MAYVILLE – The three homicide cases that remain pending in Chautauqua County will be prosecuted by neighboring county district attorneys.
Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone tells WNY News Now that cases for Julio Montanez and Carl Sorenson, both of Jamestown, will be prosecuted by the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office due to a conflict of interest involving Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt’s office.
Another Jamestown man, Tavion Turner, will be prosecuted by the Erie County DA’s office, according to the Chautauqua County Court. Turner, previously represented by Schmidt, will now be defended by area attorney Avery Olson.
All three men face charges of second-degree murder, with Montanez also facing two counts of second-degree attempted murder.
Barone explains that the court’s decision to appoint a different prosecutor isn’t unprecedented.
“It’s pretty typical when a new prosecutor comes into office and he replaces or appoints new assistant district attorneys, sometimes conflicts of interests may arise,” Barone said. “To err on the side of caution, the Court will appoint a new prosecutor to avoid any potential issues later on.”
“Again, it’s not unusual for an adjoining county district attorney office to handle a matter on behalf of a fellow district attorney office.”
Schmidt tells us that he previously reached out to Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Pettit Rieman to ensure that her office had the necessary resources to prosecute.
He adds that the outsources cases won’t be compromised because of the move, and the taxpayers won’t be affected.
Barone says, at this point, that there aren’t many cases that are being re-assigned due to conflict of interests with the District Attorney’s office.
“We’re taking a look at each and every case and evaluating them on an individual basis,” Barone explains.
The court held virtual status conferences Tuesday for Montanez and Sorenson. Barone says that the hearings were held for the purpose of discussing the completion of discovery and other procedural issues.
A court clerk tells WNY News Now that a conference will be held on Feb. 25.
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