Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Understanding Monroe County hosts first candidate for DA

by Margaret Stewart - Managing Editor
Tue, Sep 24th 2019 09:15 pm
Shani Curry Mitchell stopped by The College at Brockport on Thursday, Sept. 19, to pitch her case for Monroe County District Attorney.
Shani Curry Mitchell stopped by The College at Brockport on Thursday, Sept. 19, to pitch her case for Monroe County District Attorney.

While 2019 is not a presidential election year, local elections will take place nationwide this November and should not be overlooked.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, the Office of Community Development (ComDev) hosted Shani Curry Mitchell in the Seymour College Union. The event started promptly at 4 p.m. with ComDev Graduate Assistant Harry DeVoe introducing not only Mitchell but the start of the Understanding Monroe County Programs.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for you guys to learn about some of the local races and how important local government is to everyone’s daily life,” DeVoe said.

As Mitchell took the floor she engaged the audience in a conversation about her own past and what it means to be a district attorney (DA) along with her presentation. Mitchell explained she has served as both a DA as well as a defense attorney in Georgia. It is the power of serving others that draws the Rochester, N.Y., native to being a DA rather than representing the defense.

“If I get a case, I can decide to dismiss it,” Mitchell said. “If I feel that either there’s a lack of evidence, there’s been violations of someone’s constitutional rights, or I just don’t believe that this case does not warrant prosecution. The defense attorney has zero power, nada. The DA controls the power.”

However, when Mitchell moved back home, a lot of her power as a DA was stripped due to the current administration. Mitchell proceeded to give the audience real-life examples. The hypothetical situation involved a girl who was charged with stolen property and how the Monroe County District Attorney’s office would handle the situation.

“The criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree is an E felony — that’s the lowest value we have — which means that she’s looking at one to three years,” Mitchell said. “I think I’m okay with that charge, because she just made a bad decision. But my office under this administration would force me to go back in and add additional charges today. Because she was having a joyride in an Audi, the value of the vehicle is over $3,000. So I would have to go back into the grand jury and add the charge of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. Now that I added that she is now looking at three to seven years in prison. That’s called overcharge.”

Mitchell explained as a DA not only did she dislike the administration taking her power, she did not feel comfortable with overcharging.

 “I never want anyone to have to cross their ethical line,” Mitchell said.

There are a lot of changes Mitchell hopes to make within the Monroe County District Attorney’s office.

“There are 79 prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office and there’s only four of color,” Mitchell said. “And in the Victim Advocates Bureau, we have a group of individuals who serve victims of crime and unfortunately people of color are the most victimized here in Monroe County. There’s not one person who’s of color or speaks another language or identifies with a disability, not one under the current administration. That’s a crime.”

Brockport student Chitsatt Myothant asked “as a minority female leading a homogeneous group, or like having that power as a minority female, how did you navigate through this journey?”

Mitchell explained that she did not have the strength she has today when she started her career.

“You keep searching for your truth,” Mitchell said. “And that’s all I can tell is over these 46 years, I haven’t conquered it. But being true to yourself is the only thing that I can say.”

One of the first things Mitchell wants to implement should she get elected as the Monroe County District Attorney is to hire a social worker for her staff for non-violent, low level offenders.

“I want to have a social worker who can create and craft individualized programs by partnering with community-based programs,” Mitchell said. “All I can do is try. I can try creating programs to get them interested. I’m not naive to believe that I’m a savior.” 

While voter registration day was Tuesday, Sept. 24, ComDev will be hosting the next portion of Understanding Monroe County with Karen LoBracco on Thursday, Oct. 10.

 

Photo of the Week

Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

Author List