alleged crimes in cooperation with law enforcement, and filing criminal charges or bringing evidence before the Grand Jury that may lead to an indictment for a crime.”
Republican candidate Joan Illuzzi is a novice to political campaigns, but she argued that she had more experience than McMahon for the job of D.A. as she made a career off of being a prosecutor and not a criminal defendant. Illuzzi even branded herself during her campaign as a “prosecutor, not a politician.”
McMahon disagreed, telling the New York Times that “Staten Islanders needed a practiced political hand to advocate for their interests before state and city government.”
McMahon’s campaign has repeatedly said that he has an adequate amount of experience, despite not having prosecutorial experience. His campaign website argued that he did have some legal experience in civil law that voters should take into consideration.
Following his graduation from New York Law School, early on in McMahon’s legal career, he defended insurance companies as a trial attorney, served as a part-time legislative council member to former Assemblyman Eric N. Vitaliano in Albany and he was an associate at the Staten Island boutique firm of Decker, Carasaniti and Barone.
He was also mentored by Michael A. Barone, a leading criminal trial attorney. He then went on to represent criminal defendants in all level of the courts and in all proceedings for three years. McMahon would then try all types of cases in the courts all over New York City after he became a senior trial counsel in Bombara & McGlynn’s firm.
In 1993, along with his lifetime friend, John G. O’Leary, McMahon founded the law firm O’Leary & McMahon and was a managing partner at the law firm while continuing his trial advocacy throughout New York State and Staten Island for 15 years.
In 2008, McMahon was elected to Congress and had to leave the partnership, in abidance with Congressional rules.
McMahon has spent his entire civic and political life in Staten Island involved in community action.
In 1991, McMahon became a legislative counsel to Assemblywoman Elizabeth Connolly, and he helped her with constituent issues and her work for the special needs community. Following her retirement, he would assist City Councilman Jerome X. O’Donovan with legislative work.
He ran on the platform of rebuilding a post 9/11 New York City along with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg after being elected to represent the North Shore in the New York City Council.
This would be the start of McMahon’s active political career in Staten Island that eventually gave him the experience to run and win the 2008 House of Representative seat on behalf of Staten Island and Brooklyn.
According to his campaign website, McMahon is “seeking to put his extensive legal experience and knowledge of the communities of Staten Island to work for the people as the next District Attorney of Richmond County.”