Division of Criminal Justice Services

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DCJS Contact: John Caher, 518 457-8415, john.caher@dcjs.ny.gov
DOCS Contact:  Erik Kriss, 518-457-8182, ejkriss@docs.state.ny.us
For immediate release: Monday, Jan. 26, 2009

Criminal Justice Officials Honored by New York State Bar Association
Denise O’Donnell/ Anthony Annucci to receive prestigious awards

Denise E. O’Donnell, commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and assistant secretary for criminal justice, and Anthony J. Annucci, executive deputy commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, will be honored by the New York State Bar Association tomorrow when the nation’s largest voluntary bar group holds it annual meeting in Manhattan, Governor David A. Paterson announced today.

Governor Paterson said Commissioner O’Donnell and Mr. Annucci will each receive a 2009 Award for Excellence in Public Service from the State Bar’s Committee on Attorneys in Public Service Tuesday evening. The award was established to “recognize excellence by a member of the legal profession in the commitment to, and performance of, public service.” Prior recipients include retired Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, Chief Judge-nominee Jonathan Lippman and New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

“Commissioner O’Donnell and Executive Deputy Commissioner Annucci are model public officials who serve this state with loyalty, competence, diligence and integrity,” Governor Paterson said. “I am proud that Denise and Tony are a part of my administration, and I congratulate them on a very well-deserved honor.”

Governor Paterson noted that the State Bar found that Commissioner O’Donnell and Executive Deputy Commissioner Annucci met the stringent criteria for the Excellence in Public Service award ─ to “epitomize a commitment to the highest and noblest calling afforded by the legal profession: to preserve and protect the public. Their efforts must demonstrate a commitment to service, honor and integrity.”

Ms. O’Donnell, the first person in her family to graduate from college, began her professional career as a social worker and drug counselor in New York City. Ten years later, Ms. O’Donnell enrolled in the University at Buffalo School of Law.

While studying law in the late 1970s, Ms. O’Donnell worked as a legal assistant for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on a landmark school desegregation case. She graduated summa cum laude in 1982 and spent the next three years as law clerk to Appellate Division, Fourth Department, Justice M. Dolores Denman.

In 1985, Ms. O’Donnell accepted a position as an assistant United States Attorney in the Western District of New York, where she prosecuted a wide array of criminal cases ranging from drug offenses to political corruption. She was promoted to appellate chief in 1990 and named First Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1993. As first assistant, Ms. O’Donnell worked on a national investigation that developed crucial evidence against Timothy J. McVeigh, who was convicted of orchestrating the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

Ms. O’Donnell was appointed United States Attorney by President Clinton in 1997 and became the first woman ever to hold the position of top federal prosecutor in upstate New York.

After leaving federal government in 2001, Ms. O’Donnell became a litigation partner at Hodgson Russ LLP, one of the nation’s oldest law firms. However, her heart was in public service and, in early 2007, was appointed commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and unanimously confirmed by the State Senate. She also serves as Assistant Secretary for Criminal Justice, advising the governor on key public safety and criminal justice issues. Additionally, she chairs the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, the Forensic Science Commission and the New York State Motor Vehicle Theft and Insurance Fraud Prevention Board and serves as co-chair of the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking.

The Commissioner has taught at the SUNY Buffalo School of Law and served as a lecturer with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Education. She was inducted into the Western New York Women’s Hall of Fame and has received numerous awards and honors, including the New York State Bar Association’s Ruth G. Shapiro Award and the President’s Award from the Women’s Bar Association.

Mr. Annucci, one of the most experienced corrections counsels in the nation, has served the Department of Correctional Services for over 24 years. He joined DOCS as deputy counsel in 1984 and, five years later, was appointed deputy commissioner and counsel. In that capacity, Mr. Annucci served as the agency’s chief legal advisor and now, as executive deputy commissioner, coordinates the work of the entire agency with respect to intergovernmental, legislative and various operational and program issues. He also serves as Acting Extradition Secretary to the Governor.

Mr. Annucci has played a pivotal role in shaping correctional programs in New York State by drafting or otherwise contributing significantly to several initiatives, including the Shock Incarceration Program, the Comprehensive Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program, the Willard Drug Treatment program, the Merit Time  Program, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1995, Jenna’s Law and reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws. His efforts in securing a court-approved settlement agreement on the treatment of inmates with mental illness played a key role in making New York the new national model for providing services to such inmates.

A native of New York City, Mr. Annucci earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Fordham University, a master of art degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Mr. Annucci began his public service career as an investigator for the State Senate Select Committee on Crime and later served as law assistant to several New York State Supreme Court justices.

Mr. Annucci serves as the DOCS representative on the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform and previously served as a member of the Legal Issues Committee of the American Correctional Association. He has lectured at several national training seminars sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections and authored several articles on corrections-related issues. In 2001, Mr. Annucci received an award from the State Bar’s Criminal Justice Section for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Correction.