Pubdate: Fri, 12 Oct 2007
Source: Times Union (Albany, NY)
Copyright: 2007 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Bob Gardinier
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


Rensselaer County district attorney candidate backs drug laws reform

COLONIE -- The Democrat running for Rensselaer County district 
attorney said the office is in disarray under the current 
administration and inexperienced prosecutors are handling local court dockets.

"It is broken at levels they don't even know about," said Richard J. 
McNally Jr., a former county prosecutor, public defender and current 
county conflict defender. "Prosecution is not something you learn 
overnight and the office needs to apply that fundamental concept with 
leadership from top to bottom."

McNally of Valley Falls faces Republican Gregory Cholakis in 
November. He made the comments to the Times Union editorial board recently.

District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis is not seeking re-election. Her 
one term in the $119,600-a-year post has been a bumpy ride. She and 
her office suffered several reversals on cases and DeAngelis has been 
chastised by higher courts for courtroom antics and prosecutorial errors.

The Rockefeller-era drug laws need scrutiny, McNally said.

"The laws need to be changed because there is not enough flexibility 
and more judicial discretion would be appropriate."

McNally steered clear of specifically targeting by name either 
DeAngelis or Cholakis, who has worked in the county Public Defender 
office for 14 years.

He did say the DA's office sometimes pushes for unrealistic 
sentences, though he admitted there are no easy answers in dealing 
with violent crime.

DeAngelis received some criticism for her role in the sentencing in 
December 2004 of troubled teen Jon Romano to 20 years in prison for 
discharging a shotgun three times inside Columbia High School, 
injuring a special education teacher. There was evidence Romano was 
emotionally unstable and some thought the sentence severe.

"There may have been some grandstanding there, though I'm not 
familiar with all the aspects of that case," McNally said. "There is 
a fine line between humane justice and legally allowable justice, but 
at certain times as a prosecutor your duty is clear."

DeAngelis said she wants to stay out of the political fray and 
declined to address McNally's points.

"When I chose not to run for a second term, I promised to stay out of 
the political race to fill this seat and I will keep that promise 
that I made to the people of this county," she said in a prepared statement.

McNally said he is in favor of the death penalty for cop killers and 

"A law enforcement officer is as special a victim as you can get," 
McNally said. "But I struggle with the death penalty every day. It is 
certainly something you cannot take lightly."

McNally, a 1987 graduate of St. John's University School of Law, 
seeks to become the first Democrat to head the Rensselaer County 
office in 15 years and the first Democrat elected to the post since 
retired Supreme Court Justice James Canfield in 1989.

McNally has some prosecutorial experience. He served as first 
assistant to Democrat Louis J. Catone, who lost to Republican Mary O. 
Donohue in 1992. Catone was preceded by Canfield who won an 
assignment to the state Supreme Court in 1991 leading to Catone's 
short appointment.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman