OLEAN – Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman and Public Defender Mark Williams traded charges Thursday in a debate in the Cutco Theater on the Jamestown Community College-Olean campus. The two are on the ballot for Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Williams continued his charges that more than 70 cases have been dismissed by Rieman’s office for lack of timely prosecution. Rieman responded that inaccurate budget numbers have come out of Williams’ campaign.
Williams continued to make his claim that Rieman and her office have not been looking out for the concerns of victims of crimes, with many cases dismissed due to prosecutorial delays. It has also resulted in the victims of those crimes being denied satisfaction.
Rieman said she “let’s cases sit, hoping they get better,” in terms of witnesses or evidence.
“Sometimes we just don’t have the cooperation of witnesses,” she said. “Other times we don’t have the case. In almost all of the cases mentioned, the victim or witnesses would not cooperate.”
She also said many people will make complaints after a case because they are not happy with the ruling or the sentence. “I do not sentence, the judge does that,” she said.
On many of these claims, Williams said Rieman was lying.
“Lori likes to lie,” he said at one point, saying that she was being less than honest about her case dismissals. After a claim that she did not have the desire to prosecute one case, in particular, Williams asked why; then, she indicted the defendant at the six-month mark.
“Why even bring it at all?” he said. “Lori wants to bury her mistakes in cases. She has moved to dismiss without authority.”
Rieman responded that she is “seeking justice, not just convictions.” She said it is not her job to lock everyone up.
Williams has made claims that his budget is smaller than that of the district attorney. Rieman countered those claims by holding up the adopted 2013 budget for Cattaraugus County.
Williams said his 2013 budget was $894,195 to Rieman’s $965,165. Rieman claims she works with half of Williams’ budget, citing $1.8 million going to Williams’ department.
County Administrator John R. “Jack” Searles said the total amount of the Legal Defense for Indigent budget adopted for the year, the number cited by Rieman, is actually $2,098,443. To be accurate, Williams’ Public Defender’s Office budget is roughly 48 percent of that total, coming in at $1,013,948, as adopted in the 2013 county budget, he said.
Rieman’s office also receives more than what was cited by the candidates. Searles said its budget totaled $1,073,769.
Searles said Rieman’s office does receive $59,821 more than Williams’ office.
Rieman leveled a charge of cyberbullying at a comment Williams made on her campaign Facebook page. After the comment, the page administrator blocked Williams from posting.
According to Williams, his post was related to the budget question pertaining to each department. “My campaign Facebook page is a place where people can post anything pertaining to the issues,” he said. “As long as it is not defamatory or insulting, we will address the issues.”
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will not have a Democratic opponent in November.