BRONX — A lawyer who has represented relatives of Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham hopes to fill the City Council seat that longtime Bronx politician Larry Seabrook held until last month, when he was convicted on corruption charges.
Manhattan-based defense attorney Neville Mitchell, a frequent police critic who is the son of a Jamaican cop, will run against as many as eight other candidates to represent District 12 in The Bronx, which includes Baychester, Co-op City, Edenwalk, Wakefield and Williamsbridge.
But he will have to campaign for the special Nov. 6 election without public funding, since he missed the one-week window to apply for matching funds, and without the support of the Bronx Democratic party, which will back local activist and union organizer, Andy King.
“I’m not going to spend time worrying about it,” Mitchell, 48, said Wednesday. “I haven’t gotten this far by taking the easy path.”
The Council seat opened on July 26, when Seabrook was convicted of nine felony counts for funneling $1.5 million in city money to friends and family members through nonprofits he controlled. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Mitchell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, where his father was a police officer, but as a teenager moved with his family to Williamsbridge, just blocks from where Seabrook and King grew up.
He represented the parents of Sean Bell, the unarmed Queens groom killed by police in 2006, when three NYPD officers went on trial for the shooting. This year, he defended a half-brother of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed teen killed by a cop in The Bronx, in an unrelated gun-gang case.
He fiercely opposes stop-and-frisk, arguing that it is an illegal and ineffective tactic akin to using a “meat cleaver” where a scalpel would do.
“I’m against harassing large numbers of people with the hope of finding a needle in a haystack,” Mitchell said.
A brief stint teaching troubled students at schools in Brooklyn and on Rikers Island convinced Mitchell of the need for strong schools — he advocates longer school days and tougher tenure rules — as well as more jobs and after-school options for youth.
“Where you find lack of opportunity, lack of education, people with nothing to do — it’s a prescription for disaster,” he said.
Mitchell currently lives with his wife and daughters in Upper Manhattan, but has many relatives, including his mother whom he said he visits daily, in the northeast Bronx. In the coming weeks, he plans to relocate there — an election requirement.
In the meantime, he’ll try to earn some of the name recognition enjoyed by King, 49, a lifelong Bronxite who founded a local youth program and was an 1199 SEIU community organizer.
In the 2009 primary elections, King challenged Seabrook and won a third of the vote.
“Andy has been out there a long time,” said Patrick Jenkins, spokesman for the Bronx Democratic County Committee, which will support King. He added that far fewer local leaders know Mitchell.
But Mitchell said he is confident he can attract campaign support and eventually votes.
“They’re not in high places,” he quipped, “but I have a lot of friends.”