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Friday, April 24, 2015

Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer Seeking Republican Nomination For McKean County District Attorney

McKean County attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer has announced her intention to seek the Republican nomination for the office of McKean County District Attorney in the May 19th primary. 

In announcing her candidacy, Ms. Vettenburg-Shaffer said:
“The effective prosecution of crime is not a political issue. The effective prosecution of crime requires energy, commitment and ability. It is time for a change in the District Attorney’s Office. The trial performance of the incumbent’s office is infirm and is unacceptable. The voters of McKean County deserve better—far better.”

“In the first quarter of 2015, sixty-six (66%) of defendants who went to trial in McKean County were found not guilty of all charges or of the most serious charges. In 2014, nearly 6 out of every 10 defendants who went to trial were found not guilty of all charges or of the most serious charges. In 2014, thirty (30%) of defendants who went to trial were found not guilty of all charges or were otherwise cleared of any wrongdoing.” 

“The incumbent has personally tried only one-fifth (1/5) of all trials which took place from January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015. Instead, he has assigned most of the trial work to two less-experienced and over-worked assistants. The incumbent tried no cases in the first quarter of 2015.” 

“The County needs a District Attorney who is willing to try more than just a handful of cases each year. We need an active—and successful--trial District Attorney. I will be that District Attorney.” 

“The trial performance of the incumbent’s office has failed the citizens of McKean County.”
“Of the 7 cases that he tried in 2014, 5 of the defendants (71%) were found not guilty of all charges or not guilty of the most serious charges. Three (3) of those 5 losses involved defendants who were charged with serious sex offenses, including rape, rape of children, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.” 

“In the three 2014 sex crime trials which were handled by the incumbent, the defendants were found not guilty on 24 felony counts. Two (2) other felony counts were dismissed. In his three 2014 sex crime trials, the incumbent secured guilty verdicts on only 6 of 32 felony counts. Thus, in his three 2014 sex crime trials, the incumbent obtained felony guilty verdicts only 19% of the time.”

“Under the incumbent’s watch, 14 sex crimes cases went to trial from January 1, 2013 through March 31, 2015. In those 14 sex crimes trials, all but 3 of the defendants were found not guilty of all crimes or not guilty of the most serious crimes—a loss rate greater than 75%. Further, the incumbent’s office lost 4 (80%) of the 5 rape/serious sex offense cases that it tried from January 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015. The victims in those cases were women and children.”

“In 2014, two cases were decided at trial by judgment of acquittal. This means that, in two of the cases tried by the Commonwealth, the Court dismissed the charges after the Commonwealth rested. In other words, the Commonwealth’s cases were so weak that the defendants were discharged—without ever having to present a defense. This should never happen.”

“Last year, the incumbent’s office lost a case to an unrepresented defendant where the person was found not guilty of the most serious offenses and only convicted of two minor charges. In other words, the incumbent’s office lost to a defendant that did not have an attorney. This should never happen.”

“In 2014, the Commonwealth took a case to jury trial where the defendant was charged with taking $4.50 of Tide pods cleaning tablets. The Commonwealth lost. Should this case have been tried? If so, is this the type of outcome that the citizens of McKean County should expect?”
“An efficient and effective prosecutor’s office should have a trial conviction rate of 85-90%.”
“Failed prosecutions betray victims and waste good police work. It is better that a criminal not be accused until the evidence supports a conviction, than that he be acquitted. 

We need a District Attorney’s Office that thoroughly investigates, evaluates—and timely prepares—its cases. I have the energy, the commitment to exacting preparation, and the experience that are necessary to reverse the incumbent’s unacceptable trial results and to ensure a much higher rate of trial conviction. It will be a demanding task. I respectfully ask you to join me in this mission. 

“I am the most experienced candidate for District Attorney. I have personally handled—not merely overseen--hundreds of criminal cases. The simple fact is that I was practicing criminal law before my opponent graduated from law school. In fact, I was named Assistant Special Public Defender of McKean County in the year my opponent graduated from law school.”

“My opponent contends that, while he has been District Attorney, 96% of all cases prosecuted have resulted in conviction or ARD. The public should know that is because more than 96% of defendants accept a plea agreement in exchange for some consideration, such as a lesser sentence or a less-serious crime. Approximately only 3% of all cases ultimately go to trial.” 

“However, it is the trial performance of the District Attorney’s office that ensures the Commonwealth’s ability to secure appropriate guilty plea agreements. If, as the experience of the last 2 ¼ years has shown, defendants know they have an excellent chance of being found not guilty at trial, many more defendants will choose to go to trial.”

“My opponent claims that he achieved 3 first-degree murder convictions. However, in each of those instances, the defendants made complete confessions of their guilt and all accepted plea agreements. None of those cases went to trial. It is generally acknowledged that it is less difficult to secure a criminal conviction--when the defendant has made a complete confession.”

“I am the most hard-working candidate. My parents did not graduate high school but encouraged me to pursue higher education. To accomplish this, I worked while attending high school, college and law school. I drove to Buffalo nearly every day to attend law school while working for McKean County. I was a caseworker for the County until I graduated law school. I am married to Brian Shaffer. I have resided in McKean County for 21 years and have practiced criminal law for 11 years. I am a partner in the law firm of Clarke & Shaffer, LLP. Since 2006, I have been appointed, by the Court, to be the McKean County Guardian Ad Litem with the responsibility of representing the welfare of the County’s dependent children. I have represented more than 400 children involved in the child welfare system. Since 2007, I have been the Special Assistant Public Defender of McKean County with responsibility for representing the County’s indigent criminal defendants.” 

“I am in the courtroom nearly every day and have advised numerous clients. I place high value on case preparation. From the onset, I thoroughly investigate and evaluate each case by talking directly with clients, with law enforcement, with victims, and with witnesses.”

“This will be my pledge to you as your District Attorney. The approach of early, thorough investigation and evaluation will, ultimately, serve the interests of justice and resolve cases efficiently. Early investigation and case preparation will result in the correct charges being filed and in more convictions.”

“Both as a private attorney and as a Public Defender, I have a thorough knowledge of the McKean County justice system. I have an abiding attention to detail and a constant commitment to meticulous preparation. I have a compassion for victims and a passion for justice. I believe that I am the best candidate for District Attorney because I have the commitment, the experience, and the ability to better serve the people of McKean County.”

“With your support in the May 19th Republican primary, we will reform the District Attorney’s Office and we will improve its results for the benefit of all law- abiding citizens. I vigorously represent my clients and I will vigorously represent the Commonwealth and the citizens of McKean County.”


Anonymous said...

WOW! The incumbent, Ray Learn, should be too embarrassed to run for re-election.

Thank you for reporting these facts. Your presentation is very professional.

I want you to win, but I worry that people do not know your name. Please, please, please campaign hard and let people know who you are running against so they check the right box on primary day!

Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

This is great the facts are also great hope you win ,you have my vote and get everyone of those who did not get convicted they never should get away with any sex affending acts at all ,they do not belong out on the streets and should be punished !!! Good luck !!

Anonymous said...

Ummm sounds to me the jury decided
the county was full of crap more often than not. This may be the fault of a poor prosecutor. It may also be that the citizens used our jury system as intended.
The people ultimately decide the fate of our fellow citizens not the it should be.

Anonymous said...

You will do great things for McKean County-you have my vote!

Anonymous said...

Be careful Voters. Numbers and Percentages are made to make things look both good and bad. Who knows the actual circumstances of these crimes?

Who is not telling the truth, the whole truth? said...

This definitely shows how the slanting of facts can prove/disprove the perception of an issue. I consider myself fairly involved in current issues throughout our county. If these statements are indeed the truth. We, the public have been hoodwinked by the current DA. I would like to see a public forum solely between DA candidates with unbiased reporting for those who can't attend.

Anonymous said...

Longtime Democrat who conveniently switched parties to run. What else is she hiding from the voters?

Anonymous said...

Seems to me Ms. Shaffer is all about her accomplishments in life. All I hear is her tooting her own horn with repeating I,I,I..... Remember on voting day it should be all about WE THE PEOPLE! you should run for President all the trash your talking about the DA's office. Shame on you

Anonymous said...

Stephanie has my vote.

Anonymous said...

She has my vote!

Anonymous said...

Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer has my vote for District Attorney!

Anonymous said...

Steph has my vote. It's refreshing to see someone who is enthusiastic about making a difference.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to get to know Stephanie Shaffer when I was employed at the county prison and she was a public defender for McKean County. She made routine visits to the jail to see her clients. She was a breath of fresh air, a true professional. Stephanie works well with people from all economic, educational and social backgrounds. She has clearly unearthed a travesty that is taking place in our justice system in McKean County in particular with our district attorney. The statistics she has provided in this article are alarming. I am not comfortable with a district attorney that would be satisfied to let criminals, especially those that involve children go free. We can no longer continue to keep individuals on county salaries that are not providing the tax payers with the absolute best possible service. I can tell you first hand that I have seen Stephanie at work, she is deserving of the communities vote. We need a real revamp in McKean County and this would be a great place to start.

Anonymous said...

Ray learn for DA!!!

Anonymous said...

She has opened my eyes!! She has my vote

Anonymous said...

I work in the courthouse....Ray Learn, who? Never see the courtroom or anywhere else for that matter. He is an invisible employee who is very well paid, yet passes his responsibility to his staff. Wake up people, your taxes are going down the drain with this guy. I believe Stephanie is the change needed. She has my vote as well as the votes of my entire family.

Anonymous said...

If you want a safer community, vote for Stephanie!!! She has my vote and 100% support.

Anonymous said...

Today another case was lost by the District Attorney. The defendant didn't put up a defense and still won. A great expense to the taxpayers as it was a jury trial. Why are these senseless cases being tried?? Time for a change?! I think so.

Anonymous said...

I don't like Stephanie Shaffer. Nonetheless I am going to vote for her because I believe that she will do a better job than Ray Learn. Mr. Learn was at the right place at the right time. He moved up quickly thru the ranks when then DA Pavlock became Judge and the 1st assistant DA did not want the job. These were not merit promotions. He became DA by default. He had no experience trying any kind of case when he came to McKean County 8 years ago and has not tried all that many in the 8 years since. His personal win loss record is no better that those of his assistants. Deplorable. It is good that his record is being challenged. He can twist the facts anyway he wants but it cannot be said that he has done a good job with the resources he has - 3 assistants ( 2 full time, 1 part time), 2 investigators and several office staff. In contrast the Public Defender has 3 part time assistants and 2 clerical staff. One of these part timers is Ms. Shaffer. I am confident that she will represent the citizens of McKean County with the same zeal she has represented her public defender clients after all isn't that what every good lawyer should do - represent their clients zealously within the boundaries of the law. I don't care about her politics nor should you. Politics have no place in the decisions of the DA. Who she prosecutes and who she does not should be based solely on what he/she can and can not prove in a court of law.