Democrat Dave Clegg beat Republican Mike Kavanagh by a mere 78 votes (out of over 52,000 cast) in their epic battle for district attorney in 2019, but Democrat county judge Bryan Rounds, running on the same ticket, may turn out to be his worst nightmare.
It was Rounds, after all, who blew the whistle on a district attorney’s office that now seems at best incompetent, at worst a threat to public safety, as Kingston in particular endures its most fearsome crime wave in living memory.
Murders, once rare in the Colonial City, are now, by comparison, a fact of urban life. In this case, Raymond Snyder, 37, stands accused of murdering Romero Underwood, 47, at his midtown home in mid-July of last year. He was arrested in January. By law, the district attorney has 45 days to present the people’s case to a grand jury. Snyder’s attorney waited another 36 days (81 all-told) before petitioning county court to free his client. Under the law, Judge Rounds had no choice but to release the defendant. According to courthouse sources, the accused killer is still out there, home for Mother’s Day.
Adding insult to failure to indict in a timely manner, Rounds also observed that during the almost three months that the DA was supposedly gathering evidence for a grand jury presentation, it indicted 16 persons accused of felony DUI.
That an accused murderer sat in jail for 81 days while the cases of more than a dozen drunks worked their way through indictment raises serious questions about the priorities of this district attorney. Sure, DUI cases are easier to indict than murder – blow .08 and off you go – but murder is…murder, Job One.
Marco Caviglia, head of the DA’s Felony Trials Bureau, offered a series of excuses, ranging from Covid restrictions to lack of forensic evidence on the case. Rounds was not impressed. “Not credible,” he ruled. Caviglia got his pink slip shortly after and was last seen cleaning out his desk.
To his credit, Clegg did not throw his felony trials chief under the bus; he did it to himself. Summing up the sorry state of affairs Rounds had revealed in his written decision, Clegg shrugged his shoulders (metaphorically). “Stuff happens,” he told reporters.
Stuff happens? That’s all he’s got? Stuff happens, all right. All over Kingston people are being shot down in the streets sometimes in broad daylight, gunshots go off almost every night. People count on the county’s chief law enforcement to prosecute miscreants in a legally timely manner. But I digress.
Unlike Rounds, elected without opposition to a ten-year term as county judge, Clegg will face voters in November of 2023. At the least, that allows time to get his act together, hire some hard-nosed prosecutors who can read a calendar and restore confidence in the DA’s office.
Come to think of it, I wonder what Mike Kavanagh’s doing these days.
NOTES – Kingston city officials say they’re going to try “community policing” to address high crime in mid-town. Neighborhood meetings I covered 20 years ago featured the same slogan.
Envision this community policing stop some evening:
It’s the cops.
Covid-19 as an excuse may soon rank up there with “the dog ate my homework.”
I asked a city defense attorney whether he thought Clegg would go to his B-team, what with assistant DAs heading for the door. “I don’t think Dave ever had an A-team,” he said. Ouch.
The Clegg-Kavanagh campaign was all about experience. Kavanagh, a career prosecutor and son of a former county district attorney, had it. Clegg, one of the more popular civil attorneys in town, but light on prosecutorial experience, had a 20,000-registrant advantage in enrollment. More than $300,000 in advertising from the Soros organization didn’t hurt, either.
As politicians tend to overreact to current events like this one, Democrats could be grousing about the possibility of Clegg stepping down to save the office in 2023. If he does, which I doubt, the governor would appoint a Democrat who would run in a special election this fall.
With the clock ticking toward a June 26 candidate deadline for family court judge, Democrats are focusing on Sarah Rakov, principal court attorney to family court judge Tony McGinty. No word from Republicans.