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In first public campaign event for Berkshire DA, Sullivan attacks Harrington’s record, says he would re-instate cash bail and prosecute lesser offenses

 Robert Sullivan.
Josh Landes
Robert Sullivan.

Attorney Robert Sullivan held a press conference in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Monday to officially announce his run for Berkshire District Attorney.

Sullivan, once a Berkshire Assistant District Attorney under former longtime DA David Capeless, told reporters in Park Square that his campaign is a bid to remove politics from the DA’s office.

“We currently have a district attorney who has tied herself very much so to politics, to a particular political group. That tie has resulted in a lack of focus on public safety and public service here in Berkshire County, and decisions seem to be made based on the values of this political group and not what best serves the folks here in this county.”

The 38-year-old claimed that DA Andrea Harrington – a Democrat who narrowly won the seat on a reform platform in 2018 – is beholden to the group Fair and Just Prosecution, a network of progressive local prosecutors that Harrington has been associated with throughout her term.

“Serious and violent crimes continue to be more prevalent in this county," said Sullivan. "The data that I've collected suggested there's over a dozen untried homicides. Several locations in the county are known by federal authorities to be hotbeds of the illegal trafficking and sale of illegal firearms. Shootings have been all too common. Sometimes, more than often, in broad daylight. Sexual assaults, gang violence, drug trafficking, all too common.”

Harrington, a Democrat who has not officially declared a re-election bid, is widely expected to defend her seat in November. Sullivan says that if elected, he would return to the use of cash bail at the DA’s office, which Harrington formally ended in early 2019.

“We have the resources and the staff necessary in this county to evaluate cases and to make decisions about the use of cash bail where it's appropriate,” said Sullivan.

He also said low-level crimes would no longer be dismissed under his leadership.

“Currently offenses such as uninsured driving, driving with a suspended license, property damage, shoplifting, are all being dismissed prior to arraignment," said Sullivan. "I think this sends the wrong message to the person involved, I think it sends the wrong message to the community. I see it hurting our community, I see it being against public safety. And I think it's an extremely slippery slope. It hurts small businesses, it hurts families, and quite frankly, it's an embarrassment to the many folks here who work hard to follow the law.”

He characterized Harrington’s stated commitment to diversion programs as hollow.

“There are two critical areas where sadly, diversion is not available in this county, and that relates to folks involved in the system who are veterans, folks involved in the system who suffer from mental illness or one or more psychiatric diagnoses," said Sullivan. "I pledge to create comprehensive diversion programs for those folks.”

Among his other promises, Sullivan said he would revive the DA’s community outreach and development department, which was eliminated under Harrington.

Sullivan, who is running as an independent, declined to answer WAMC’s questions about his broader politics or how he voted in 2020.

“I don't think it's relevant to what I'm trying to do, how I might may feel about a national political issue or a political issue statewide," he said. "Quite frankly, it doesn't really matter, because I don't- It doesn't translate into what I intend to do.”

Sullivan was asked about his views on equity issues in prosecution, given Harrington’s stated emphasis on confronting systemic racism and other oppressive structures within criminal justice.

“You can engage in acts that work towards public safety that also keep those things in mind," he said. "I would never prosecute with an intention to be harmful to a certain group or to target a certain group. It's just not who I am. But beyond that, I don't know what else can be done to fix it. I can only say that I would do whatever I can to make sure it doesn't continue.”

Attorney Timothy Shugrue has also declared his candidacy for DA as a Democrat.

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