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Two North Carolina prosecutors indicted after hiring each other’s wives for phony jobs

Rockingham County, NC, is highlighted. Person and Caswell Counties are the next two counties over.
UNC School of Social Work

Two North Carolina prosecutors indicted after hiring each other’s wives for phony jobs

Two elected district attorneys in North Carolina have been arrested and one has pleaded guilty for a scheme that authorities said involved both men hiring the other’s wife for bogus jobs.

Craig Blitzer and Wallace Bradsher were both accused of taking about $100,000 in state money from the North Carolina payroll program for jobs that didn’t really exist.

Blitzer has pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor failure to discharge the duties of his office and his law license has been suspended. The case against Bradsher is still pending and Blitzer is expected to testify against him in the criminal proceeding, a civil whistleblower suit and in proceedings the North Carolina Bar will have against Bradsher.

Blitzer was the district attorney for Rockingham County while Bradsher was the district attorney for Person and Caswell counties.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, whose office is prosecuting the case, has said the former prosecutors will not face jail time if convicted but could face community service. The two men could also face punishment from the North Carolina Bar, including disbarment.

The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation started looking into the prosecutors last year after employees in their offices began complaining.

Pamela Bradsher had worked as a legal assistant for her husband for four years. When the district attorney sought to promote his wife, he was told by state officials that his wife actually needed to resign due to a state law that prohibited an elected official from hiring their spouse.

Blitzer hired his wife as a legal assistant when he took office in January 2015, but state officials almost immediately told him that Cindy Blitzer had to resign.

The two district attorneys responded by hiring each others wives. But court records said both women only worked sporadically, with Cindy Blitzer also being a full time nursing student.

According to the Greensboro News & Record “Cindy Blitzer never had security access to the Person or Caswell County courthouses, which means, if she came to work, she would have to go through metal detectors before being allowed entry. Employees in those offices said they saw her fewer than fives times in her nearly two-year employment there, which was from Jan. 13, 2015, to Oct. 25, 2016.”

The newspaper also said that Pamela Bradsher swiped a keycard to gain access to the Rockingham County district attorney’s office on 36 of the 156 business days she was employed.

Meanwhile, employees of both prosecutors eventually complained to state officials. One filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Bradsher alleging she was fired after she complained.

Another prosecutor claimed Blitzer ordered him to take an online algebra class for his wife while a victim-witness coordinator also took tests for Cindy Blitzer and did her homework.

Blitzer resigned in March after state investigators raided his office. Bradsher resigned in May. In June, the two were officially indicted.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper appointed former Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith to replace Blitzer and appointed Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline Perez to replace Bradsher. The two will finish out the terms of Blitzer and Bradsher, which conclude at the end of 2018.

Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

SA Kim Foxx

Cook County prosecutor fights to keep a new mom out of jail

In a highly unusual move, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office recently became embroiled in a fight to keep a new mother from being locked up.

Karen Padilla Garcia, 26, went into labor after she was detained in the Cook County Jail following a probation violation last month. Garcia was taken to Stroger Hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl.

Due to Garcia’s circumstances as a new mother, Foxx’s office arranged for Garcia to be granted bond so she could go directly home from the hospital with her child.

But the prosecution’s efforts to help Garcia return home, rather than jail, did not rest well with Judge Nicholas Ford, who had originally ordered Garcia detained after she violated her probation. Ford held a hearing after Garcia got out to determine if she should be locked up again.

Garcia had originally pleaded guilty to stealing cash from the register of a restaurant where she worked. Placed on probation, Garcia was subsequently jailed after she missed court dates and meetings with her probation officer, failed to reimburse the restaurant for the money she had stolen, and picked up traffic tickets even though she didn’t have a license.

Prosecutors were adamant that Garcia, who had no history of violence, did not belong in jail.

“You cannot incarcerate people for — it’s not a debtor’s prison we’re running here, your honor,” said First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman during what was reported to be an increasingly heated exchange with Ford.

As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Ford at one point threatened to hold Sussman in contempt of court for interrupting. He ultimately let Garcia go on her own recognizance, but not before repeatedly chastising her for violating various terms of her probation.

After the fact, Ford received heavy criticism for locking Garcia up in the first place. ABC7 also reported that Ford may have violated the law when he jailed Garcia and set her next hearing for 60 days in the future, even though Garcia was over seven months pregnant. Legal experts told the tv station that Ford was supposed to hold a bond hearing within 14 days.

There was also no prosecutor or public defender in court when Garcia was initially detained.

While the affirmative role that Foxx’s office played in seeking Garcia’s release may have seemed unusual, it also may be a sign of things to come. In June, Foxx announced that her office would be recommending that people charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies who do not have a history of “violent crime” or pose a risk to public safety be released pre-trial. Both Foxx and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart have criticized the use of money bail and supported efforts to get rid of it.

Bail reform is gaining traction around the country. The District of Columbia and states like Kentucky and New Jersey have moved away from cash bail and states like California are now considering legislation that would bring about similar reforms. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for district attorney in Philadelphia, has vowed to end cash bail if he’s elected. Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) have also co-sponsored the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act, which would “encourage states to reform or replace the bail system.”

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Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away

Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away

For years, Indiana has been at the center of the national conversation about opioid addiction, which has ravaged the state since the late 1990s. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of drug overdoses skyrocketed 500 percent. There was also a 60 percent increase in emergency visits for non-fatal overdoses between 2011 and 2015. By and large, the medical community argues that treatment is the best solution to the growing problem, and legislators recently introduced a slate of bills to approach opioid use as a public health matter. In May, Governor Eric Holcomb’s Indiana Drug Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement Task Force revealed a multi-pronged “Preliminary Action Plan” to tackle the crisis via treatment, strategic law enforcement, and “community-based collaborations.”

But there is one group that thinks the medical approach is inadequate: prosecutors who are hellbent on using the criminal justice system to clamp down on the illicit drugs. On behalf of prosecutors statewide, Association of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys, Inc. (AIPA) President Patricia Baldwin recently argued that “[p]enalties for drug possession and dealing are too low” and that the task force’s comprehensive plan will flop “without a comparable and equivalent improvement on the enforcement side.”

Last week, Baldwin penned a statement calling for a more drastic law enforcement approach to solving the opioid crisis and slammed legislators’ decision to reform Indiana’s criminal code in 2014. One of the primary objectives of altering the code was to cut the number of offenders in state prisons and encourage treatment for low and medium-level offenders. Penalties were therefore reduced for drug possession and dealing, to the dismay of law enforcement. Now, Baldwin and her colleagues say the changes curb their ability to address rampant opioid use and believe the task force’s proposal is doomed to fail without their help.

“It is a criminal offense to possess or deliver controlled substances outside of the legitimate medical processes. The aim of the criminal justice system in this area is to discourage participation in the illicit drug industry,” Baldwin wrote. “Since 2014, law enforcement has suffered from a weakened ability to accomplish these two important parts of the equation — holding dealers accountable and encouraging users to get help.” She added that enforcement is one way prosecutors “encourage rehabilitation.”

As the Indiana Lawyer noted, Baldwin also linked the new criminal code to both an increase in murders in two Indiana cities and an uptick in child abuse cases — without providing any evidence to prove causation. “If we excuse or enable an addict to seek opiates through the illicit drug trade, we endorse, then, all of the negative consequences associated with that industry,” Baldwin said. “The less severe the consequences for possession of drugs, the less likely addicts will take corrective action. A robust enforcement effort is absolutely necessary to a functional prevention and treatment effort.”

But the AIPA president also ignored a major historical fact: locking people up for drug crimes doesn’t work.

The War on Drugs was a massive failure that didn’t end drug use or offenses related to the drug trade, but instead led to the criminalization and mass incarceration of poor black men people. Incarcerating opioid users, specifically, has proven ineffective. Not only are they dying in jails but they are ill-equipped to deal with withdrawal once they’re released. Some correctional facilities are devising treatment schemes to better assist opioid users, but such plans are few and far between.

Contrary to Baldwin’s statement, the Preliminary Action Plan proposed in May expands mechanisms for law enforcement to tackle the opioid crisis. It creates new crime teams to concentrate on drug trafficking, enhances surveillance, and encourages agency-wide collaboration to weed out suppliers. In other words, police and prosecutors still have a crucial role to play in the fight against a rapidly-increasing problem.

At its core, Baldwin’s argument represents an outdated way of thinking that prosecutors won’t let go of: that drug use is a vice and must be punished. But this tough-on-crime position won’t solve Indiana’s opioid emergency. Based on history, this stance will only add fuel to the fire.

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