Broome County District Attorney Candidate Interview – Paul Battisti

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WSKG is offering extended interviews with the three candidates in the Broome County District Attorney’s race throughout the week before election day.
[Transcript]

GABE ALTIERI: “This is WSKG news. I’m Gabe Altieri. One of the most contentious races in the region this November is for Broome County District Attorney. Current D.A. Steve Cornwell is leaving the position to run for congress, making it an open race.”

Gabe Altieri/WSKG

Broome DA candidate Paul Battisti. Gabe Altieri/WSKG

“Ahead of Election Day, we’re sitting down with each of the candidates. I’m joined now by Republican Paul Battisti, and Paul, the D.A. primary was pretty contentious and, often, sometimes even bitter between you and Mike Korchak. Some of the back and forth has continued into the general election. Why do you think it has become so bitter, as he’s now running as the Libertarian candidate?”

PAUL BATTISTI: “You know, we’ve really tried to focus on facts. It’s a very important position. We both have different beliefs surrounding how we are going to make Broome County the best and safest it could possibly be.”

“Mr. Korchak believes the status quo is enough. I don’t agree with that. If I agreed with that, I would not be running. As a father of five, I know we need more and, every day I’m reminded of that when I’m out knocking on doors and speaking to people.”

“We’re losing the battle on the opioid epidemic. Crime rates are rising, regardless of, sometimes, of what we hear. The Department of Criminal Justice Services just released numbers, comparing January to June ’19, to ’18 in the City of Binghamton, and we’ve seen rapes up to 60 percent, drug arrest of 50 percent, domestic violence up 20 percent, and car thefts up over 40 percent. We need to do more. We’ve talked about different programs that we need to implement to do more: mental health treatment court, how we have to restore working relationships with the men and women of law enforcement. So, I think our differencing or different opinion surrounding how we combat this, unfortunately, has lead to disagreements.”

GA: “And what you kind of hit on it right there, the, the opioid and heroin epidemic. He’s obviously currently, right now, Chief Assistant D.A. And they’ll point to the numbers of the overdose deaths that have decreased the last few years, before this year, a slight uptick. Why is that not the only number that should be looked at? Why do you say that they’re losing if he’s pointing to those numbers?”

PB: “Already this year, up to October, we’ve had more overdose deaths in Broome County than we did in all of 2018. Moreover, in speaking to unions, associations, fire departments, EMS, first responders, ambulance individuals, overdoses have never gone down. Overdose deaths did at times go down. But again, they’re up much higher than they were last year.”

“It’s because of NARCAN. People are reviving individuals. It doesn’t mean that the addiction has stopped. It doesn’t mean people aren’t overdosing. It just that individuals are carrying their own NARCAN now, so they can revive their, you know, their friends.”

“We need to do more. We need to do preventive services. We need more intervention services and we dramatically need a mental health treatment court in this area, something Mr. Korchak does not agree with me on. But being out there in the field, I have sat on the drug court for numerous years. I know mental health treatment is needed. Mental health, a lot of times, is the root of the problem. And if we don’t address the root of the problem, the disease is never going to go away. We are not going to arrest our way out of this. And it’s no surprise that addiction, mental health, substance abuse is relatively related to so much crime in this area.”

GA: “We discussed the issue between police and communities of color at the SUNY Broome debate. The conversation sort of shifted away from that. So I wanted to, sort of, bring it up again. How do you make sure that relationship is there between the police and specifically communities of color?”

PB: “I think there’s education through training. To make sure we’re all working together as one I think that’s very, very important. There’s been discussions with body cams so on and so forth. Our officers already have body cams. Our officers do a good job. They put their life on the line every single day.”

“In-house trainings, mandatory trainings, keeping law enforcement up to date on changes in the law. January 1st of 2020 there is dramatic changes to the criminal procedural and bail reform. Unfortunately here in Broome County, the District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Korchak’s administration, is not doing anything surrounding, specifically, training the men and women of law enforcement. We must be training them in order to ensure a smooth transition in order to ensure law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office and working together.”

“We should be training. I had the fortunate opportunity roughly four weeks ago to be in Chenango County with District Attorney Ferrarese, who did an incredible job over numerous days training the men and women of law enforcement. Bringing them up to speed on the changes and how best to work with the district attorney’s office. What type of computer programming they’re going to be using to transition the evidence to ensure that Broome County can be the best and safest it could possibly be.”

GA: “One thing both Korchak and Democratic candidate Debra Gelson will bring up about you is your experience as a criminal defense attorney, but not necessarily as a prosecutor. Is that a fair criticism? And if not, why?”

PB: “I don’t think so at all. I think it’s important to know that the role of district attorney does not belong in a courtroom 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve been in a courtroom. I’ve been doing this for numerous years, handled cases from the federal level all the way down to the local level. Tried numerous jury trials.”

“But focusing on what is a district attorney all about. A district attorney is a leader, role model, they’re a manager, they’re a supervisor. They’re there to ensure there’s working relationships in the community, to ensure the office is working as efficient as possible. Establishing programs, putting procedures and protocols into-into- into place.”

“The district attorney’s office has a budget for 28 district attorneys. That means there’s 27 individuals in court every day. If a district attorney is doing what he’s supposed to be doing, we can ensure Broome County is the best and safest it can possibly be.”

“The status quo is not working. I hear it every day. If I knock on a door, exterior doors, screen doors are always locked. When I ask somebody, ‘why is that?’. They say, ‘I don’t feel safe’.”

“What’s unique, and I think very important to mention, is the United Way just released their community commitment plan for 2019 to 2022. They put a lot of time, effort and energy into going out into the community, speaking to numerous individuals to see what best is their monies used for over the next three years. And the number one concern amongst members of Broome County is their safety. And the United Way has come to the conclusion that the best way to combat that epidemic, that concern, is to implement collaboration. It’s the exact same thing I’ve been saying since the inception.”

“We have incredible resources in Broome County, individuals that have lived in Broome County for a long time know the potential for Broome County, but we need effective leadership, not just leaders that are there, but individuals that are doing their job to the best of their ability. It’s amazing what can be done when nobody’s concerned about who gets the credit. And I’m committed to doing that. I’m a father of five. I love this community. My father told me at a young age, it’s incumbent upon us to make it better for the next generation. And that’s why I’m running for district attorney.”

GA: “Paul Battisti is the Republican candidate for Broome County District Attorney. Paul, thanks so much.”

PB: “Thank you.”