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Veteran Prosecutor Appointed Interim District Attorney


Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today appointed a veteran prosecutor as Hampden District Attorney.  The vacancy was created by the appointment of the elected DA to the federal bench in western Massachusetts. 

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick swore in James Orenstein as Hampden County District Attorney at a ceremony Monday in the state office building in Springfield.

" He will serve in this role beautifully I am quite confident until the voters of this county have chosen their next district attorney," said Patrick.

Orenstein, who has more than two decades of experience in the prosecutor’s office, will serve out the seven months left on the four-year term of Mark Mastroianni, who resigned as DA and was sworn in as a U.S. District Court Judge on Monday.

Orenstein, who began his career as a public defender, joined the Hampden District Attorney’s office in 1991. He was first assistant DA for 17 years under former District Attorney William Bennett and then Mastroianni. He resigned in 2012, but remained with the prosecutor’s office on a part-time basis to work on cold cases.

" I don't anticipate enormous changes in the everyday running of the office, nor do I anticipate reinventing the wheel. I do pledge to keep the office running as smoothly and efficiently as possible so that when the newly-elected DA takes office next year the office will be in as good shape as possible."

Orenstein said one of the first calls he plans to make as DA is to Springfield’s newly appointed police commissioner and to the police chief in Holyoke to offer his help in combating the recent spike in gun violence in both cities.

" The major problem is the fact there are too many guns illegally carried by too many people. We certainly want to be a part of a dialog with any other agencies working on this complex issue."

Since the beginning of April, 19 people have been shot in Springfield and three have died.

Orenstein, who will turn 65 in February, said he has no designs on the district attorney’s office beyond the interim appointment.

Four candidates, all Democrats, have filed nomination papers to run for Hampden District Attorney.

Mastroianni took the oath to be a federal judge at a private ceremony just after noon Monday at the federal court house in Springfield.  He said a public swearing-in will be held this summer.

Mastroianni, in an interview last week, said leaving the DA’s office was bittersweet.

" I am enormously excited about the challenges and opportunities I have in front of me. I am humbled and honored to have been named to the position to fill very large shoes in the person of Judge Michael Ponsor. It is quite an amazing thing."

Judge Michael Ponsor became semi-retired in 2011 causing a vacancy on the federal bench  in western Massachusetts that was unfilled until the U.S. Senate confirmed Mastroianni’s nomination on June  4.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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