My career as a prosecutor was born right here in Ulster County, my home since I arrived in America 43 years ago. As a prosecutor, the duty and ultimate aim is to do justice – justice for the community, justice for the victim, justice for the accused, unfettered by fear or favor, or any outside agenda or influences. The District Attorney, though elected through our Constitutional political process, is a servant of all, and is bound by the maxim, “Justice For All.”

In pursuit of justice for all, an open mind and door, a commitment to making decisions based on the facts and circumstances of each case, a positive use and exercise of discretion, respect and dignity for all even as we vigorously prosecute violent crimes and undeterred recidivists, are necessary to assure community confidence in the outcome of every case and in the execution of the functions of the office. It is the mission of the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office to seek “Justice For All.”

VIOLENT CRIMES:  These are crimes that do both physical and psychological damage to the people of Ulster County. The gunshot that kills or injures someone also pierces through the sense of safety in the community. Other acts of violence also have the impact of degrading a community’s sense of security. These acts seriously damage and interfere with everyone’s enjoyment of their freedoms. Such crimes must be vigorously prosecuted and those who commit them must be held to account. It is in the best interest of this community that the District Attorney’s Office must dedicate the necessary resources and collaborate with our local law enforcement for the successful investigations and prosecutions of such cases.

NONVIOLENT CRIMES:  Many crimes in this category cause significant wear and tear in a community’s psyche and degrade our sense of value and respect for others and the safety of their property, as well as undermine our common trust in one another. The District Attorney holds a hammer, metaphorically, but it does not mean that every offense or offender is a nail. While there is no one resolution that fits all nonviolent crimes, it is imperative for the District Attorney to exercise lawful discretion to effect resolutions that more closely fulfill the sense of “Justice For All.”

MENTAL HEALTH & RELATED DISORDERS:  It is not infrequent that some of those charged with violent and nonviolent crimes in Ulster County suffer from untreated or poorly treated mental illnesses and other medical disorders that are directly or indirectly related to their conduct. Whenever such is the case, we will seek appropriate resolution with security and treatment for those who present a danger to themselves or others, while using other alternatives and available effective resources to address nonviolent offenders with mental health issues.

Substance use disorders and rampant availability of various deadly substances have cost too many lives in our county, like all others across America. We all know the opioid overdose epidemic, the prevalence and easy access to Fentanyl, and the emergence of other concoctions sold in the street markets for community members to use, ultimately leads to overdose and death, as well as altered mental states and desperation to do anything, including violent criminal conduct, to find a “quick fix.”

We will continue to use Ulster County Regional Drug Court to redeem those who commit to sobriety and want help to get there. We will aid other community and law enforcement programs, such as Sheriff Department’s O.R.A.C.L.E, which aim to assist and recover those who seek help on their own or are referred by loved ones.

As for those who sell, provide, or give these dangerous and deadly substances to children, they will face criminal prosecution for sale of such items and, possibly, for homicide if a death occurs and there is sufficient evidence to prove such case.

YOUTH CRIME PREVENTION: “One Life Only”:  Violent crimes threaten all of us and disproportionately involve our young people as the perpetrators and victims. While the focus has always been on prosecution and its deterrence, we must seriously focus on everything we can do for prevention. That includes reaching the youth where they live their lives – in their social media, schools, community social settings, and interactions – and repeatedly seeding in them the care and concern for themselves and others, because we all have One Life Only; there is no life in death, and “life in prison” is no life at all. We must get across to the youth to think about the consequences that will come later before they engage such life-ending conduct that they contemplate in the moment. Too often our young people walk into court for the first time with such swagger that betrays what’s to come at the time of sentencing – the heartfelt cry and emotional devastation to them and their loved ones as they are being sentenced and led away to prison for the very act which they did not think much of at the time they did it. Reaching even two or three such youth and preventing their engagement in violent or gun crimes is a reduction of violent crime worthy of the effort.

OPEN MIND/DOOR WITH DEFENSE BAR:  While the work of this Office is directly opposed by the work of defense attorneys in specific instances, serving the ends of justice in the community is, and must remain, the ultimate destination. Both sides can disagree and yet work in professional cooperation to achieve a just result. Innocence shall never suffer. Every defense attorney is encouraged to promptly bring forward exculpatory or mitigating information to facilitate timely resolutions of cases before indictment, or upon obtaining such information after indictment. Such practice will work for the benefit of all and minimize the risk of unnecessary litigation tying up Ulster County Court with trials and hearings, with the attendant exhaustion of public resources, worry for victims and accused and their families, and inconvenience to citizens who must perform jury duty.

DIVERSITY IN A NON-POLITICAL OFFICE:  The Office of Ulster County District Attorney has embraced gender and ethnic diversity uncommon to similarly sized rural offices. This progress has continued since the 1980s. Such diversity has grown even more so in recent years and now reflects more women in the office than men, and more prosecutors and employees of different cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Visible diversity helps in both subtle and obvious ways with the services we provide to victims and witnesses; such diversity in ideas and experiences promotes a better understanding of our community which consists of such diversity in all aspects. There is no room for any political agenda or practices in the office; victims, witnesses, and visitors of differing political ideologies must feel comfortable and confident that the path to “Justice for All” is not strewn with the garments of any political or social ideology, patronage, or affiliation. The environment reflected here must exist for everyone; it is essential to the elimination of negativism, and it helps focus the daily activities of the office on the professional growth and development of our prosecutors and dedication of service to all in the community.

TRANSPARENCY:  The desire for political survival sometimes leads to gimmickry and other measures which disguise what is actually occurring. This can be made worse by purported news reporters presenting a press-pass on the front and a hidden agenda in the heart, mind, and pocket. Such malpractice in the press causes stress to victims, creates confusion and distrust, and undermines the confidence of the community in the office. In addition to prompt press releases in some instances to correct erroneous and false reporting and minimize the stress it causes to victims of crimes, there will be several town-hall-style events per year held in various communities in Ulster County for public information and to discuss issues, concerns, and receive community input for improved service. Transparency is crucial in the path to “Justice for All.”

LOYALTY OF SERVICE:  The work of this Office is to serve the people of this County; therefore, while loyalty to the elected District Attorney may inextricably intertwine with loyalty to the service of the County, the service to the people of Ulster County is paramount. Such loyalty includes our role as public servants, as officers of the court, as servants of the law, and ethical practitioners of our profession. It necessarily means loyalty to the principle of fairness in the process which, ultimately, is the only path to “Justice for All.”

CHANGED TIMES AND LAWS:The work of every District Attorney’s Office in this State has been transformed by so many changes in the laws in short order, so much so that no District Attorney’s office in this State is like it had been in 2019 or earlier. The prosecutor has justifiably always carried the most difficult burden in all courts in this State and across America. Pitted in the prosecutor’s realm is, on the one hand, the individual liberty of the accused versus, on the other hand, the vindication of our laws, victims of crime, and our community’s interest in justice. As well-intended, and maybe needed, as the criminal justice reforms which took effect in 2020 were, the unintended problematic consequences have wreaked havoc in our criminal justice process and heaped huge additional stressful working conditions upon prosecutors. On top of the pre-existing burdens for prosecutors prior to 2019
There is the NEW overwhelming burden imposed by changes in discovery rules

  • There are the NEW major changes in our bail laws and we must be available to assist our local police officers and courts at all hours;

  • There are also NEW reforms in the parole system which now place on the prosecution a responsibility for parole hearings, previously handled elsewhere;

  • There are NEW habeas corpus petitions resulting from bail determinations by courts, even as the same defendant and his or her attorney continue to file repeated requests for bail hearings;

  • There is the NEW Youth Part Court which is a special prosecution to be conducted outside traditional criminal courts;

  • There is the NEW Extreme Risk Protection Orders which are vital in preventing self-harm or injury to others in times of perceived mental instability; and

  • There is the NEW Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act which permits serious convicted felons to bring motions and avail themselves of hearings for resentencing based on latent or belated claims of domestic abuse and thereby reopen sentences previously imposed by a court.

Every DA’s office and individual prosecutor in this State must adjust accordingly to embrace and deal appropriately with these laws and changes; but these new burdens have driven many experienced prosecutors to become defense attorneys, causing extreme shortage in manpower to conduct the business of prosecutors. The caseloads for most prosecutors have tripled, and the work now required in the life of any specific case has increased a hundredfold. It is necessary to hire new ADAs who have experience under these new laws, and retain those we have trained by paying them comparably to other similarly situated ADAs in our region where we must compete with bigger counties and offices.

UNDER ONE ROOF:  The rigorous work of this office is being carried out by men and women in at least five different buildings miles away from each other; this means that some employees of the Ulster County District Attorney have never met each other, and the true learning by osmosis which occurs in professional settings is almost non-existent for new and inexperienced prosecutors. No other Ulster County agency is in similar situation. The essential function and service of this office require that Ulster County obtain a building that is sufficient for all employees of the District Attorney to be under one roof, with accessibility that meets the requirements of State and Federal laws.