Deputy Attorney General Jane Young held a news conference Wednesday in Concord to rebuff allegations that the takeover of the prosecutorial duties from embattled Hlllsborough County Attorney Michael Conlon was politically motivated.
Young said part of the reason for holding the news conference was because of the many calls fielded by spokesman Kate Spiner and Young herself, adding she doesn’t have “20 minutes” to explain every time she is questioned as to whether there were political overtones in the takeover.
“We are veteran prosecutors. All of us came from county attorneys offices, We have tried misdemeanor to homicide cases. We are not politicians and we do not do things for political reasons…
“To say that is an insult to us and to our office that we are asked that question. We need it to stop,” Young said.
Conlon, a Democrat, said he has no evidence that it was political, adding it was “interesting” that the takeover came shortly after the Manchester police, fire chief and Mayor Joyce Craig criticized the state’s Doorway drug treatment program.
“I don’t have any evidence of political motivation,” Conlon said. “But it is interesting that a week before the attorney general made the announcement prefaced on three cases out of the 3,000 we handle every year, the week before the Manchester police and fire chief and mayor held a press conference on how Doorway (program) wasn’t working. It’s very interesting,” Conlon said.
Conlon said he has been working hard on his budget and long-term improvements in the office and was able to have the budget increased 27 percent.
Young said she, Senior Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati, and Assistant Attorney General Erin Fitzgerald have spent the last two and a half days in the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office where they are discovering new problems as they try to iron out ongoing ones.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has appointed former Manchester Police Chief David Mara to oversee the prosecutorial functions, although he has no experience in Superior Court. Young said Mara switched his law license status from inactive to active after the decision was made for him to take over.
Young said she recognized the dedicated employees in the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office and first brought the problems to light with Conlon’s predecessor last August.
“The issues with the office were the lack of leadership from the then-county attorney,” Young said.
The review continued, but didn’t improve even as the attorney general provided suggestions to Conlon.
“I can personally tell you we have been in dialogue with County Attorney Conlon I would say at least on a weekly basis. We have continued and tried to work through this,” Young said.
Conlon said there are myriad problems and he is working on them.
“I’m not surprised they are finding issues,” Conlon said.
“A lot of issues are not of my creation. I have been able to address some of them, but the notion I can solve all of them in eight moths is unreasonable,” Conlon said.
Young said: “We have jobs the three of us. We carry caseloads, but we are in Hillsborough County because it is the right thing to do.”
People keep asking her, “why are you here. This must be political,” Young said.
Conlon was given time and suggestions as to how to straighten out the office, she said.
“He (Conlon) simply failed to do that,” Young said.
Suggestions were made that he immediately hire an attorney with substantial experience who could help create policies, a case management structure and some type of system to approve negotiated dispositions. She also recommended he hire a second experienced attorney to help with litigation function.
She said the state is hiring a training prosecutor in a couple of weeks.
“We gave him the opportunity to do that. He simply failed,” Young said.
She mentioned several important cases that Conlon was not aware of including one involving a victim and a police prosecutor from Merrimack County. “We called the county attorney and his answer was he didn’t know about the case.”
Young also mentioned a Manchester murder involving domestic violence and a third involving the death of a child that Conlon was also unaware of.