NOTE: This article is Part Two of a three-part series chronicling WNYNewsNow’s interview with Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson on Friday.
JAMESTOWN – Quite often, a plan can be derailed due to an unexpected complication.
During an interview with WNYNewsNow Friday, Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson said County Judge David Foley’s recent ruling that First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty (unfit to serve) won’t foil Swanson’s ability to have a narcotics prosecutor.
“Not at this time, no,” Swanson said. “We’re not at a position where I can’t accomplish that. My prosecutor is doing a lot of that, right now, in addition to his regular caseload. He’s already attended the National District Attorney’s Association Narcotics Prosecutor Training Program, which is a half-week long program where he’s come back with some methods, procedures and ideas that we’re going to put in place.”
In addition, Swanson said he’s in constant communication with the Federal Government as the penalties for drug crimes are more severe in federal court compared to State court.
“I’m in contact regularly with the U.S Attorney’s Office and (U.S. Attorney) James P. Kennedy (Jr.) up there (in Buffalo), who’s a friend, and we have a good relationship with them, we have a very good relationship with our local FBI agents,” Swanson said. “My narcotics prosecutor-to-be is, currently, (along with my office), taking calls on any opioid overdose death, and we’re taking a closer look at those, trying to collect the evidence that the FBI and Federal Government needs, and trying to develop cases to take to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
“Prosecuting someone for an overdose in State court, you’re very limited on what you can do, and the penalties are not severe.”
Swanson said he’s in constant communication with Assistant U.S. Attorney and Opioid Coordinator Michael Adler.
“I’ve spoken at length with Michael about what they’re looking for, what we need to give them,” Swanson said. “We’re beginning to grab those pieces, if we can, developing a case with the FBI as our local partner, and trying to move a case forward to present to the U.S. Government so they can take it for prosecution.”
“I think that’s a big deal. I think that’s needed, and I think that’s important. Just the small addition of the resources that the Legislature is giving us by adding one prosecutor, we can do additional things if we have adequate resources.”
Swanson said he’ll be reiterating that to the Legislature as time progresses.
“I’m very optimistic going into 2019 with the situation that we have and the staff that we have.”
The Countywide Alliance for Enforcement and Rehabilitation (CAER), an initiative created by Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello in 2018, recently suggested in its 2019 recommendations report that a full-time investigator be added to Swanson’s office.
The investigator position would assist the DA’s full-time narcotics prosecutor with narcotics cases. The investigator would also respond to the scenes of overdose deaths to ensure evidence is being properly collected and critical witnesses are being interviewed to allow for the successful prosecution of drug dealers.
WNYNewsNow’s final report will discuss what the County’s top prosecutor learned both inside and outside of the courtroom in 2018.