Cheney runs on experience, leadership, integrity |

Cheney runs on experience, leadership, integrity

Ryan Summerlin

The Republican Jeff Cheney, running for Ninth Judicial District attorney, positions himself as the experienced prosecutor who will regain community confidence in the DA’s office.

“The primary reason folks should consider me is I have the integrity, leadership and experience that the chief prosecutor needs,” he said.

Specifically, Cheney criticizes the current DA, Sherry Caloia, a Democrat, for a lack of experience as a prosecutor, which he says has resulted charging decisions based on fear of losing a trial and unnecessary bad blood between her and local law enforcement.

“Out of the three candidates, I’m the only one who’s had substantial training in leadership,” the Republican nominee said.

Cheney enlisted in the Army at 17, and later became an infantry officer and paratrooper, graduating second in his class at officer candidate school. He was also deployed to Iraq in 2003.

“I’ve proven myself on the battlefield and in the courtroom.”

Cheney said that his time in the military, which continues today as he practices as a military defense lawyer, taught him “servant leadership.”

Fundamental to this style of leadership is never asking someone to do something you can’t or won’t do, he said.

He described himself as willing to roll up his sleeves and be the first in line to get a job done.

That means he would also prosecute some cases himself, he said.

“The chief prosecutor has to be someone seasoned in the courtroom” so he or she can lead by example, said Cheney.

He harps on Caloia’s lack of experience as a prosecutor and points to his own 10 years as a prosecutor and seven years at the Ninth Judicial District’s assistant DA.

“A prosecutor can only be experienced by trying cases, by bloodying his or her lips and knuckles in trial.”

The candidate says his trial success rate is in the upper 90 percentile.

As is common for incumbent district attorneys, Caloia has also been criticized for being too lenient in plea agreements, most notably by Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, who backs Cheney in the DA’s race.

Plea agreements are tools for achieving an efficiency, but sometimes, like any tool, they’re overused, Cheney said.

“I think your motive in plea bargaining ought to be the burning pursuit of justice.” But recently plea bargains seem to have been driven by fear of losing at trial, he said.

That could mean justice for the victims, or for the accused’s rehabilitation, said Cheney.

Where rehabilitation seems possible, “I’m going to strongly consider an evidence based plea agreement that achieves justice and helps that person become a contributing member of society again.”

“We have really good public defenders, and I have the upmost respect for (them). People shouldn’t elect me to be an extra public defender, to represent accused people; they should ask me to prosecute.”

“A prosecutor is someone who believes in the mission of making the community safe.”

Law enforcement has also complained that Caloia’s office makes it too difficult to get search and arrest warrants approved. And Caloia has stood by her high standards of evidence for taking a case.

“(Caloia) has this notion that she is the only thing standing between (the community and) the hordes of blue who are going to create an oppressive, militant society.”

“If you’re an offender, you take notice when there’s a war between the district attorney and law enforcement.”

Caloia has also said she was initially asked to run for DA to right an overly aggressive DA’s office under her predecessor, Martin Beeson. Cheney was assistant district attorney under Beeson.

There may have been some credence to perceptions that under Beeson, the DA’s office had oppressive attitudes about prosecuting, said Cheney.

But “that has nothing to do with how I will discharge my duties as district attorney.”

“That doesn’t mean that we stack charges, or that we refrain from charging.” Prosecutors are often simultaneously criticized from both sides, with some complaining that they’re being too oppressive and others saying their not aggressive enough, he said. “I believe in ethical, fair and tough prosecution.”

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