Lasak announced on Tuesday that he will run for Queens District Attorney in 2019.
“My experiences make he uniquely qualified for this position,” he said during a phone interview shortly after the announcement was made public. “I know the office, from the personnel to its strengths and weaknesses.”
Lasak is a lifelong Queens residents. Born and raised in Woodside, he attended Holy Cross High School and graduated from Queens College. He raised his family in Richmond Hill.
After graduating from New York Law School, he went to work as an assistant district attorney in Queens at the age of 24. Over the next 25 years, he would rise in the ranks to chief of the Homicide Bureau and executive assistant for the Major Crime Division.
A video announcing his candidacy features Dwayne Palmer and his brother, Lamar. At the age of 19, Lamar was wrongfully arrested for the robbery and assault of a woman in Queens Village. He was looking at nine years behind bars.
Dwayne reached out to Lasak, and against the wishes of his own office, the police and court system, Lasak agreed to reinvestigate the case, eventually exonerating Lamar.
Overturning wrongful convictions would become a hallmark of Lasak's career, as prisoners, lawyers and others began reaching out to him to reopen their case. His work would eventually earn him accolades from Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project.
“You shouldn't be afraid to have your conviction scrutinized,” he said. “That could be you or me in that cell, it's just the right thing to do.”
If elected, Lasak would work to make the DA's office more reflective of the population of Queens County, and that means diversifying the staff. He would also stop prosecuting low-level arrests like possession of small amounts of marijuana and fare-beating to free up resources to prosecute violent crimes and other major offenses.
Lasak says he isn't worried about changing the culture of assistant district attorneys who may be focused on securing prosecutions.
“When I worked in the DA's office, I led by example,” he said. “I'm not worried about changing the mindset.”
Lasak said his days working on wrongful prosecutions taught him to not be afraid to question how things are being done.
“You are going against the detective who investigated the case, the district attorney who wrote it up, the grand jury who decided there was enough evidence, the judge in the case, a jury of peers, and the appellate judge who upheld the ruling,” he said. “That's a lot of people to go against.”
Another person he will have to go against is Councilman Rory Lancman, who recently announced that he would also be running for the seat. The current district attorney, Richard Brown, has until spring to decide if he will seek re-election.
Lasak said his qualifications speak for themselves.
“My experiences make he uniquely qualified for this position,” he said. “He's a career politician, I'm a former prosecutor and judge with decades of experience.”