Froelich, O’Boyle face off in DA primary electionPierce County voters who go to the polls next Tuesday for the primary election will find a contest between Democratic candidates for county district attorney on the ballot.
Pierce County voters who go to the polls next Tuesday for the primary election will find a contest between Democratic candidates for county district attorney on the ballot.
Sean Froelich is challenging incumbent John O’Boyle for the DA position.
A questionnaire was sent to the two candidates to help inform voters. Here are their responses.
1. What educational, occupational, civic and community experiences have you had that contribute to your qualifications to serve the people as Pierce County District Attorney?
FROELICH: At UW-River Falls, I earned my bachelor’s degree (Political Science major and Criminal Justice minor). I have a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. I have served as a police officer for the communities of River Falls, Ellsworth and Pierce County. I’ve been an active volunteer at my church in River Falls for several years. People that know me, say that I am sincere and level-headed. I will do what is right. I will earn the respect of my coworkers, all county personnel, law enforcement and every citizen. I will work hard to serve the county well.
O’BOYLE: I have lived in Pierce County for 25 years and I have been practicing law here full time since 1989. When I was elected district attorney in 1992, I had three years of trial experience in the field of criminal law. In 20 years as district attorney, I have handled virtually every kind of case that has come to my office, including homicides, sexual assaults, domestic violence and child abuse cases. I was one of the founding board members of the Sexual Assault Response Team and The St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program. I have been on the board for Turningpoint and currently serve as President of its board. I have also been a member of the River Falls Lions Club for over 10 years.
2. Had the River Falls case in which a man is accused of murdering his three young daughters occurred in Pierce County, would you have gotten the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office involved, as the St. Croix County District Attorney’s office did, and why?
FROELICH: This is a horrific tragedy. It is critical for the district attorney’s office not to let emotion get in the way of successful prosecution of this barbaric and unexplainable act. Every available resource must be brought to bear in such a case. The district attorney always has at his or her fingertips wide-ranging resources available through local law enforcement. In a matter like this, where one wants to assure a successful outcome, and leave absolutely no stone unturned, it was prudent of the St. Croix County District Attorney to engage the service of the attorney general’s office.
O’BOYLE: The attorney general's office is available to lend assistance to counties when serious crimes occur in them, which are usually complex homicides. Whether I would have requested their assistance would depend on the complexity of the legal and factual issues, as well as our caseload. I am not going to second guess the decision of the St. Croix County District Attorney. While I have experience handling homicide cases, including a double homicide in 1994, I wouldn't hesitate to ask the attorney general's office for assistance if I felt I needed it.
3. Do you intend to uphold constitutional carry, also known as open carry, and will you uphold Act 35, or the conceal to carry law? Please share your thoughts on these.
FROELICH: The obligation falls on the district attorney to uphold the law. The legislature writes the laws. It doesn’t matter what my personal beliefs are regarding the wisdom of a particular law. When taking my oath of office, I will be swearing to uphold the laws. The conceal/open carry laws are subject to several restrictions. I will enforce the right to carry as well as the substantial restrictions on that right in accordance with the letter of the law.
O’BOYLE: The laws at issue in this question are presumed to be constitutional upon enactment by our Legislature, unless declared unconstitutional by the Wisconsin or United States Supreme Court. The laws at issue in this question are complex laws. They do not give an absolute right to take a gun anywhere. There are exceptions in both laws. My responsibility as district attorney is to enforce the law when there are violations of it and the circumstances warrant a prosecution. I took an oath to uphold the laws in our state. I would not hesitate to enforce violations of either one of these laws.
4. On what issues do you differ from your opponent?
FROELICH: It should be of great concern to the voters that the Pierce County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Needs Assessment Report (PCCJCC Report) reported that the third most common response to the biggest challenge question was the disconnect between the district attorney’s office and others, primarily law enforcement. The “comments ranged from direct hostility and inability to communicate in a professional way,” and not understanding why cases failed to go to trial. This is entirely unacceptable and something which I vow to change. I have received the endorsement of the River Falls Police Association. The DA’s office is the chief law enforcement agency in the county and creating an effective, cohesive partnership with law enforcement is crucial. O’BOYLE: It is difficult to gauge differences with my opponent since he has never practiced law as an attorney. I believe he overestimates his law enforcement background and relationships as providing him the qualifications to be district attorney. There is more to being district attorney than being friends with police officers. The responsibilities of being district attorney don't always result in friendships with law enforcement. His lack of courtroom experience would be to the detriment of the citizens of Pierce County who are victims of crimes. Criminal defense attorneys will have a significant advantage over him. One cannot walk into this job with no experience practicing law and expect to have the necessary skills to effectively handle criminal cases as district attorney.
5. Identify and elaborate on any issues facing the Pierce County District Attorney’s office which you feel to be important.
FROELICH: The culture of the district attorney’s office must be changed. The recent PCCJCC Report reported difficulties in professional communications specifically between the district attorney’s office and others. The report noted that this was commented on by auxiliary agency members. I will change that culture. The report indicated a concern that sexual offenders are not consistently dealt with and cases are often pled down. I will change that. Offenders must be treated equally under the law. The voters should not be led to believe that experience is the only criteria for this position.
O’BOYLE: Pierce County is a growing county and with that growth comes an increase in crime. We are seeing more violent offenses being committed, especially in the area of domestic violence. The laws enacted by the Legislature in the area of criminal law are more complex every year. The recruitment and retention of experienced staff may be an issue facing the district attorney's office. I have been able to recruit and retain very experienced staff. Our budget gets cut virtually every year. The inadequacy of the jail creates political pressure to not incarcerate offenders. Sometimes justice requires incarceration as a punishment.