LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT FOUR YEARS
The citizen's safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal
with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and
not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.
-Hon. Robert H. Jackson
As Election Day 2019 nears I have a feeling of gratitude. In 2015 I ran for Putnam County District Attorney--and I had a lot of help and encouragement from so many. I wrote about people inviting me into their homes to talk about issues, share a dinner (!), have a glass of lemonade or a soda, and offer me encouragement as I went on my way "knocking on doors"--visiting as many voters as I could from all parties.
After a successful campaign I set about the task of creating the best District Attorney's Office in New York State. Over the past four years we have made tremendous strides in the office, and I certainly did not do it alone. I had the help of many professional, ethical, and experienced attorneys.
When I ran for office I promised to develop an extensive attorney training program. Since being elected, I and the assistant district attorneys in the office have received training and education in cases involving child abuse, sexual assault, hate crimes, DWI prosecutions, ethical guidelines in case development, prosecuting vehicular crimes, avoiding conflicts of interest, developing financial crime the cases, prosecuting elder abuse crimes, asset forfeiture, and many other areas of the law. Now, almost four years later, I think the Putnam County District Attorney's Office has some of the most highly trained and skilled district attorneys in New York State.
Some accomplishments that I am very proud (and these are the work of many) of are:
PUTNAM COUNTY'S FIRST NARCOTICS UNIT: The opioid epidemic and other forms of drug abuse have increased exponentially across the country over the last several years. In 2019 I assigned two full-time assistant district attorneys to handle all the narcotics cases and investigations. They are highly skilled at what they do, having over 24 years of experience in investigating and prosecuting narcotics trafficking cases. Our office works daily with all federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the war against narcotics. However, we are also strong proponents of treatment for the addict. Accordingly, we are involved with Putnam County's drug treatment court and other county organizations and private rehabilitation and treatment agencies. The office has a dedicated national data drug trafficking expert whose job is to collect data on the many kinds of drug activity and trafficking, and to rapidly analyze that data for use in investigations, prevention, and treatment. We have taken a hard-line stance with drug dealers, and a compassionate approach to drug addicts-- provided they do what is required to get the help they need by cooperating with treatment initiatives.
PUTNAM COUNTY'S FIRST CONVICTION INTEGRITY REVIEW PROCEDURE: It is an unfortunate fact that people have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. District Attorney's Offices is in our nation are recognizing this and are taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again going forward--and to make sure past unjust convictions are reversed. It is the job of the district attorney to seek justice. In 2016, I created the first ever conviction integrity review system in Putnam County. I personally oversaw the review of a wrongful conviction claim and was instrumental in securing the freedom of a man who was wrongfully convicted. This person spent eight years in jail for a crime he did not commit. We must never again allow this to happen to anyone.
FIGHTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE/SEX ABUSE/CHILD ABUSE: Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender can be a victim--or perpetrator--of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are simply dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, age, and education levels. Since 2016 we have prosecuted several hundred domestic violence, sex abuse, and child abuse cases. The office has one dedicated highly experienced prosecutor to oversee all these crimes. In addition, we have two assistant district attorneys to assist in the investigation and prosecution of these cases. We also have a dedicated investigator handling these cases. All allegations of domestic violence receive the highest scrutiny in our office. It is not only important to make sure that victims are protected, it is also important to make sure claims of domestic violence are truthful. To that end, our office has some of the most highly trained and experienced domestic violence assistance and investigators in the state.
PUTNAM COUNTY'S FIRST IMMIGRATION AFFAIRS UNIT AND IMMIGRATION AFFAIRS/VICTIM HOTLINE: I and members of my staff have met with leaders in the Hispanic community and discussed with them numerous immigration issues. We have worked very hard at community outreach to immigrant crime victims. Immigrants are often victims of crime because they are uneducated as to the laws in our state and nation, and, unfortunately, are often afraid to come forward to report crime--even when they are victims of the crime--because of their immigration status. If a person is a victim of a crime, our office does not look into the immigration status of the victim. The top priority is to arrest and convict the criminal. I am proud to report that our office now created the first immigrant affairs unit and immigration affairs/victim hotline number: 845-808-1049.
HELPING LAW ENFORCEMENT THROUGH ASSET FORFEITURE: The asset forfeiture program continues to be a powerful tool in crime fighting. Our office has used asset forfeiture to enhance law enforcement initiatives, provide training, and help keep our residents safe. The money forfeited as a result of criminal convictions is then used to fight crime. In addition to dispersing asset forfeiture money to the various law enforcement agencies working in our county, our office has provided asset forfeiture money for the following: ballistics vests have been purchased for law enforcement agencies safety; computer equipment and programs for data gathering and investigative synthesis; law enforcement vehicle computerization for rapid identification of criminal activity and background checks; victim services training for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse; training seminars for law enforcement officers, and much more. In 2018 alone the office was able to provide almost $60,000 for law enforcement equipment, training, and community organization assistance. This is money that would otherwise have 's come from the Putnam County taxpayer.
COOPERATION WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES: it is imperative that law enforcement agencies cooperate fully with one another and respect each other's skills and areas of expertise. For law enforcement to be successful, there must be a spirit of cooperation among all those involved. My staff and I are doing everything we can to let all law enforcement agencies know that they are appreciated, respected, and are an integral part of the work of the district attorney's office. In order for our office to successfully prosecute cases, it is essential that we work together with all those in law enforcement. Putting the safety of Putnam residence first requires nothing less. This spirit of cooperation was never more evident during the investigation of a tragic murder in the town of Carmel in 2017. An exhaustive and around-the-clock coordinated investigation by the New York State police, the Carmel Police Department, and the District Attorney's Office led to the speedy identification of the perpetrator of the crime. Carmel Police Department headquarters served as the command center; and investigators from the New York State police and assistant district attorneys were always on hand and on-call.
PUTNAM COUNTY'S DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FIRST ETHICS POLICY: The Putnam County District Attorney's Office is committed to the highest ethical conduct. Within a year of taking office I announced that for the first time in the history of the Putnam County District Attorney's Office, a written ethics policy was created. All prosecutors in the office are given a copy, and they must use it as a guide in all investigations and prosecutions. Our office continues to conduct every investigation and prosecution with the highest ethical considerations in mind. Every assistant district attorney must immediately bring to the attention of the District Attorney any possible conflict of interest, potential ethical issue, and any evidence that may tend to exculpate a person charged with a crime. Trust in our law enforcement agencies is essential for trust in government. If our citizens do not have unqualified trust in law enforcement, then they will not have trust in any aspect of government. The Putnam County District Attorney's Office continues to be a leader in state district attorneys’ offices regarding ethical considerations and behavior.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND INVOLVEMENT: The Putnam County District Attorney's Office recognizes the need for participation in our community. Our office is more involved than ever before with our schools, our community organizations, and our neighborhoods. Over the past four years we have held meetings with various school districts in the county and spoken to hundreds of students. Discussions have centered on substance abuse awareness, career opportunities, domestic violence, dating precautions and awareness, and the effects of drinking and driving. I have personally spoken before many community organizations and many assistant district attorneys have done the same. We want everyone to know that our office is available for every citizen to discuss any potential criminal problem. Even in noncriminal situations, we often help citizens by pointing them in the right direction and putting them in contact with people or organizations who can help them.
RESPONSIBILITY: Our office is committed to being scrupulously
fiscally responsible. The Putnam County taxpayers deserve nothing less. My
first proposed budget (2017) came in at $67,300 lower than the proposed budget.
In fiscal year 2018, the District Attorney's Office spent $141,000 less than
for fiscal year 2016--which was a budget inherited from the prior
administration. At the end of each fiscal year we have always come in under
budget, and our requested budget for 2020 is a mere $1300 more than our budget
We have been able to secure a grant for $60,000 dollars for fiscal year 2020 to upgrade all of our computer equipment, programs, and software. This is money that the Putnam County Taxpayer will not have to pay.
MOVING FORWARD: The Putnam County District Attorney's Office is always looking to improve. We constantly strive to update our knowledge of ethical considerations, investigative techniques, and at trial and appellate advocacy-- and we will continue to do so. All of the attorneys, including the district attorney, handle a varied caseload and continue to learn new and innovative ideas in law enforcement. We place a high priority on working cordially and professionally with other law enforcement agencies and consider our office to be part of the total "family of law enforcement." We have the highest regard for our sheriff's deputies, local police officers, and the New York State police-- and all law enforcement agencies with whom we work throughout the year. Our office also works very hard to create an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect for members of the defense bar. We recognize that they, too, are part of our law enforcement community, and they perform a vital role in the protection of our rights as citizens and in ensuring that our criminal justice system remains fair, humane, and just.
Every year the office handles approximately 2000 criminal prosecutions. Many are narcotics possession or sale cases, many are DWIs, others are domestic violence cases, sexual abuse, assault, larceny, white-collar crime, elder abuse crime, and various other charges.
I am greatly looking forward to serving as your district attorney for the next four years, and I and my staff will continue to do all we can to protect the citizens of our county--and to guarantee justice for all.