Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Voters to pick Gensel or German for prosecutor job

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By KEVIN NEVERS

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 questionnaires.

The Tribune 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 attorney.

(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 reputation.

For Germann: Describe your achievements as a criminal defense attorney (100 words). * Successfully defended clients who were innocent of the crimes they were charged with.

* Counseled 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.

(4) Differentiate 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 committees.

Germann: Having 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)

Gensel: I 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.

Germann: * Addressing the heroin, opioid, drug, and alcohol addictions destroying the very fabric of our community.

* Relentlessly 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 further harm.

* 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 Porter County.

Germann: The 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)

Gensel: Plea 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.

Germann: Plea 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)

Gensel: A 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.

Germann: A 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.

 

Posted 10/2/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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