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Smith: Fighting Heroin Goal of DA Candidacy

Written By Editor on 3/26/17 | 3/26/17

Blenheim Supervisor Shawn Smith announced his candidacy for Schoharie County District attorney at a bipartisan event held on March 25th.

Smith said that he had a variety of life experiences growing up in Schoharie County, including as a logger, mechanic, student, attorney, and Supervisor. He serves as municipal attorney to several Towns and Villages across the County. He served as public defender over the last

Photo Credit: Warren Burton
"What drives me to run for District Attorney is my experience as a criminal defense attorney. It gives me a unique insight into the criminal justice system," he said. He serves as a Public Defender in Delaware County.

Smith then spoke next about the "heroin epidemic in the area," stating that it would be the number one issue law enforcement deals with in Schoharie County.

"Some of my colleagues both as attorneys and fellow legislatives say that the problem is out of control and too big for us to control as a county," Smith said, "We have a lot of resources here in the County, in the DA's office, the Sheriff's Office, the Village of Cobleskill Police... the State Troopers. If everyone works together we have a lot of resources we can put in and hopefully reverse the trend and reverse it and turn it around."

The candidate gave several examples of clients he defended over the years. One was a young woman accused of petit larceny. He said that it wasn't obvious that she had a drug problem, but she explained that she had a problem with prescription pills. "That's what drives people to heroin," he said. The young woman stole to pay for drugs. Smith said many people can't reverse the trend without help. She was thinking about enrolling in college, she said.

Because she wasn't charged with a drug crime, there were no immediate resources open for treatment at the time. Smith pursued options for her. In the meantime, he was asked to represent her in a family court matter after she was beaten up by her boyfriend, an alleged heroin dealer. She sought and received a temporary order of protection against the boyfriend. Smith called around for treatment options for her in the meantime and called her mother several days later. "It was one of the toughest phone calls I ever had," he said. The young woman died of a heroin overdose.

"It made a big impression on me. It's weighed on me a lot," he said. Even worse, the boyfriend is still on the streets, even though he was arrested and released. "In a way, he's responsible for her death."

Smith spoke of another client that requested supervision of his children before the mother died of a heroin overdose.

The candidate called for a three-pronged approach to fighting the local heroin. "We can make a big difference in this," he said. "It keeps getting worse and worse. That's why I'm dedicated to running for District Attorney."

Smith's plan included a plan to assist first time users. "They need help, they need treatment," he said, citing successful programs in other counties. "There's things we can do without spending a lot of money." He said that in cases where defendants have charges that likely drug related, any plea deals will require drug treatment options. He said there are cases where some users are unrepentant and think it's a "victimless crime." He cited broken families and that these types of users are "part of the problem" and would be dealt with harshly.

Smith said of the 16 towns of the county, none are spared drug issues. He said that drug dealers and pushers should be cracked down on. "retribution is swift and severe. It has to be severe enough that they'll think twice or decide that it's totally unworth it to sell drugs." He promised the "stiffest punishment possible."

Thirdly, Smith said the District Attorney's office can work with early intervention programs. He said that the DA's job is a 24-7 job and requires the office holder to be "active in the community."

Smith closed by saying that he wants to open a dialogue with everyone, whether they supported him or not. "I encourage you to talk to me about it. It's a problem we're all dealing with."

Smith's campaign page can be found here.

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