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Judge in Karina Vetrano murder case set to retire, officials say

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown confirmed the departure and praised Lasak, who formerly worked in Brown's office.

Judge Gregory Lasak in 2003.

Judge Gregory Lasak in 2003. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alan Raia

The Queens judge handling the murder case of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano plans to retire by mid-September, according to court officials and law enforcement sources.

Queens State Supreme Court Judge Gregory Lasak, 64, who was reelected last November, told officials of his retirement plans last week, court officials said.

Lasak didn't return calls seeking comment, although his office voice mail system said he was due back from vacation Monday.

Lasak has been handling the case of Chanel Lewis, charged with murder in the August 2016 slaying of Vetrano in Spring Creek Park. Lasak had scheduled a trial date for October. Legal experts said that when Lasak leaves the bench, his case will be reassigned but that any legal decisions he has made about the admissibility of evidence will stand.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown confirmed Lasak would be leaving by issuing a statement: “Judge Lasak is a talented, capable and senior trial judge who has handled some of our most important and difficult cases. He will be missed.”

A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration said he was aware of Lasak's plans, but that the agency’s payroll office has not officially been notified.

Lasak, 64, served under Brown before resigning to become a judge in 2003. Brown, 85, who has Parkinson's disease, has said he would like to run for re-election in November 2019. Lasak has been mentioned as a possible successor to Brown, who on Monday did not comment about his own political future.

Lasak was known as “Mr. Murder” during his time in the DA's office because of the way he specialized in homicide cases, and he has a reputation for being a tough-sentencing jurist.

In December, he sentenced the killer of NYPD Officer Brian Moore of Plainedge to life in prison without parole. In sentencing defendant Demetrius Blackwell, 37, Lasak called him a “coward” who should die in prison.

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