By G. Michael Dobbs
Reminder Publications file photo
SPRINGFIELD – Brett Vottero has made it official that he will run for the seat of district attorney for Hampden County for a second time.
A trial lawyer for 30 years, Vottero spent more than 20 years as an assistant district attorney (ADA) in Hampden County and as an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Bureau (Narcotics & Special Investigations) for the Commonwealth.
Vottero spoke to Reminder Publications about his candidacy and stressed his campaign is not part of an effort to launch a political career for higher office.
Instead Vottero wants to address the crime issues that are plaguing Hampden County.
He spoke of a new approach to substance abuse cases by reducing the demand for illegal drugs. He wants to accomplish this by getting people arrested for substance abuse into treatment programs.
“The focus would be on demand, address the issue of demand” he said. “That doesn’t mean to ignore dealers.”
He said if the substance abuse cases were addressed in a different way “the [overall] caseload would plummet.”
That would give Vottero more time and resources to pursue violent crime cases.
“Violent crimes require a lot of work, time and effort,” he explained. He added the time the district attorney’s office spends dealing with 100 drug cases is about the same amount of time require to prosecute one street homicide.
Vottero is extremely aware of the demand on resources in the district attorney’s office. He noted that in the last fiscal year Hampden County disposed of more cases that either Suffolk or Middlesex counties with half of those counties’ budgets.
“The inequitable funding goes back decades,” he said.
Vottero sees the successful prosecution of crime as not just public safety but also part of economic development, public education and public health.
“You’re not doing the job ifs the entire job is in the courthouse,” he said.
He explained he wants to change the culture of the district attorney’s office and the courts by shifting the perception of cases to thinking about defendants as people. He said such an approach could aid in preventing repeat offenders.
In the past election, some people argued the district attorney should act as the lead prosecutor, while others saw the position as administrative, over-seeing the activities of assistant prosecutors.
Vottero said that while he would continue the legacy of handling come cases in court, he would also be fully involved in helping to planning the strategy of all the cases being handled by the office.
Vottero began his career at the age of 23 under then-District Attorney Matthew Ryan, who hired him after graduating from the University of Cincinnati Law School. Vottero worked for Ryan, District Attorney William Bennett, and Assistant Attorney General Harshbarger. He served as chief of the Hampden County District Attorney’s Homicide Unit, supervising and advising unit attorneys and also tried major cases.
An expert in arson cases with more than 100 arson convictions, Vottero’s was named Attorney General Scott Harshbarger as the first statewide arson prosecutor to prosecute complex arson cases.
More recently he was named a special prosecutor from 2011 to 2013 by Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan in that office’s case of the Commonwealth v. Anthony Baye, the Northampton serial arsonist who killed two people.
He has maintained a private law practice since leaving the office of district attorney in 2008.
“To me, a real issue is smart public policy,” he said.
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