The Lady Speaks

Political Hackery in BC

Update II: 5/9/07 – See my most recent post on this subject at More on Political Hackery in BC, as suggested by commenter setaf.

Update: 4/16/07 – I reworked my LTE somewhat, so the version seen below is an updated copy.

*

Since the chances of it seeing print are somewhere between slim and none, I am posting my Letter to the Editor here.

In addition to the Faux Review (my new nickname for the Towanda PA newspaper) I am sending copies to both the Evening Morning Times and the Rocket-Courier.

This is in response to the recent accusations made by the Bradford County district attorney, Steven Downs, regarding the deaths of two sheriff’s deputies on March 31st, 2004.

From the April 14 issue of the “Faux Review”:

Prior to the 2004 shooting deaths of two sheriff’s deputies at a junkyard in Wells Township, Bradford County Sheriff Steven Evans had been warned that the shooter — Dustin Briggs — was extremely dangerous and that the sheriff’s office should not serve a warrant at that location without backup, the Bradford County district attorney said Friday.

[…]

Evans had also stated in the 2005 Daily Review article that, in the year prior to the deaths of VanKuren and Burgert, sheriff’s office personnel had been at the Dustin Briggs residence numerous times “without incident.”

Evans also said that on March 31, 2004, VanKuren and Burgert went to the Dustin Briggs residence “to find April Harris for her suspected involvement in meth manufacturing (all charges against Harris were later dropped) and to serve a warrant on Dustin Briggs for failure to pay court costs for an old criminal case. … If there had been any hint of anticipated resistance, Mike and Chris would have asked for and received additional resources. These were veteran law enforcement professionals, having over 15 years’ experience between them.”

From the April 15 issue:

The Daily & Sunday Review left numerous messages Friday and Saturday on Evans’ home, office and cell telephones, but none were returned.

The Review also tried unsuccessfully to obtain comment from the solicitor for the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, attorney Ray DePaola. When a reporter went to DePaola’s Towanda home Saturday afternoon seeking comment, DePaola refused to answer questions, and would not accept a letter that formally asked him for comment on the accusations made by Bradford County District Attorney Stephen Downs.

Instead, DePaola said to see him during normal office hours and threatened to call the police if the reporter did not leave. Then — standing in his doorway – he turned to someone inside the house and said, “Call 911.” The reporter left immediately.

Click the links to read the full articles.

Here’s my response:

To the Editor:

I am writing in regard to articles in the Saturday and Sunday editions of the Daily Review.

As a life-long resident of Bradford County, I am both appalled and disgusted by the lack of professional ethics shown by the district attorney and the Daily Review.

First, Mr. Downs: How dare you?! Have you no sense of shame whatsoever, that you would use the tragic deaths of two honorable and outstanding law enforcement professionals as a political football?

Doesn’t the Bible teach, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”? Before discussing the failures of any department in the courthouse, Mr. Downs, you would be well advised to start with your own. The nickname “Sweet Deal” Downs didn’t simply materialize out of the ether.

Which brings me to the editors and publisher(s) of the Daily Review: To inject your paper into any political discussion leaves one with the unmistakable
impression of hackery and, in this particular case, a vendetta against Sheriff Evans by your paper.

The Daily Review and its staff – for whatever reasons – have shown themselves to be about as “fair and balanced” as a certain right-wing television news operation.

Specifically, your reporter’s intrusion onto Mr. Evans’ attorney’s private property and subsequent refusal to leave, after being told to contact him during business hours. Mr. Loewenstein’s account in Sunday’s paper leaves the reader into believing Mr. DePaola was acting unreasonably, in order to avoid commenting on Mr. Down’s scurrilous accusations.

Perhaps your paper doesn’t believe so, but I would think Mr. DePaola is well within his rights to enjoy a Saturday at home with his family without the
intrusion of an overzealous reporter – regardless of his clients’ names.

In conclusion, Sheriff Steven Evans has brought nothing but honor and integrity to the Sheriff’s Department, and – unfortunately for our county – the district
attorney and the Daily Review have shown a sad lack of the same.

[The PA_Lady]

cc: The Morning Times
The Rocket-Courier

*

Sheriff Steve Evans is running for re-election on the Republican ticket, but I will be writing his name in during the primary, and I intend to vote for him in November.

Largely through his efforts, the people Bradford County learned the sheriff’s department did far more than provide court security and run the county jail, and – even before the deaths of deputies Mike Van Kuren and Chris Burgert – he and his deputies worked tirelessly to teach the public about the dangers of meth and other drugs and to eradicate them from the county.

Thankfully, Downs is stepping down as DA. I am undecided between the two contenders, Robert McGuinness and Pat Barrett. Both have served as district attorney previously, and both had distinguished records.

Regardless of which ends up as DA, Bradford County will be far better served than they ever were by Steven Downs.

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April 15, 2007 - Posted by | Bradford County PA, Law Enforcement, Pennsylvania, Politics, WATB

5 Comments »

  1. This was Great!

    Did you send your letter to the papers?

    Did you attach a name to it? It is my understanding that the paper will not print your letter if you do not put your name with it.

    Comment by Ms. Michaud | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thank you!

    Yes. I sent it to all three Bradford County papers, and all my contact info is attached.

    Now, I just have to wait to see if it’s printed anywhere.

    Comment by PA_Lady | April 18, 2007 | Reply

  3. First, I would encourage readers to study the subsequent articles the Daily review has published, including the editorials addressing the Sheriff’s election. I find them most compelling and thought provoking. Some people cannot get beyond their rage of someone finding fault with Evans. That is the nature of politics. An incumbant has nothing to run on except for his record. Calling the DA names and throwing blind accusations around does not make the writer any better than what she purports the newspaper did. I also see she did not, or has not bothered since to add the subsequent questions as to the huge budget increase, the possible ethics conflicts in Sheriff sales and the possible misrepresentation in the grant application, ALL of which are important to my decision on who to vote for in this election.
    NO ONE is finding fault with the two deputies or casting dishonor on them. The problem is not attempting to find out just what did happen on that day and hopefully trying to prevent it from happening again!! To me the lack of such an investigation brings dishonor on not only the two slain deputies, but also on the living officers who may find themselves in a like circumstance in the future. WE SHOULD LEARN FROM MISTAKES! If none were made then we at least know none were made. By the way, I spent 21 years in the Army as a Military Police officer and another six in the civilian world as a Wildlfe Conservation officer.

    Comment by setaf | May 9, 2007 | Reply

  4. setaf: First off, I’d like to thank you for your service, in the Army and as a WCO.

    This is not about “someone finding fault” with Sheriff Evans. This is about dirty politics, and a newspaper that has made itself part of the story.

    You bet we should learn from our mistakes, however D.A. Downs has had ample opportunity in the last three years to bring up any concerns he might have had regarding the deputies’ deaths. Yet, he waited until now? His claim of not wanting to influence the trial is nothing more than a lame excuse.

    As the “top law enforcement officer” in the county, he had a duty – if he had legitimate concerns – to ask for an investigation. Yes, I suppose, it was Steve Evans job to “ask for one” however we all know the emotional trauma that day had on those of us unconnected to the sheriff’s office. Mr. Evans mind was (most likely, since I have no intimate knowledge) rightly with the families – and with the two-day hunt for the person responsible.

    It was Mr. Downs’ responsiblity to step in as the chief law enforcement officer of Bradford County, and request one either through his office or that of the commissioners. He didn’t even need to go public regarding it.

    I’m sure it would have been seen as a routine matter – at the time, not years afterward – to request just that. In fact, Steve Downs kept whatever concerns he had to himself until….Sheriff Evans threw a party.

    Yep, holding a “Bye-Bye Downs” party in the sheriff’s office was the height of poor judgement and bad taste. Regardless of his feelings, Mr. Evans should have had it elsewhere. Quite honestly, he should have rented a hall and sold tickets. He could have earned enough for a sizeable donation to the sheriff’s department, or CommUNITY, or any other charitable organization in the county.

    No one here is calling Mr. Downs names. I simply said his nickname didn’t appear on its own. Believe me, if I was going to call Mr. Downs names, it wouldn’t be printable in any publication.*

    Take a look at Mr. Downs’ record! How many cases plea-bargained? How many cases taken to trial? How many cases won? His record stinks.

    You want to know why we have so many DUI/DWI arrests in this county? (Other than the fact that drinking is a recreational sport around here) I’ll tell you why: plea-bargains. Do a little ARD, and poof.

    You know what? My then-16yo kid received a harsher sentence from the local district magistrate for truancy (90 days license suspension, plus huge fines, plus court costs) than many of our convicted drunk drivers have gotten from the Court of Common Pleas – and only one person is to blame. (And no, honey, it ain’t the judge!)

    And that’s just one example of his incompetence. How about sexual abuse cases involving children? How many cases taken to trial, and how many convictions? How many drug dealers are taken to trial? And how many convictions?

    Regarding the sheriff’s sales. Steve Evans has consistently denied the claims of the Daily Review. This has more to do with Sheriff Evans choosing another local daily paper to advertise those sales. In my personal opinion, the Daily Review is not happy about losing that income, and they’d like someone a little “friendlier” in office.

    If it’s possible to still access the Daily Review articles, I’ll post clips and links to them in a new post today so readers can look at the overall pattern of the Daily Review’s behavior in this case.

    Primary Day is only 6 days away, and I realize by now nearly everyone has their minds made up on this issue. So now, Bradford County, your job is to get out and VOTE!

    – – –

    *Being the mother of a victim, who watched one prosecutor take time and care in investigating and putting together a case, and then watched the new DA, Mr. Downs, bungle the case and the trial (which I foolishly insisted on) and allow the perpetrator to go free…yeah, I have nothing good to say about the man, except “Good riddance.” Had I known then, what I knew afterward, no power on this earth would have compelled me to continue with the case or the trial.

    Comment by PA_Lady | May 9, 2007 | Reply

  5. Amen and Amen.
    The allegations continue to be disproved regarding Steve Evans, but the Daily Review continues to push forth. Even in May 10th edition, even when legal scholars state there was no ethics violations, and site precedents, the Editor persists. We are the Daily Review, therefore, we are right.
    At one time, the Daily Review held sway over the people of this county. Now we are a much more educated area, and free thinking is happening.
    When the baseless attacks on Sheriff Evans over the deaths of the deputies, resulted in angry rebuke of the Editor and Staff of the Daily Review, they changed tactics and went after his ethics. Saying they “suspected since 2003” but did not report it due to having no concrete evidence. Translated to, because we still had the advertising contract.
    This is not the first time the Daily Review has chosen attack and diatribe rather than factual reporting. However, their target is widely respected, dare I say loved, in this county. Any of the three candidates have stellar resumes, we would not go wrong choosing any of these gentlemen. The attacks on Mr. Evans were not needed in a fair election. The Daily Review wanted its pound of flesh, so they went after the Sheriff. Tabloid, yellow journalism, dirty press, that is what it is.
    The BCCC originally was to be non-partisan, and work to reduce property tax. At no time, did they ever say they would inject themselves in elections of individuals who have no affect on the property tax issue. The Sheriff does not affect property tax. He proposes a budget, outlines the reasons for the budget, and the commissioners approve, cut or outright disapprove his budget. The focus for the BCCC should have been the Commissioners.
    Some reasons the Sheriffs budget went up..increased security at the court house. We pass thru metal detectors, and many offices are guarded during operating hours. (Domestic Relations) Remember when we just went in any of several entrances, and freely roamed about the courthouse. Those days are passed. The Sheriff’s dept is responsible for the cost of setting up, maintaining, and paying for this.
    Crime is up. Serving warrants is up. Deputies have to be paid.
    Education, meth, crack cocain, DWI, DARE, all areas the Sheriff’s dept is or has been strongly involved in. Steve Evans is tireless at bringing the facts out in our community. He is not a Sheriff with his head in the sand.
    I could go on, but the picture is clear. The budget is up, due to increase costs, unfunded mandates, and a need to bring our Sheriff’s Dept into the modern world.
    I am sure the Sheriff will resume many of his previous duties regardless of whether Dan Barrett or Bob McGuinness are elected D.A. They worked closely with that office previously, and have stated they will work closely with the Sheriff again.
    Mr. Downs has cheapened the D.A.’s office. As a D.A., Mr. Downs, has been a great defense attorney.
    I must remind everyone of the murderer, admitted, confessed, murderer who was able to plea for 7 years. What a “Sweet Deal.” Or a drunken driver, who drove thru many lawns, destroyed much property, covering about a 6 block area of Sayre, and ended up in the front of a store, in an unlicensed vehicle…oh, he got “reckless driving and restitution.” If it had not been for the time of night, he might have killed or injured untold numbers of people. Maybe then Steve Downs would have upped the ante to Misdemeanor assault.
    Sorry, no sympathy for Mr. Downs. He should just quietly leave office, and allow a real D.A. to bring the fear of the law back to Bradford County.
    I know who I am voting for. I know who I am writing in on my ballot. I hope every registered voter in Bradford County joins me at the polls next Tuesday.

    Comment by mom | May 11, 2007 | Reply


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