Division of Criminal Justice Services

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July 25, 2007

Christine Anderson


Governor Eliot Spitzer today announced the appointment of Commissioner Denise O’Donnell to serve as Assistant Secretary for Criminal Justice. Ms. O’Donnell will oversee the government's key public safety and criminal justice agencies, including the State Police, the Department of Corrections, and the Division of Parole. She will also continue to oversee the operations of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which serves as a planning and analysis office for all of the criminal justice agencies.

The appointment is a result of the Governor’s reorganization of his administration’s public safety division, which includes both criminal justice and public safety portfolios.

“It is critical that we take immediate and direct action to restore public confidence in one of our most important government functions,” said Governor Spitzer. “Denise’s unquestioned integrity, superb judgment and broad experience will help ensure our criminal justice and public safety agenda moves forward insulated from politics and with the highest standards of accountability. Her unique background at DCJS, as U.S. Attorney, and currently as Chair of the NYS Commission on Sentencing Reform makes her uniquely qualified to join Deputy Secretary Michael Balboni and help guide the state's public safety agenda.”

Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Michael Balboni said “Ms. O’Donnell’s appointment demonstrates a serious commitment to professionalism and accountability. Her breadth of experience and knowledge of proper law enforcement protocols will serve the public well.”

Ms. O'Donnell currently serves as Commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Services, a post she has held since January 2007. In that capacity, she serves as chair of the NYS Commission on Sentencing Reform, which was created by Executive Order 10 earlier this year to examine current criminal sentencing practices and to make recommendations for change. Previously, Ms. O’Donnell served as United States Attorney for the Western District of New York from 1997 to 2001. During that time, she was Vice-Chair of the New York State Attorney General's Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. from 2000 to 2001. She also served as First Assistant United States Attorney from 1993 to 1997. Ms. O'Donnell played a key role in the investigation of Timothy McVeigh for the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and in the prosecution of James Kopp for the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, a provider of reproductive services. Prior to joining the Spitzer administration, Ms. O’Donnell was a Partner at Hodgson Russ LLP and ran for New York State Attorney General. She received her B.S. from Canisius College and both her M.S.W. and J.D. from SUNY at Buffalo.

Ms. O’Donnell will succeed LaiSun Yee, who will move over to become the Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security, filling the vacancy created by William Howard’s reassignment out of the Governor's Office.

Before joining the administration, Ms. Yee served as General Counsel in the Office of the Bronx Borough President since 2006. Previously, Ms. Yee served as General Counsel in the New York State Emergency Management Office, where she advised the Director, the Governor's staff, and local emergency officials on state emergency laws and federal disaster statutes. From 2001 to 2004, Ms. Yee was Deputy Commissioner for Legal Services and General Counsel in the New York City Mayor's Office of Emergency Management. Ms. Yee also served in the New York City Fire Department from 1992 to 2001. While there, she served in a number of capacities, including Assistant Fire Commissioner in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Assistant Fire Commissioner in the Bureau of Investigations and Trials and as an Attorney in the Bureau of Legal Affairs. Ms. Yee received both her B.A. and J.D. from Cornell University, and an M.A. from the Naval Postgraduate School.