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District Attorney Duve touts work ethic, temperment in bid for re-election

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CANTON - St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve, who is seeking a third term in office, touted her record as testimony to her job performance at the county Democratic Committee’s fall dinner on Friday evening.

North County Regional Representative for the Department of Labor June F. O’Neill, former chair of the New York State and St. Lawrence County Democratic Committees, said Mrs. Duve’s eight years on the job have proved her a hard worker and passionate advocate for justice.

“Being district attorney is a tough job,” Mrs. O’Neill said. “People don’t understand what the D.A. is and what the D.A. does and what the D.A. can do and what the D.A. can’t do.”

Mrs. Duve is facing a challenge for the seat this year by Republican candidate Mary E. Rain.

A lifelong resident of the north country, Mrs. Duve said her upbringing in a “family of modest means” instilled in her a strong work ethic as she began working at a young age.

“I worked my way through SUNY Potsdam and Albany Law School and after law school I came back to St. Lawrence County because this is where I chose to make my home with my husband Bill,” she said. “This is where we’ve chosen to raise our three children.”

Mrs. Duve pointed to her two decades of legal experience in criminal law and her designation as a special assistant U.S. attorney, which has seen her working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuting cross-border crimes and focusing on the region’s drug problems.

“What matters most is outcomes,” she said. “To that end I want to highlight one statistic. According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Service, based on the uniform crime reports of indexed crime – and these are the statistics that the F.B.I. uses to calculate crime rates across the country – the number of violent crimes reported to the police in this county has dropped 42 percent from 2008 to 2012. That’s an amazing statistic.”

“I don’t say this to suggest that we don’t need to be vigilant for there are pockets in the county where outside influences have torn at the sense of safety that folks in the north country have become accustomed to,” Mrs. Duve cautioned.

“But what you’ve seen is, by working together we have, we can and we will rise to the occasion and address the challenges that those outside influences present.”

Addressing the campaign, Mrs. Duve said she has worked hard to stay out of the political fray up until now.

“For most of this year I’ve remained focused on the day-to-day duties of my office and delayed for as long as possible any sort of engagement in the partisan politics,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy.”

“During that time I’ve been subjected to a steady drum beat of inaccurate and politically motivated charges by my opponent. Thus far I’ve held my tongue. Thus far I haven’t engaged in a conversation about our respective work ethics or anyone’s tenure as public defender. Thus far I haven’t engaged in a conversation about dragging victims or their families into the middle of a political campaign. And thus far I haven’t engaged in a conversation about temperament,” Mrs. Duve told the assembled Democrats.

“But let me tell you this: entrusting an individual with the substantial investigative powers of the district attorney’s office, including subpoena power, is an incredibly serious matter,” Mrs. Duve said. “Folks, in short, temperament matters in this job.”

Ms. Rain has been highly critical of the incumbent district attorney’s track record, repeating suggesting Ms. Duve was ineffective and incompetent and suggesting disorganization in the district attorney’s office was allowing violent criminals to walk the streets instead of being brought to justice.

The Republican challenger announced in September that she had a three-point plan to improve the office, if elected.

Ms. Rain has said she wants to fast-track felonies, upgrade technology to improve results and improve inter-agency cooperation. She said she would ensure timely prosecutions by seeking the earliest possible court proceeding for all felony crimes, which she has called the biggest problem of Ms. Duve’s administration.

“Felonies languish in her office and they get dismissed before they even get out of the courtroom,” Ms. Rain said at that September media gathering. “We need to put these felonies on a fast track where the witness’s and police officer’s memories are fresh and the victims are able to explain their story in court effectively.”

In order to help upgrade technology in the office, Ms. Rain said she would work to create a “secure digital pipeline,” instead of a paper trail, among police, the courts and the D.A.’s office.

“She loses paperwork and then blames it on the police,” Ms. Rain has said on the campaign trail. “We need a better technology base to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”

In an attempt to improve interagency relations, Ms. Rain said she wants accountability and plans to lead a coalition of government agencies and community-based groups to reduce criminal activity by holding regular meetings with law enforcement leadership.

Ms. Duve’s comments about dragging crime victim’s families into the campaign, it was an apparent reference to Ms. Rain’s comments on an unsolved murder in Potsdam.

Ms. Rain was joined at her September event outside the St. Lawrence County Courthouse by family members of Garrett J. Phillips, the 12-year-old Potsdam boy who was murdered in 2011 and whose killer remains at large.

Tandy L. Cyrus, Garrett’s mother, and Joseph Paul, Garrett’s maternal grandfather, said at that time that since Garrett’s murder 23 months ago they have been seeking justice.

Mr. Paul said at that event they were supportive of Ms. Rain because she appeared “competent and determined” and has given their family more hope.

Mrs. O’Neill, speaking at Friday night’s Democratic Committee dinner, said, “We’ve got to keep [Mrs. Duve] in there for a lot of reasons, not because she’s the best person for the job but because the alternative is simply unacceptable. Nicole won’t say anything about that because she is an outstanding person who believes in the law and believes in justice. So part of our job is to explain to people why [Mrs. Rain] is simply unacceptable.”

Efforts to reach Ms. Rain Saturday were unsuccessful.

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