|DA Candidate Shugrue Says Time to End 'Awful Experiment'|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
04:55AM / Tuesday, April 26, 2022
|Former Berkshire district attorney's office colleagues were at the campaign launch for Timothy Shugrue, left. With him are Adams Town Administrator Jay Green, Springfield Assistant District Attorney Kelly Kemp and retired Judge Daniel Ford. |
Former assistant district attorney Timothy Shugrue speaks to supporters on Monday at the Bounti-fare. Shugrue is making a second run at the office of district attorney. His website is here.
ADAMS, Mass. — Timothy Shugrue is making a vow to clean up what he calls mismanagement in the district attorney's office.
"We need to have experience, integrity, and justice for everyone," he said at his North Berkshire campaign launch for DA on Monday. "We need to get law enforcement. And we need to go after the criminals that are destroying our community and destroying our towns."
There's a lack of prosecution and follow-through, he said, little communication with police, too many dismissals, too few diversion programs and a general lack of confidence in the DA's office that's filtering down to police and the community.
Shugrue is challenging incumbent Andrea Harrington in the Democratic primary and, while he never said her name, he described her four years in office as the "awful experiment."
"It's led us to a bad situation that's required me to enter this race," he told the three dozen or so attendees who turned out to hear him at a Bounti-fare fundraiser on Monday night that included North Adams City Councilors Lisa Blackmer and Peter Oleskiewicz, School Committee member Tara Jacobs, Adams Selectwoman Christine Hoyt, and a number of retired police officers and court officials, including retired Judge Daniel Ford.
"After having 36 years of experience, both as prosecution and as defense, and being a businessman in Pittsfield, and being a homeowner in Pittsfield, to see what we've seen on our streets, they're no longer safe," Shugrue said. "None of us feel that we can go anywhere and feel like we're protected. And worse than that is how many police officers tell me that they bring charges they get dropped after their thorough and hard investigations ... they have cases dismissed and thrown out without them even knowing about it."
The founder of Berkshire County Kids Place has been in private practice for the last three decades but began his career prosecuting sexual abuse cases with the Hampden County District Attorney's Office and for three years as assistant district attorney in Berkshire County. He ran for DA in 2004 but lost to then Assistant District Attorney David Capeless.
Shugrue thinks that too many cases are being dropped and that the office overall is unqualified for the cases it does take on.
"I want you guys to know that if I'm in that office, I'm going to be prosecuting crimes and I'll been making sure that crimes are being handled correctly by trained individuals," he said. "I'm not afraid to try a case. I'd rather try a case and lose it than dismiss it. I'll tell you that right now."
Shugrue said he's heard from police officers, community members and business owners that they don't feel reporting crimes is doing any good.
"We have criminals that are taking over our streets and crimes that are not being prosecuted. We've got law enforcement that don't feel they're being heard or that their cases are being properly handled," he said. In responses to questions from the attendees, he said his office would be transparent and open to the community and that he would work with police to achieve justice.
He said he was all about giving people help if they get caught up in the system for the first time.
"You use the criminal justice system for that purpose," he said. "You bring them in and you give them the services that they are required to earn for a dismissal, not just give them a dismissal — to earn it."
One of the hallmarks of Harrington's campaign was to dispense with cash bail. It's been part of a national movement to eliminate a bail system that can end up locking people up for days, weeks and even months for petty crimes.
Shugrue said he doesn't think that really applies to Berkshire County because most minor crimes don't have bail anyways. As a defense attorney, he said he'd rather have cash bail because it allows him to assure prosecutors that his client will show up.
But bail is necessary, he said, to hold individuals that the system needs to get off the streets — people at-risk, not from the community, using aliases that make them difficult to find once they're let out.
"When I'm doing my job as a prosecutor, my job is to get the high bail and convince a judge, by doing my job, to say this is why this person should be held," Shugrue said, instead of doing dangerousness hearings. "That's what the judge is there for. But to turn around and say I'm not going to ask for bail is, I think is disrespectful."
The attorney said it was imperative to go after drug crimes and illegal gun owners to make the county safer.
"I want to make sure that my message is loud and clear. You have an illegal gun, you're going to jail. You're not getting three years probation so you can kill somebody three months later," he said to applause. "That's not happening in my administration, we will make sure that we're going to tackle the gun problem."
Shugrue said he believed he could attract qualified people to work in the DA's office. Lawyers graduate knowing the law but not how to prosecute or defend a case, he said.
"I think we will attract people that want to come and learn, I think will attract people that want to get trained and that will attract people that want to try cases and not be afraid to try cases because they don't know what they're doing," he said.
Harrington, who ran on progressive criminal justice reform four years ago and beat the favorite in the race twice (in the primary and again as a write-in in the general) is expected to run for re-election but has not formally announced her campaign. The winner of the Democratic primary on Sept. 6 will face off against independent Robert Sullivan Jr., a former assistant district attorney.
"I am not a politician. I'm a lawyer. And I want to be your lawyer. I want to be the lawyer for Berkshire County," said Shugrue. "I want to be the head chief prosecutor of Berkshire County.