High Profile: Ray Tierney – Suffolk’s New Top Prosecutor

Suffolk County DA Ray Tierney
Suffolk County DA Ray Tierney

Raymond A. Tierney is a seasoned and experienced prosecutor with a tough-on-crime mentality, and now he holds the title of Suffolk County District Attorney.

An independent who was endorsed by both the Republican and Conservative parties, Tierney was elected in 2021 amidst a groundswell of Republican and Conservative victories across the county, New York state and nationwide. Tierney’s message throughout the campaign was straightforward: Hold criminals accountable for their actions, fight the state’s recent bail reform law and make the district attorney’s office more accessible to the citizens of Suffolk. This message resonated with the voters, and on Election Day, he emerged victorious.

“Running against an incumbent and not having any institutional support, I made my case directly to the voters,” Tierney says. “Given the recent developments in the state and nation, my message resonated with them as the right direction for Suffolk County.”

Prior to being elected, Tierney spent 27 years as a prosecutor at both the state and federal levels. Beginning his career in law enforcement as an assistant district attorney in 1992 in Suffolk, Tierney returns to a familiar office, but this time, he’s at the helm.

Tierney studied at the prestigious Brown University, where he played receiver on the varsity football team. After achieving his bachelor’s degree, he would move on to law school, when was admitted to St. John’s School of Law. While attending, he would serve as the articles editor of the St. John’s International Law Review, a respected academic legal periodical, and graduated with his juris doctorate in 1992, which was the beginning of a storied career as an attorney.

“I went to law school with the specific goal of being a prosecutor in mind,” Tierney says. “As a kid, I was always told that ‘you do well in school, you are a good writer, you should be a lawyer.’ So as a kid, my perception of what it meant to be a lawyer was going to court and prosecuting the bad guy. As I got older and understood all the different aspects and varied opportunities a law degree could give you, my desire to be a prosecutor never changed.”

Throughout his career he has had myriad accomplishments in the courtroom that were touted by his campaign, supporters, and ultimately, the voters alike. Notably, during Tierney’s second stint with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, he was responsible for investigating and prosecuting felony cases, which included holding politicians responsible for breaking the law and abusing the public’s trust. He also prosecuted violent offenders, ranging from organized crime to street gangs, homicides to domestic violence, to help keep Suffolk’s 1.3 million residents safe.

“My first big case was the Shane Daniels case, where a young Black man was beaten, while an off-duty police officer held the crowd at bay with his service revolver,” he recalls. “In prosecuting the offender and the off-duty officer, this was very eye opening to me especially, as the first case really high profile case I was tasked with prosecuting.”

In 2008, Tierney began a position with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in the Long Island Criminal Division. Holding the title of assistant U.S. attorney, he helped lead the early prosecutions of MS-13 and helped jump-start a nationwide effort to disrupt the dangerous gang’s influence on Long Island and across the country.

“It was pretty amazing because you see it from both perspectives,” Tierney says of prosecuting cases in his hometown. “As a kid growing up in Suffolk County, I had a fanciful storybook perception of Long Island being this ideal place. As a prosecutor, you get to witness firsthand the issues and problems plaguing Suffolk County, just like in any other community. Being able to return back to Suffolk County and work to keep people safe — from things like gang violence with MS-13 was very meaningful to me.”

After more than a decade, he left to become part of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, working beneath District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, a Democrat. Tierney was in charge of the Violent Criminal Enterprises Bureau, Crime Strategies Unit and Body Worn Camera Unit. Overseeing all aspects of the operation, he directed and supervised units that included teams of prosecutors, attorney investigators, NYPD investigators, analysts, paralegals and clerical staff.

Now though, as the Suffolk County district attorney, it is incumbent upon him to work alongside law enforcement agencies, prosecute those who violate the law and help preserve the safety and security of Suffolk.

“I am grateful for my past experiences as a prosecutor,” he says. “I have had an unbelievable opportunity to work with some truly great prosecutors and investigators throughout the course of my career, learning from them and using those lessons to inform my prosecutions in Suffolk County. Some of these great people I have worked with in the past, I have been lucky enough to bring them on board with me.

“If there is one thing that my career and campaign has taught me is that all citizens of Suffolk County want is safety for themselves and their family, to be treated fairly by law enforcement and to have a good quality of life,” he continues. “I will not forget these lessons, and I will make sure myself and my office fight every day to make those hopes a reality for everyone in the county.”

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.

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