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DA Duve aims to clarify opponents claims of failure

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CANTON — Narrow halls, tight corners and a basement “war room” are all part of the tight quarters in which St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve and her staff do the work that she said has been misconstrued over the past weeks.

Ms. Duve took members of the media on a tour of her office Wednesday in an effort to help clear up what she called “misconceptions and distortions” about her office put out by Mary E. Rain, Republican candidate for district attorney.

“I think there is a lot of misinformation out there,” Ms. Duve said. “The public is getting their information in sound bites, and that doesn’t do justice to the work done in the office.”

Hoping to answer questions about her raised by her opponent, Ms. Duve said she wanted the public to know how hard her staff works.

“We work hard on a number of levels in a number of different ways to make sure we are doing what we can to enhance our resources,” Ms. Duve said. “We can’t do it all by ourselves, so we have to work with other agencies, and that relationship is very, very important.

Boxes of files line the walls of her office, which is divided into three parts in the St. Lawrence County Courthouse.

“As you can see, we don’t work out of the Ritz-Carlton,” Ms. Duve said. “There is more space … that we have talked to the county about trying to pull into this office space so that we could get more space for our folks to work, because it is a bit of a sardine can down in the basement.”

Ms. Duve said there are boxes for files that are so large they don’t fit in a file jacket and require several boxes.

The district attorney’s office has about 8,000 open cases, Ms. Duve said.

“If you count the stuff that has been lingering and hasn’t been resolved for one reason or another — it could be that people have fled the jurisdiction, it could be because we are waiting for the court to set a trial, it could be because we are waiting for a motion or what have you — probably closer to 8,000,” Ms. Duve said.

Over the time she has been in office, Ms. Duve said, her administration has brought in more than $1 million in grant and asset forfeiture money, funds that are seized from criminal defendants upon a conviction, usually because they have been involved in drug crimes.

“We take that money and we use it to enhance law

enforcement and prosecution efforts,” Ms. Duve said.

Securing renovations for needed office space in the district attorney’s office, funding a full-time assistant district attorney position, providing training for assistant district attorneys and law enforcement and obtaining video recording equipment for police agencies in the area are all part of that enhancement.

But while efforts are being made to help prosecution and investigation efforts throughout the county, Ms. Duve said, comments by Ms. Rain have led to “a distortion of what the office does.”

“I think it does a disservice to the members of the public, the folks in St. Lawrence County,” she said. “To suggest that I don’t work hard every day to make sure that my office can do what it can for the people of St. Lawrence County is far from the truth.”

Since the start of her “Accountability Tour,” Ms. Rain has been taking unrelenting shots at Ms. Duve and her office, saying they have failed to prosecute criminals.

“If any of you, your spouse, your child, your parent, your loved one is a victim of crime tonight, who would you want prosecuting your case?” Ms. Rain said in a release promoting a rally Tuesday in Ogdensburg. “My opponent may forget about your case, fail to indict the criminals responsible, or drop the ball at trial. I think about it every day, and that is why I ran for district attorney.”

Ms. Duve said victims’ families should not have been made a part of Ms. Rain’s campaign.

“I think it is unfortunate and it is disheartening that victims of crime get hauled into the middle of something like this, but that is not a choice that I made and I don’t intend to go there,” Ms. Duve said.

Since 2008, Ms. Rain said, the county had seen 444 cases dismissed, 10 acquittals at trial and 267 reductions on felony cases under Ms. Duve, but the district attorney is puzzled by Ms. Rain’s statistics.

She said that she doesn’t know where her opponent gets her numbers and that those numbers don’t paint a clear picture.

In a Sept. 27 letter to the editor, Ms. Rain said, “In head-to-head matchups with my opponent at trial, I won 12 out of 18 times. That is an amazing statistic — two out of every three times I went to trial against the DA, I won.”

Ms. Duve said she and her opponent have faced off against each other in the courtroom on only two occasions, in both of which Ms. Duve prevailed.

“She and I have done two felony trials head-to-head against each other. Just two,” Ms. Duve said. “I won them both.”

Those two trials were Bruce M. Galloway, the Hammond man who received an eight-year state prison sentence for sexually abusing two girls in August 2010, and Brian K. McCottery, the Oswegatchie man who will serve three years in state prison for menacing state troopers after he fired a 12-gauge shotgun during a standoff in March 2010.

“You can cite numbers all you want, but if you are not citing detail, your numbers can be misleading and misrepresent true circumstances, and that is part of the problem with just spewing numbers with no basis for those numbers,” Ms. Duve said.

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