SENECA COUNTY DA RACE: Joe Sapio / Barry Porsch Q-and-A
PORSCH: Seneca County citizens deserve a hardworking, independent and honest District Attorney who is free from political influence. Bar owner/defense attorney Sapio was recruited by former Republican chairman Angelo Bianchi, who was convicted in 2007 of violating NY Election Law. Recently, Sapio filed a Working Families Party petition to run in that party’s primary, but a Supreme Court judge invalidated it because most of the signatures on the petition were illegally obtained by Bianchi in violation of NY Election Law. As DA, honesty and following the law matter. Citizens can be proud knowing that my DA Office serves them with integrity.
SAPIO: I have spent my entire legal career in the criminal justice system as an attorney and Town Justice. During that time, I have observed the procedures of the system from the police (arrest), to the District Attorney (prosecution) and concluded through the courts. The position of the District Attorney is unique in that he (or she) is the People’s principal official in the pursuit of the true goal of our system, which is to prosecute the guilty and protect the innocent. That is a broad but vital goal, necessary to the community, which I feel I am best qualified to accomplish.
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FLT: Why are you running for DA?
PORSCH: When I ran in 2009, Seneca County had experienced a tremendous loss of confidence in the criminal justice system. Remember the scandals involving citizens being unfairly targeted? We restored honesty and integrity to the DA Office. This year, the same people who caused the loss of confidence are supporting Sapio.
SAPIO: I have practiced law in this community for 16 years and sat as Fayette Town Judge for the past 5 1⁄2 years. I feel my experience, dedication and relationship with law enforcement make me uniquely qualified to uphold the integrity and professionalism needed in this office.
FLT: What attributes of yours would make you the best DA?
PORSCH: Reasons include: Restored integrity to DA Office. Runs non-political office. Protects Taxpayers. Prosecutes drug dealers; works closely with undercover drug investigators from local/state police agencies. Performed 30 trials in 7½ years (2009 opponent did 7 trials in 7½ years). Is independent and not controlled by political bosses. Works/available 24/7.
SAPIO: When my opponent began this job, he had no courtroom experience, while I had eight years in the court. To date, I have double the exposure including 5 1⁄2 years as town justice. My success as a defense attorney provides the much-needed insight to secure convictions by the prosecution.
FLT: Why would your opponent not make as good a DA as you?
PORSCH: Sapio is a career defense attorney who has never worked as a prosecutor; instead he defends drug dealers, thugs, rapists, and murderers, and discredits crime victims. Doesn’t know how to do appeals. Meanwhile, it seems every day I get calls from voters upset by Sapio campaign lies about my record.
SAPIO: The test of a successful DA lies with statistics of cases involving a contested felony trial. My opponent’s personal felony conviction rate is under 40 percent, while his office is under 50 percent, with two recent not guilty verdicts including an Attempted Murder and Possession of 72 bags of heroin.
FLT: Most local DA offices, including Seneca County, have a reputation of being tough against DWI offenders. What are your thoughts on that?
PORSCH: We have a fair DWI policy that follows the law. I am number 3 of 62 counties in successful DWI prosecutions, keeping our roads safe. Bar owner/defense attorney Sapio would gut DWI enforcement. Four convicted drunk drivers are on his campaign team. DWI defense attorneys have contributed heavily to Sapio.
SAPIO: DWI is a problem in every community; it is in violation of law and requires vigorous prosecution. I feel that enhanced sentences are necessary for repeat offenders, which I will recommend in such cases.
FLT: Barry, what are some things in the current DA’’s office that you would like to continue?
PORSCH: Continue the hard work we have performed over the past 7½ years. My goal is to continue winning every appeal at the Appellate Division Court, having won 41 straight. Appeal work is integral to the office. Continue doing jury trials and running a non-political office while saving taxpayer money.
FLT: Joe, what are some things you would like to change about the DA’s office?
SAPIO: We must work as a team and be approachable. The DA’s job does not start and stop at prosecution. We need community effort, open communication and a willingness to work with agencies to get to the root of the cause, in hope of minimizing crime plaguing our county.
FLT: Joe has touched on the fact that he thinks there needs to be a stronger relationship between the DA’s office and the police agencies in Seneca County. Comment.
PORSCH: There already is a strong relationship. I meet regularly with police chiefs and officers. I carry two cell phones 24/7, except when in court or church. Nearly every night past midnight, I get calls from police officers. I personally meet with 3 to 8 police officers each day.
SAPIO: As town justice, I worked alongside law enforcement ,which opened lines of communication, mutual respect and greater efficiency. My opponent’s attendance at the Criminal Justice Advisory Board has been roughly 7 percent over the past five years. There needs to be a much greater teamwork effort to secure convictions.
FLT: What are you most proud or would you be most proud of in your experience as a prosecutor?
PORSCH: Bringing murderer Karl Karlsen to justice after 5 years. Convicting murderer Brian Karris. Bringing justice to the families of the two motorcyclists who were killed by Earl Wilson. An unprecedented 41 consecutive wins at the Appellate Division Court, unmatched by any other attorney. Convicting and removing a corrupt village judge.
SAPIO: My proudest moment as a prosecutor will be establishing law and order in our community while uniting this community in a joint effort to address the addictions that lead to crime in our society.
FLT: What are the top 2-3 most important issues that the Seneca County DA’s office needs to focus on?
PORSCH: 1. Immediate upcoming trials, including rape, DWI and kidnapping trials. 2. Enforcing the drug laws, recognizing that drug legalization is not the answer. I was endorsed by the State Police Investigators PBA, which includes drug investigators. 3. Keeping costs under control for taxpayers with the increase in crime.
SAPIO: Heroin Epidemic: We need education and cooperation between all agencies to ensure dealers face strict consequences and addicts receive necessary treatment. Domestic Violence: Improved cooperation with law enforcement and openness to input from victims and protecting their rights. DWI: Prosecution on a case-by-case basis with severe consequences for repeat offenders.
FLT: Why should someone vote for you in the Sept. 12 primary?
PORSCH: For all the reasons stated above. I have lived in Seneca County since 1974 and, as its highest law enforcement official, have an unprecedented success record for fighting crime across the board. I am staunchly committed to the safety and well-being of our communities, businesses and families — of all of us.
SAPIO: I am approachable, knowledgeable, successful, family-oriented, open-minded and willing to work with the People for the People. I have no past political grudges. I have no political agenda. Therefore, my ability to perform this job cannot and will not be manipulated or compromised. I am dedicated to the citizens of this county.Mike Cutillo