In the general
election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Republican incumbent Porter County Prosecuting
Attorney Brian T. Gensel will face a challenge from Democrat Gary S. Germann.
The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) For Gensel:
Age, place of residence, term of office: 57; Union Township; third term,
first elected in 2006 after serving as Chief Deputy for 12 years.
For Germann: Age,
place of residence, occupation: 70; Valparaiso; criminal defense
(2) For Gensel: Why
are you seeking re-election to the Office of Prosecuting Attorney? (100
words) Even after 30 years as a prosecutor and 12 as the elected
prosecutor, I still have a passion for seeking justice for victims and
holding criminals accountable for their conduct. As the chief law
enforcement officer of the county, I am daily called upon to make decisions,
solve problems, and give advice. I have developed strong relationships with
local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, social service agencies,
treatment providers, and educational institutions. Because of my depth of
experience and knowledge, people trust the decisions I make and the
solutions and advice I give.
For Germann: Why
are you seeking election to the Office of Prosecuting Attorney (100 words)
The Porter County criminal justice system can be vastly improved. Lost
now is the goal of seeking an appropriate sanction unique to each individual
defendant and each case. Rather, the current approach is to punish
non-violent offenders with crippling felony convictions accompanied with
periods of incarceration further debilitating an individual with job loss
and loss of families. As a prosecutor who guards the rights of every
citizen, in particular the rights of victims and the interests of the law
enforcement community, I will evaluate every case on its merits and resolve
each case in a meaningful and just way.
(3) For Gensel:
Describe your achievements in office (100 words). I have successfully
litigated several high profile murder and child molesting cases. I and my
senior staff have obtained convictions in our last 12 murder trials. I have
accepted appointments to the executive boards of the Indiana HIDTA Drug Task
Force and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council. My Child Support
Office consistently leads the state in collecting for deserving children.
Most importantly, I have cultivated an office which is highly respected by
law enforcement in Northwest Indiana and throughout the state. My office has
the reputation of being tough on crime, and I plan on keeping that
Describe your achievements as a criminal defense attorney (100 words). *
Successfully defended clients who were innocent of the crimes they were
numerous persons with drug and alcohol addictions and guided them to
recovery and a law-abiding lifestyle. This may be the most rewarding aspect
of my life as a lawyer.
* Defended the
rights applicable to all of us as contained in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
* Presented at
numerous seminars sponsored by the Indiana Public Defenders Council.
* Served as a
Porter County Public Defender for approximately 20 years in the courts of
Judges Douglas, Webber, and Alexa.
yourself from your opponent and indicate in particular why you believe
yourself to be a better candidate (150 words).
Gensel: For the
last 30 years as a prosecutor, I have been defending victims of crimes,
supporting and partnering with law enforcement, and holding criminals
accountable for their actions. For the last 36 years, my opponent has been
attacking law enforcement investigations and defending these same criminals.
For the last 12 years I have led a staff of nearly 50 employees and have
personally hired and cultivated skilled prosecutors who are experts in
prosecuting serious crimes. My opponent has been a solo practitioner. I have
developed a vast network of relationships that enable me to solve problems
and get things done. My opponent doesn’t have these contacts and
relationships. I am a member of numerous committees addressing serious
criminal justice issues. My opponent has not been involved in any of those
previously served as a Portage Police Officer, Porter County Deputy
Prosecutor, Chief Deputy Prosecutor, and elected Porter County Prosecutor, I
learned to appreciate the perspectives of crime victims, police officers,
and witnesses. During my years as prosecutor I successfully prosecuted every
kind of case imaginable. Initially my private practice included writing
wills, representing corporate clients, and pursuing personal injury claims.
Given my background in the Prosecutor’s Office I was also called to
represent clients charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanors to murder. I
accordingly have a balanced understanding of the importance of seeking
justice for real people in every case. Integrated into this journey are my
life’s experiences as a father, husband, business owner, and public servant.
This varied legal experience would give me a unique advantage to being an
effective prosecuting attorney: Who better to prosecute a case than an
attorney who has defended the same kind of case?
(5) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
believe the key issue in this race is my desire to maintain excellence and
continuity vs. my opponent claiming to want to “fix” what isn’t broken. I
and my four senior staff attorneys in charge of major felony prosecution
have over 110 years of combined experience. While we are tough, no-nonsense
prosecutors who have devoted our careers to upholding the law and protecting
victims, we seek justice in each and every case. Due to the nature of the
cases we handle, often that requires a prison sentence. Consequently, our
plea offers are not always popular with defense attorneys. Sometimes,
however, that means granting mercy to a defendant who is “redeemable.” I
make no apologies for the work we do or the positions we take. The citizens
of Porter County deserve no less.
Addressing the heroin, opioid, drug, and alcohol addictions destroying the
very fabric of our community.
pursuing the heroin dealers inside and outside the borders of Porter County.
* For non-violent
offenders decreasing recidivism by taking advantage of our highly successful
problem-solving courts, Drug Court, and Veteran’s Treatment Court, by
referring appropriate offenders to these courts previously supervised by
Judge Jent and now supervised by Judge Drenth.
* Developing and
participating in providing assistance to the police, schools, and parents to
educate our children and intervene at the earliest possible time to prevent
* For starters
delivering a new style of hands-on leadership for law enforcement by being
present myself when crucial constitutional questions arise in the middle of
the night in the investigation of the most serious cases such as murder.
(6) What role
should the Prosecutor’s Office play in addressing the opioid crisis in
Porter County? (75 words)
Gensel: As an
executive member of HIDTA, I have voted to fund the creation of educational
anti-drug videos and participated in strategic planning to stop the flow of
opioids into Northwest Indiana through grants to law enforcement. I have
worked with numerous stakeholders in the opioid crisis to establish programs
for medically assisted treatment and effective drug therapy. Because we take
drug crime prosecution seriously, fewer drug dealers are willing to come to
prosecutor should relentlessly pursue heroin dealers but must also be
proactive. Despite representations to the contrary the Prosecutor’s Office
does not support our nationally recognized problem-solving courts for drug
offenders and non-violent offenders. By law the prosecutor determines who
may enter Drug Court. It is inconceivable and inexplicable that a county
with the worst heroin abuse problem in the U.S. has fewer than 10
participants in Drug Court.
(7) How, in your
opinion, does plea bargaining promote justice? To what degree does it
confound justice? (100 words)
agreements are a necessary element of our criminal justice system. There are
not enough resources available to have jury trials on even 5 percent of the
over 5,000 criminal cases that are filed in Porter County each year. Aside
from cases like murder that are most often resolved in a jury trial, there
is sufficient flexibility in our system to guarantee that a defendant
receives appropriate consequences and that victims are made whole, to the
extent that is possible. I don’t believe the plea agreement system, if
administered by skilled lawyers and judges, confounds justice.
agreements resolve cases quickly, saving immense amounts of time and money.
Yet they can confound justice if complacency replaces diligence, simply to
avoid the hard work of a trial, which is totally unacceptable. In serious
cases plea agreements may be inappropriate because the interests of
protecting our community outweigh the shortcut of an agreement. I think,
too, a prosecutor must be vigilant not to seek a plea when there are serious
questions about an accused’s guilt or innocence. Sometimes a client may
accept an agreement just to be released from jail sooner rather than wait
months for a trial.
(8) Republicans and
Democrats often have different philosophies on certain hot-button
law-and-order issues: profiling, drug enforcement, incarceration, capital
punishment. Would there be, in your view, any real difference in Porter
County between a Republican prosecutor and a Democrat prosecutor? (75 words)
prosecutor should never base decisions on political affiliations. My
philosophy is that communities are kept safest when experienced prosecutors
partner with skilled law enforcement to seek justice. I believe the death
penalty should be reserved for the worst killers and that non-violent drug
offenders should be provided with opportunities for rehabilitation. If
re-elected, I will continue to apply these principles to keep Porter County
a place where people want to raise families.
national party label has little to do with any local candidate’s philosophy.
The criminal justice system is anchored by the effectiveness of a
prosecuting attorney whose strict adherence to blind justice is an absolute
must. Impartiality should be applied without regard to party, wealth, power,
or status. Our laws have been written by legislators of both parties and all
races, religions, and backgrounds. Those laws should be enforced in the same
fashion for everyone.