Frank A. Sedita III
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Accordingly, I think it is important for the public to be aware of our dedication to domestic violence prosecution as well as the reasons for our reluctance to continue supplying prosecutors to the Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV).
Let there be no misunderstanding: The Office of the Erie County District Attorney has consistently demonstrated that it will prosecute those who victimize their family members and commit acts of violence within the home. That is not the issue when it comes to the IDV. The principal issue is whether taxpayers should continue to finance a forum that is redundant, unnecessary and incredibly expensive.
Misdemeanor cases transferred into IDV were already in the process of being competently handled in other courts, such as the Buffalo City Court Domestic Violence Part and the other 37 town and village courts in Erie County.
Prosecutors handling those cases have been trained in domestic violence prosecution; indeed, the Erie County District Attorney's Office, to my knowledge, is the only one in this state that requires all prosecutors to receive training and experience in domestic violence prosecution. Additionally, we have a dedicated Domestic Violence Bureau that handles felony level domestic violence prosecutions and fully staffs the Erie County Domestic Violence Court.
I seek to train all of my prosecutors in domestic violence prosecution, and maintain a separate Domestic Violence Bureau, and supply prosecutors to the city and county court specialty domestic violence courts. That is because I wish to achieve justice on behalf of domestic violence victims by aggressively prosecuting domestic violence offenders.
However, as this county's chief prosecutor and an elected official responsible to taxpayers, I believe it is inappropriate to continue staffing an unnecessary and redundant boutique specialty court that costs taxpayers more than $1 million a year to operate and that has an acquittal/dismissal rate 20 times that of any other part or division of superior court.
We will continue to prosecute all viable misdemeanor level domestic violence offenses in the local (i.e. misdemeanor level) courts; we will continue to prosecute all viable felony level domestic violence cases in the superior courts; and, we will continue to prosecute all viable domestic violence cases filed in the specialized City of Buffalo Domestic Violence Court or the specialized Erie County Domestic Violence Court.
Unfortunately, the Office of Court Administration has rejected all of my suggestions and efforts concerning how to better staff and streamline IDV. Thus, for the reasons detailed in my affidavit and letters (which are posted on the Erie County District Attorney's Office website) we can no longer continue to subsidize the IDV experiment.
Frank A. Sedita III is Erie County district attorney.