ONTARIO COUNTY DA RACE: Jim Ritts / Kristina 'Kitty' Karle Q-and-A
KARLE: I am born and raised in Ontario County. I have been continually anchored to this community through church, family and friends. I have extensive trial experience as well as true supervisory experience. I worked for 13 years as a prosecutor and have handled virtually EVERY type of case, including murder. During the 18 years of my career, I have fought relentlessly for victims of crime and for my clients. I am experienced; I am prepared, and I have passion for the victims in our community. The role of District Attorney is a significant one, and I am ready to accept it.
RITTS: The District Attorney is one of the most important elected offices in Ontario County. This office prosecutes crimes, collaborates with police and impacts how safe you are every day. I’ve served in the DA’s Office for 18 years, currently serving as First Assistant DA. I’ve prosecuted the worst crimes — murders, rapes, child abuse, and more. Law enforcement has recognized my efforts, and I’ve been endorsed by the State Police Investigators Association, Canandaigua PBA, and Geneva Police Department Local 3471. I’m asking for your vote in the Republican Primary Election because we need real integrity in the DA’s Office.
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FLT: Why are you running for DA?
KARLE: I am running for DA to make a difference in the community where I was born and raised. I have a proven history fighting for crime victims and fighting for justice. I have the experience, passion, and integrity to do the job right, for the people and with the people of Ontario County.
RITTS: I’ve been in the trenches in Ontario County, every day, every week, every year — for the past two decades. I’m proud of my record in the courtroom, prosecuting thousands of cases and handling more than 100 trials and 160 appeals. Despite this workload, I’ve never been admonished for misconduct.
FLT: What attributes of yours would make you the best DA?
KARLE: My courtroom experience, extensive prosecutorial experience, and true leadership experience are the attributes that will make me the best DA. I have a proven track record fighting for crime victims, working with law enforcement and advocacy agencies, and leading a team of prosecutors successfully and expertly.
RITTS: I have an active working knowledge of this community. When a call comes in about a shooting, I don’t have to waste time figuring out criminals’ street names. When the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner calls at 2 a.m., I’ll be on my way to the hospital to calm the victim.
FLT: Why would your opponent not make as good a DA as you?
KARLE: My opponent lacks the experience that I have. He has never tried a murder case on his own, and when he sat second seat on the one murder trial he was involved in, he lost the case. I have conducted numerous murder trials and taught my team how to successfully do the same. When it comes to the safety of our community, experience matters and I have it.
RITTS: Kitty Karle’s record of prosecutorial misconduct is a big problem. The appellate court criticized her for repeatedly engaging in instances of misconduct, each time on cases of child sexual assault. She claims she argued passionately for victims. But breaking the rules and risking the conviction of dangerous predators is unacceptable.
FLT: The Ontario County’s DA office has a reputation of being tough against DWI offenders. What are your thoughts on that?
KARLE: I support being tough and fair when it comes to DWI cases as well as every criminal case that I have handled in the past or will handle in the future. I will not be driven by maintaining a “conviction rate” but rather driven by achieving justice in each and every case that comes across my desk.
RITTS: We’re tough on DWI offenses because the public deserves to be safe. I’m proud of our reputation because it has a deterrent effect on drivers who might otherwise risk this behavior. With the advent of alternatives such as UBER there is no excuse for drunk or drugged driving.
FLT: You both have made residency an issue, Jim saying that Kitty has gained most of her experience in Monroe County only to move back to Ontario to run for DA, and Kitty saying that Jim is originally from Ohio. Would you both comment on that?
KARLE: I was born in Ontario County. I was raised on my parents’ farm in Honeoye. I graduated from Honeoye Central, and I have been continually anchored to this community. I have gained experience as a prosecutor and a leader and am now home to make a difference right here in Ontario County. Residency is not an issue.
RITTS: Your parents decide where you’re born. You decide where you’re going to live as an adult. I chose to live, work and volunteer here over the past two decades. My opponent chose to leave three decades ago and is moving back now just to run for political office.
FLT: Kitty what are some things that you would like to change in the DA’s office?
KARLE: I plan to bring an investigator into the DA’s office to conduct follow up investigations, serve subpoenas, and serve as a liaison between other law enforcement agencies. I will work to better serve crime victims and ensure that their voices are heard and justice is achieved. I will aggressively work with law enforcement to keep drugs out of our county.
FLT: Jim, what are some things in the current DA’s office that you would like to continue?
RITTS: I’ll continue our commitment to justice and accountability without fear or favor. If you’re a victim, we’ll fight for you. If you’ve committed a crime, you will be held accountable. We have a group of excellent attorneys who collaborate to get results, and I’ll continue to grow this “team” approach.
FLT: There was a pointed back and forth between current DA Mike Tantillo and Kitty earlier in this race with him saying that she had been criticized for “multiple instances of unethical behavior.” Could you both elaborate?
KARLE: I have prosecuted thousands of cases, and in only three instances, the court said there was certain language I should not have used in cross examination and summation. I said the child who had been sexually abused had the “courage of giant” to confront her abuser. At the court’s direction, I will no longer say those words. I have a history of fighting hard for children to ensure their voices are heard and that molesters/predators are held accountable. Under the current regime, the Ontario County DA’s office has been reversed time and time again for prosecutorial misconduct. After a recent reversal, Mr. Tantillo had this say, “Those things happen in the heat of trial. It’s all part of the job.” Part of the job is receiving instruction and guidance from the higher courts, which I will do at all times to ensure that justice prevails.
RITTS: District Attorney Tantillo cited specifically the three Appellate decisions that addressed Kitty Karle’s proclivity for engaging in prosecutorial misconduct. The latest case occurred just three months after she’d been admonished in a previous decision. Her misconduct was the reason a conviction was reversed by the Court of Appeals.
FLT: What are you most proud of in your experience as a prosecutor?
KARLE: I am most proud of work fighting for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. There is no greater honor than giving a voice to victims in the courtroom. One particular domestic violence case stands out. I worked with this victim for years, and she was finally able to face her abuser and testify.
RITTS: I’m most proud of helping to form and expand the Child Advocacy Center. We provide a safe, child-friendly place for kids who’ve been sexually or physically abused. We’ve grown this important resource to now include sites in Canandaigua, Geneva, and Seneca County. Bottom line: This helps make kids safer.
FLT: Many are saying people will vote based on how they feel about Tantillo: if they approve of him, they will vote for Jim; if they disapprove they will vote for Kitty. Would you comment?
KARLE: I am not riding anyone’s coattails to the office. I am running on my own experience, my own vision for the District Attorney’s office, and my own integrity. It is time for positive change in the DA’s office. The most qualified candidate should earn the votes and earn the position to serve and to protect.
RITTS: He’s been the District Attorney for 28 years. During that time, you’ll ruffle some feathers. I share some of his views but have my own independent vision for the office. While I’m proud to have Mike’s endorsement, I’m my own man and trust the voters will decide based on my qualifications.
FLT: What are the top 2 or 3 most important issues that the Ontario County DA’s office needs to focus on?
KARLE: 1. Working to end the opiate epidemic by seeking maximum sentences for sellers — and using education, prevention, and our treatment courts to better serve those seeking treatment for addiction. 2. Aggressively advocating for crime victims to make sure their voices are heard and justice is served. 3. Working with law enforcement to keep the drugs out and to keep the streets safe for all.
RITTS: The opioid epidemic is taking far too many lives. That’s why I recently announced a comprehensive three-point plan to fight the problem through prosecution, treatment and education. Additionally, I include in my top priorities prosecution of child abuse, and prosecution of elder abuse and fraud. We must protect vulnerable citizens.
FLT: Why should someone vote for you in the Sept. 12 primary?
KARLE: I care about justice, and I care about this great county. The role of the District Attorney is an awesome one and I am ready to shoulder that responsibility with integrity and passion. I am experienced; I am prepared, and I have the vision to make our DA’s office strong. I would be honored to serve my home community, and I promise to do that: day in and day out. We will fight together, arm in arm, for justice and for the protection of our community.
RITTS: You have a stark choice in this election. I’ve served in our local DA’s Office with distinction for two decades. My opponent has been cited for repeated dangerous misconduct in the courtroom. I’m asking for your vote so we maintain true integrity at the DA’s Office for Ontario County’s citizens.Mike Cutillo