Below are two columns submitted separately to CommonWealth in response to an op-ed written by Ricardo Brandon Rios on Joseph Kennedy III. The first is by Michael Kelley and the second by Michael Trudeaul.
IN HIS COLUMN headlined “Kennedy walked the walk in the DA’s office,” Ricardo Brandon Rios gets nearly everything right about Joe Kennedy III and nearly everything wrong about the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office.
I worked as an assistant district attorney for Michael O’Keefe from 2005-2011. When Joe joined the Cape and Island’s District Attorney’s office in 2008, I was his direct supervisor. As Rios correctly points out, Joe was “professional, diligent, and carried himself with uncommon dignity.” He was an excellent prosecutor who seamlessly balanced the need to protect the public with the ability to recognize that people make mistakes and every mistake need not be punished to the full extent of the law. The ability to determine what a case is worth is one of the greatest skills a prosecutor can have. Joe possessed that skill and used it well.
Where Rios missed the mark is with his assessment of the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office. According to Rios, “O’Keefe allowed his line prosecutors very little discretion in the way they charged and prosecuted cases” and goes on to describe an environment “where the default operating procedure for a line prosecutor was to push every case to trial and pressure defendants into plea agreements.”
This is simply not true and has never been the way the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office has operated.
When I was hired, I was told that the expectation of prosecutors in O’Keefe’s office was to think about each case and make thoughtful sentencing recommendations. Consider input from the police and from victims but also consider the circumstances of the accused. There was no order to get maximum sentences or beef up trial numbers. The only order was to be thorough, thoughtful, and consistent on how each case was handled. If you did that you would almost always get the proper result.
When I was promoted to a position of supervision, I did my best to impart those same principles to the new assistant district attorneys joining the office. There is no question that Joe Kennedy III worked extremely hard every day to apply those principles.
Joe deserves all the praise that Rios gave him. He will make an excellent senator and I fully support him. But Mike O’Keefe and the hard-working members of his office also deserve praise for the consistent, fair-minded, and excellent service they provide the Cape every day. These things do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Matthew P. Kelley currently works as an attorney based in West Harwich.
First assistant calls criticisms unwarranted, false
It has been my honor for the last 32 years to serve as an assistant district attorney for the Cape & the Island’s district and as first assistant for the last 17.
As first assistant, I take great exception to the description and characterization that Ricard Brandon Rios uses to refer to the office. I find his comments, criticisms, and attacks on our office to be unprofessional, unwarranted, and outright false.
Joe Kennedy III worked in our office for two years as an assistant district attorney and as a legal intern prior to that. During that time, I got to know Joe quite well and admire and respect him and I am glad that I was able to help him develop as a prosecutor and a lawyer.
The district attorney’s office that the letter writer describes is the exact opposite of how the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office operates. DA Michael O’Keefe gives the prosecutors in his office a tremendous amount of discretion in how they handle their cases and supports the decisions they make in charging, trial strategy, and disposition recommendations, or even a decision to not prosecute as long as the decision is based on sound legal reasoning and good common sense.
It is now and always has been the philosophy of the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office to not have hard and fast rules regarding how to prosecute cases but rather encourage the prosecutors to evaluate cases individually using the discretion they are given to see that justice is served. District Attorney O’Keefe believes this is the way to develop good lawyers.
I invite and challenge your publication to do some fact checking and ask the legal community that has dealt with the Cape and Island’s District Attorney’s Office what their experience has been and I would be surprised if the results were anything other than positive. On second thought, maybe you should ask Joe Kennedy III.
Michael A. Trudeau is the first assistant district attorney for the Cape and Islands.