DA explains $1 million estimated costs for Schlitterbahn prosecution

District Attorney Mark A. Dupree Sr. tonight explained to the Unified Government Commission that he was surprised by an estimated $1 million unexpected cost for the Schlitterbahn prosecution.

The prosecution of the case is being handled by the state attorney general. Dupree said when he took office, he did not know that a request had been made by his predecessor for the state attorney general’s office to handle the case. Dupree said the former district attorney sent the attorney general a letter Dec. 9, 2016, asking him to review the case and decide whether to prosecute it.

Dupree said that Dec.9 letter was not in his office when he took office in January, and he did not know about it until almost a year later. He also didn’t know about another letter dated Dec. 16, 2016, he said.

If he had known, he would have told the administrator so they could put it in the budget last year, he said. Dupree said his office did find a letter from Nov. 30, 2016, stating that there was no conflict of interest and the DA was keeping the case.

Whoever is in the district attorney’s seat has the authority to bind the county, and the UG has to pay the bills, he told the commission.

“It’s not something I like, it’s not something I appreciate,” Dupree said, “it’s something that has to be paid.”

It is a normal procedure for the state to bill a county if the state attorney general handles a case for the county, according to Dupree.

In response to a question from Commissioner Gayle Townsend, Dupree said the amount that has been spent on the case already is about $94,000, including expert fees and travel fees.

Dupree said the estimate was placed at a million dollars in order to pay the DA’s portion of the costs, along with court reporters costs, fees and other expenses split between the court and the DA’s office.

He said he was looking at one to two years for these cases to be completed.

He has spoken with the attorney general’s office, and he said the $1 million estimate is on the high end, in answer to a question by Commissioner Jane Philbrook.

Commissioner Brian McKiernan said the district attorney’s 2018 amended budget is about $1.4 million higher than the actual expenses in 2017. He said he understood the $500,000 in the budget for the Schlitterbahn prosecution, but he wanted to know where the other $900,000 went.

UG Budget Director Reginald Lindsey said these funds include grants that the DA’s office has received, as well as increases in personnel and capital increases. It also included funding for initiatives such as a drug court diversion program. Lindsey said in 2017, not all positions were fully staffed, and most of them are now staffed.

The new budget also includes funding for making electronic copies of old court files.

Commissioner Angela Markley suggested that Doug Bach, UG administrator, bring back a plan for paying the costs of the Schlitterbahn prosecution. Commissioners suggested asking the state if it might be able to spread the costs over several years.

Dupree also discussed other aspects of his budget.

“This community is left with a few things that it has to clean up,” Dupree said. That includes the old jail, the Schlitterbahn case, and it has to clean up injustices, he said.

After a case from last year, where a man was found to have been wrongfully convicted and served 23 years in prison, other cases have come to his office’s attention, according to Dupree. He is getting many requests to review these cases.

Dupree is proposing a conviction integrity unit that would review old cases, and take action if necessary. Because of the high cost of his initial request for $302,000 for these reviews, he has come up with a new plan to reduce its cost, he told the commission.

Dupree will ask university legal programs to review the cases, with students and their legal adviser assisting. That will reduce the cost to his office of the reviews to about $162,000. After the students review the cases, some of them will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office for more work. The district attorney’s office is asking for one more attorney, plus a part-time investigator and secretary, to handle the cases.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to what we have seen, wrongful convictions across this county,” Dupree said.

“There’s always room in the budget for justice,” he said. “Right now, that justice is going to cost $162,000.”

To see a story about the former district attorney’s reasons for requesting the state attorney general to handle the Schlitterbahn case, visit http://www.wyandottedaily.com/gorman-explains-his-request-for-state-ag-to-handle-schlitterbahn-case/.

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