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Fogal to be Franklin County's new district attorney

October 22, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- A prosecutor with legal experience in Pennsylvania, Afghanistan and Kosovo officially becomes the new district attorney in Franklin County, Pa., Friday.

On Thursday, Franklin County judges announced Matthew D. "Matt" Fogal as their choice to fill a vacancy created by the death of John F. "Jack" Nelson two weeks earlier.

"I learned a lot from Jack," Fogal said. "He was a friend and a mentor."

Fogal, a Chambersburg native, began his prosecutorial career in the Adams County, Pa., district attorney's office and later became a full-time assistant district attorney in Franklin County.

Fogal, a major in the Pennsylvania National Guard, mobilized and deployed several times through the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He served as the legal mentor for Afghanistan's attorney general and provided humanitarian relief in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

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In published reports, Fogal talked about his experiences with JAG in Kosovo, saying most of what he dealt with came down to "bad soldiering," resulting in Article 15 disciplinary hearings with loss of pay or rank as punishment. Because troops were prohibited from drinking, alcohol violations occasionally occurred, he told The Herald-Mail in March 2004.

Fogal has worked with the Franklin County Drug Task Force to manage undercover drug enforcement operations.

Judges Douglas W. Herman, Richard J. Walsh and Carol L. Van Horn said Fogal demonstrated many of Nelson's personal and professional qualities.

"Jack wasn't just a good communicator, but a skilled listener," Herman said.

Walsh led a time of silence and reflection for Nelson, who died of natural causes at age 58, at Thursday's Criminal Justice Advisory Board meeting. Nelson served 23 years as district attorney and eight additional years as an assistant district attorney before that.

Fogal, 37, said "a sense of obligation" to his friend and mentor was part of his decision to apply.

Five people from within the district attorney's office and two others applied, Herman said.

Fogal said he hopes to provide continuity for an office that has shown resilience in the wake of Nelson's passing.

"We have difficult times ahead, and I'm prepared to lead," Fogal said.

The mission of the office will remain the same, he said.

"Fairness is our guide, and justice is our goal. ... We do the right thing for the right reasons all the time," Fogal said.

Fogal said he hasn't decided whether to run for election in 2011.

Fogal lives in Chambersburg with his wife, Dana; son, Alex; and daughter, Karli.

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