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Franklin County to add ADA to deal with gun crimes

May 01, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Franklin County will add an assistant district attorney to focus on violent and gun-related cases in an effort to make the community safer.

Through a three-year, $98,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Franklin County District Attorney's Office can add another assistant, which will ease the department's workload and establish a direct link to the State's Attorney's Office, said District Attorney Jack Nelson.

The grant is part of a national initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods, which brings together federal, state and local law enforcement officials to target the prosecution of crimes involving guns.

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"By devoting greater human resources to the prosecution of these crimes, we hope to solve the violent felony cases faster and to transfer cases for federal prosecution where the federal system would permit harsher sentences," Nelson said.

He said there currently is no uniform procedure to screen cases to see if they should be prosecuted locally or federally.

In some cases, prosecuting them at the federal level will allow for enhanced sentencings, possibly putting the defendant in jail for a longer period.

"Maybe this will save some lives and children," Nelson said.

Franklin County qualified for the grant based on its statistics on violent crimes and overall criminal activity, he said.

The Franklin County District Attorney's Office has seen its case load double within the last decade, going from 997 cases in 1993 to 1,885 in 2000.

"The unfortunate reality is it's the type of effort we need to be making," said Commissioner G. Warren Elliott Tuesday, before the Board of Commissioners signed the grant.

The community gun violence prosecutor will have several roles, from serving as a contact with federal authorities, to working with the U.S. Attorney's Office for central Pennsylvania's anti-terrorism task force.

"The person will ... be responsible for all violent crime, particularly gun violence," Nelson said.

An extra body may also allow the District Attorney's Office to convene its second investigating grand jury to use as an investigative tool for both new and unsolved violent felony offenses and firearms trafficking cases. Nelson said the last one was in 1998.

Nelson said he expects to name one of the three full-time assistants currently on staff to become the community gun violence prosecutor and have the new person handle other cases. He said the opening for an assistant district attorney will be posted soon.

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