Scranton Times-Tribune: In Interview, Powell Says He Would Bring Change Of Leadership To County DA

* Saying he would “lead from the front,” attorney Mark Powell, the Democratic contender for Lackawanna County’s chief law enforcement job, said he would bring a needed change of leadership to the district attorney’s office.

* Powell, a civil litigator and criminal defense attorney of 27 years, touted his background as a veteran trial lawyer as a strength which will let him approach the chief prosecutor’s job with an open mind on myriad issues, Powell told The Times-Tribune editorial board Monday. 


Scranton Times-Tribune: In interview, Powell says he would bring change of leadership to county DA

By Joseph Kohut

Saying he would “lead from the front,” attorney Mark Powell, the Democratic contender for Lackawanna County’s chief law enforcement job, said he would bring a needed change of leadership to the district attorney’s office.

Powell, a civil litigator and criminal defense attorney of 27 years, touted his background as a veteran trial lawyer as a strength which will let him approach the chief prosecutor’s job with an open mind on myriad issues, Powell told The Times-Tribune editorial board Monday.

“I think that office cries out for new leadership,” Powell said.

Powell criticized the rate at which county prosecutors settled cases in plea deals, signaled future restraint in seizing property through civil asset forfeiture, questioned why more law enforcement do not record interrogations and disagreed with the mandate requiring district attorneys to serve on boards tasked with crafting policy for county jails.

Powell also complimented the county’s drug court, said he plans to use his experience to better mentor young assistant district attorneys and believes the current education outreach on opioid abuse and addiction should grow.

“The office is divided and quite frankly over the years the office has become complacent and needs to head in a better direction,” Powell said. “And I think I can provide that, based on my experience and my trial skills and my business experience and my good judgment.”

Powell will square off in November against Republican former First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico, who has been in private practice since the county’s judges passed over him last year to tap Shane Scanlon for the top job once former District Attorney Andy Jarbola ascended to the bench.

Though he didn’t cite specific cases, Powell said too many criminal cases are settled in plea negotiations. “Taking the path of least resistance” is proper in some prosecutions but some cases “need to be tried” to send a stern message and deter crime, he said.

Plea deals in Lackawanna County disposed of 63.3 percent of criminal cases in 2015, according to the most recent data published by Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The year’s total was comparable with 10 other third-class Pennsylvania counties and the 67 percent rate statewide.

Powell said he also disagreed with the concept that district attorneys must sit on prison boards, required by the state, but did not signal he would sit out meetings. The purpose of such a board, he said, is to craft policy for county jails.

Sitting on the board as district attorney presents either a direct conflict of interest or, at least, presents the appearance of a conflict.

Powell said he would be interested in working with legislators to change the state’s mandate.

Read the article here.