Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fredericksburg's Commonwealths Attorney Race

I received this letter from Eric Olsen this morning, and thought I would pass it along. He has been working as a prosecutor for 19 years, much longer than anyone else running in the race. He also points to an interesting stat about successful prosecutions in his letter below. Read for yourself, and don't forget to vote in the special election Dec 16th.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As most of you know, I am a candidate for Fredericksburg Commonwealth ’s Attorney at the Special Election on December 16th to fill the vacancy created by Charlie Sharp’s judicial appointment.

The issue in this election is who has the experience and the skills to handle all of the challenges of this job. The answer is contained in the accomplishments of my 19 years as a prosecutor.

Distinguished Commonwealth Attorney of the Year – Awarded annually to the one prosecutor selected by his or her fellow prosecutors from across the state, the Von Schuch Distinguished Assistant Award is the highest award that any assistant Commonwealth Attorney can receive. I received the award in 2008.

Child Abuse Prosecutions – The easiest thing for a prosecutor to do is not prosecute the most difficult cases we face as commonwealth’s attorneys, the physical and sexual abuse of children. Many times the abuser is a family or household member, the child has no voice, and these challenging cases are quietly not pursued. Most people do not realize that for many child abuse cases the mother of the child is on the side of the abuser and does not want the case prosecuted. I have spoken for these children for two decades. I am a tenacious advocate for holding those who would hurt a child accountable and have developed the skills to prosecute these cases and bring justice to the victims.

Domestic Violence – I have found that the way cases are handled by the prosecutor has a profound effect on deterring future violence. I developed Stafford ’s Domestic Violence Response Policy in 1990 and the results are remarkable. In 2001 the Free Lance Star did a comprehensive review of Domestic Violence prosecutions in Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg and Stafford . That review showed that among these localities the conviction rate was:

Spotsylvania 26 %
Fredericksburg 24%
Stafford 57% (Not only is the highest in the area, it is the highest in the state of Virginia )

Drunk Driving – I have handled too many manslaughter cases where someone was killed at the hands of a drunk driver. In some cases the victim was killed as a passenger in a car driven by a family member or friend. In some, a complete stranger destroyed lives. As you can imagine, the type of justice sought by the surviving friends and family varies depending on the relationship of the offender to the victim. However, they all want the same thing, the one thing that no one can give them. They all want it never to have happened. Deterrence is the key to drunk driving prosecutions. I am on the permanent faculty of Virginia ’s Advanced DWI Investigation and Prosecution training program. I have been training other prosecutors to successfully prosecute these cases for years and I will bring these skills to Fredericksburg . A Drunk Driving case will not be dropped because of who defendant is or who his lawyer is. A case will not be lost because the prosecutor is not up for the job. This happens too often across the state and it will not happen when I am Fredericksburg ’s Commonwealth Attorney.

Murder Cases – As distressing as it seems, we cannot ignore the fact that Fredericksburg ’s prosecutor will face the same challenges in the future that have been faced in the past, about one or two murders a year. Whether it is a crime of gun violence or a child who has been shaken to death, your prosecutor needs to have the skills to try a murder case rather than make a plea bargain. From 2002 to 2005 I tried four murder cases. Erin George shot her husband to death, Cynthia Welch starved her baby to death, Alphonso Bennett killed a college student in a home-invasion robbery and Charles Reed used a sawed-off shotgun in a drug related killing. The only thing that these murderers had in common was that they all pleaded not guilty, they were all tried in front of a jury and they were all prosecuted by me. There are times when it is appropriate to make a plea agreement in a case. That will never happen because I am outmatched, overwhelmed or inexperienced.

Public Servant – I proudly call myself a career prosecutor. For 19 years I have served the public by giving voice to those victims whose voice is never heard and by improving the quality of life for countless citizens. I do this because of the passion I have for this job and the respect I have for the rule of law. With the experience of over 200 jury trials, I have been tested where it matters most, in the courtroom, and can say, without hesitation, that Fredericksburg will benefit from my expertise and my experience. As a lifelong resident of Fredericksburg I know this city as well as most, and I know this job better than anybody. I ask for your vote on December 16.

Eric L. Olsen

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