In a letter to friends and colleagues, District Attorney Maloney assesses the challenges of the first year:
January 1, 2014
It’s been a whirlwind of a year! The District Attorney’s Office has seen big changes but the quality of the work and commitment to justice has stayed as strong as ever.
While I respect and honor those who have served the District Attorney’s Office in the past, I can not imagine a more dedicated and intelligent group of people than those with whom I have the pleasure to work. I encourage you to visit us in our offices in Augusta, Waterville, and Skowhegan. While I could write glowing pages about each person in the office, I want to at least be sure to introduce you to our new Deputy District Attorney, Fernand LaRochelle. Fern is the former Chief of the Criminal Unit at the Office of the Attorney General. His wisdom, experience, and patience influence everything we do. We are all grateful for the opportunity to work with him!
The focus of the Office this year has been “Smart on Crime.” We strive to turn around first time and low level offenders while putting the most dangerous criminals in jail for as long as possible. Here are some examples:
One of the first decisions I made was to allow the US Attorney’s Office to prosecute pharmacy robberies. These robberies were at epidemic proportions in our counties and a tougher approach was clearly needed. Longer sentences are possible at the federal level than the state level. I am glad to see that the number of pharmacy robberies has plunged. When law enforcement works together the results are more successful.
After the jury trial conviction of Havier Olmo for Class A, Aggravated Drug Trafficking in oxycodone, the Office passionately sought the longest sentence possible, concluding that his extensive list of priors made rehabilitation unlikely. The judge agreed and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, none of it suspended.
In contrast, Christopher Knight had a long list of burglaries (most outside the statute of limitations) but had never before been convicted of a crime. After “the team” at the co-occurring disorders court (“CODC”) concluded he was worth the risk of trying to rehabilitate, I agreed to a “good” sentence of county jail with a “bad” state prison sentence hanging over his head. In general, I’m not in favor of short state prison sentences as this time can teach people to be better criminals. If we can use an intensive alternative program like the CODC (which requires weekly meetings with Justice Mills, counseling, drug screening and employment or school attendance) to turn defendants into productive, law-abiding citizens, then we have been successful. Not to mention that, even with the intensity of the CODC, it is still less expensive for taxpayers than the cost of incarceration.
Speaking of alternative sentencing, the Veterans’ Court in Kennebec County is thriving. It has grown to over twice the size it was back in January of 2013. I learned about veterans’ courts when I was in the legislature, sponsoring a bill for our own veterans’ court in Maine. Any of you who have watched the MPBN broadcast of A Matter of Duty, fully understands the impact this court has had on the lives of veterans. Being a part of this amazing program has shown me the true meaning of criminal justice.
Here are some alternative programs our office is pursuing with community partners:
1) a new alternative program for first time OUI’s with a BAC of under 1.0 in Kennebec County;
2) a new alternative program for drug related crimes in Somerset County;
3) a new group focused on high lethality domestic violence cases in Somerset
4) a new use of Restorative Justice in sentencing when requested by victims; and
5) a continued support of the alternative sentencing program in Kennebec County for those serving less than 10 days in jail.
I am indebted to numerous community partners for making all this possible for the people of Kennebec and Somerset counties.
We have taken a hard stance against domestic violence which has increased our success of victims appearing at trial in high lethality cases. At the same time, we are giving victims control over their lives in cases without a high lethality rating.
Our most serious and heartbreaking cases continue to be our child sexual assault cases. These always create a dilemma as it can be difficult for the child to testify in Court, but we want to pursue the longest prison sentence possible.
It is a privilege and an honor to work with you. Every day I am in awe of the hardworking people in our towns and cities, law enforcement, the Courts, local nonprofits, attorneys, and others working to bring justice to the people of Kennebec and Somerset counties.