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Pierce County District Attorney John O'Boyle talked Thursday to the Prescott Kiwanis in advance of Tuesday's election. -- Photo by Jason Schulte

O'Boyle lays out his case for another term

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PRESCOTT - What was hoped to be a debate between the two candidates for Pierce County District Attorney Thursday at Prescott Kiwanis never materialized.

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Incumbent John O'Boyle showed up and spent his time talking about what the District Attorney's office does and outlined the reasons why he should get another four years.

"This is an important election," O'Boyle said about the upcoming Tuesday election. "The case load is growing and the level of complexities and violence is increasing.

"Pierce County citizens are at risk having a DA with no court room experience."

Challenger Sean Froelich was unable to show due to a "pressing work-related conflict" in Richfield, Minn., announced by Kiwanis President Mike Bondarenko.

Bondarenko then read a letter from Froelich highlighting why Pierce County should have a different District Attorney for the first time since 1992.

• He cited his lack of prosecuting crimes, but countered that by saying former Judge Robert Wing was recruited right out of law school to run for DA and the "county didn't get short changed with him."

• Sticking with the youth theme, he started as a police officer when he was 23 with no experience.

Most of Froelich's letter talked about the needs assessment report commissioned by the Pierce County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (which O'Boyle sits on) and done by its chairperson Linda Flanders.

In the assessment, the third biggest challenge asked among Council members was disconnect between the DA's office and others, primarily law enforcement. Froelich stated comments ranged from "lack of professional communication between the District Attorney's office and others" to "sexual assault offenders are not consistently dealt with".

"I will not allow there to be a culture of hostility between my office, or anyone in my office, and others in the criminal justice system," Froelich wrote. "...I believe in consistent sentencing for offenders."

O'Boyle, who turned 50 Thursday, sat in the crowd while the letter was being read, then had his turn.

"Not all cases are easy to prosecute," he said, stating a lack of evidence as one of the reasons why. "The decision to charge someone is something I take very seriously."

Again, hammering on Froelich's lack of experience, he noted he was in private practice for nearly four years in River Falls, which included handling criminal cases, before being elected.

He spent most of his time countering the needs assessment report. He talked about a second report done by a professional firm which contradicted the Flanders report.

"My office works well with everyone," he said. "...I guess I am too much to the point at times. My bedside manner could be improved, but I am blunt with officers' performance...I am upfront on where things can go and can't go."

To illustrate a good relationship with law enforcement, he said he got a text message from an officer, hoping he wins on Tuesday, stating the officer has learned a lot from O'Boyle. O'Boyle also noted it was law enforcement that convinced him to run in 1992 as they were not satisfied with then-incumbent Andrew Maki.

Other facets about the District Attorney's office include:

• In 2003, state funding cut the office down to one full-time and one half-time assistant. That is significant, O'Boyle said, because in 2011, 1,346 cases were referred to the DA's office, meaning that case load was split between three attorneys. So far, in 2012, the referrals are at 711. Due to the case load, he estimated 80 percent of his job is preparing for and being in court with the other 20 being administrative duties.

• The office reviews the actions of Law Enforcement and provides legal advice to officers if needed. It prosecutes county and state criminal charges (felonies, misdemeanors, traffic, etc...), but not civil.

• O'Boyle believes in the theory of one attorney handling a case from beginning to end and not having it be handed off to others.

O'Boyle was also asked about the recent triple homicide in River Falls and his thoughts on handling the case. He replied he would have likely done what St. Croix County did in asking the State Attorney General for assistance in prosecuting as well.

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte has been with the Herald since 2006. He covers County government and anything else that happens in Pierce County on a daily basis.
(715) 273-4334
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