At the ballot box in Ontario County, New York this week, Republican voters chose candidate Jim Ritts as the primary candidate for district attorney. Ritts won with 55 percent of the vote, beating Kristina “Kitty” Karle, a former assistant prosecutor in neighboring Monroe county. Karle’s loss comes after an appellate court criticized her for prosecutorial misconduct in June.
Ritts, an 18-year veteran of Ontario’s D.A. office, highlighted the fact that he has “never been admonished for misconduct” during his campaign, calling Karle’s record “a big problem” in a Q&A with the Finger Lake Times. Misconduct repeatedly emerged as a central theme during Ritts and Karle’s race.
Karle came under fire after the Fourth Department Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court reversed multiple verdicts in cases prosecuted by the Monroe County D.A.’s office. Most of the cases in question involved the conviction of a former pastor who allegedly repeatedly sexually abused a young boy. (In spite of the misconduct, the court did not ultimately reverse the pastor’s conviction.) Karle later confirmed she was the prosecuting attorney on these cases, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
According to the court, Karle’s misconduct included inappropriately attacked the character of the defense attorney, presented herself as an “unsworn expert,” misstated evidence presented by a defense witness, and wrongly suggested that an adolescent witness decided against testifying because of “guilt” about the pastor’s actions.
In spite of the appellate judge’s findings, Karle defended her handling of the sexual abuse case, telling the Democrat that although she heard the court, she didn’t “have to agree with it,” and arguing that “if the worst thing people can say about me is that I fight too hard for kids, so be it.”
In an early September debate, she seemed to allude again to her passionate approach to cases involving children when she told the audience that she would “fight for your families and for your children as if they were my own.”
That defense of her misconduct was evidently not enough to sway Ontario voters, whose pick of Ritts seems to signal a preference for a candidate without a record of transgression.
“She claims she argued passionately for victims,” Ritts said of Karle during his campaign, “But breaking the rules and risking the conviction of dangerous predators is unacceptable.”