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Experience, changes drive four vying for Commonwealth's Attorney

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 19, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 7:13 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- It is a big decision Democrat primary voters will make for all of Jefferson County on Tuesday. 

With no Republicans on the ballot for Commonwealth's Attorney, one of four Democrats will replace Dave Stengel after his 16 years as the chief prosecutor of Kentucky's most populous county.

Each of the candidates, Carol Cobb, Tom Van de Rostyne, Steve Ryan and Tom Wine, is stressing the importance of the position.

"This is one of the most important jobs I believe in this city," Cobb said.  "It's all about keeping the streets safe, keeping our citizens safe."

"I think probably next to the mayor's office, this is the one office in Jefferson County that has the most effect on people's lives," said Wine, "how you decide to charge, who you decide to charge, how you decide to prosecute."

"Everyone has an interest in who is the Commonwealth Attorney to get the violent offenders off the street, to protect the community," explained Ryan.

"They will coordinate with police, the county attorney, the mayor's office," Van de Rostyne said, "and lead the fight against all the felony crimes in our community."

Two of the candidates have been both prosecutor and judge, Steve Ryan and Tom Wine.

"I know how to prosecute," Wine said.  "I know what should be prosecuted. I also know what mistakes to avoid because of my review as an appelate judge."

Ryan said he also is running on his experience.

"35 years experience in the criminal justice system and 23 years of that as a judge," Ryan said.

Cobb and Van de Rostyne are also veteran prosecutors - both are currently in the Commonwealth Attorney's office.

"I'm the only one experienced prosecuting gangs and other violent individuals who have the greatest impact on our community," Van de Rostyne said.  "Because they can hold an entire neighborhod hostage with violence just as we saw (Thursday)."

"It should be me," Cobb contended, "because I have the most experience, the demonstrated commitment to this office. I have one of the highest conviction rates."

Each candidate has an idea of how they would change the office. 

Ryan calls for a more efficient administration of the office, including getting discovery in faster to defendants.  He also suggests that career prosecutors be paid more than attorneys who are there for the experience.

"I would like to put them in a separate track and divert more money to their side so if they are going to stay for their career that they will be better paid," Ryan said.

Cobb says she will educate the public about the Commonwealth Attorney's office.
 
"They often come to us either as victims or witnesses in cases," Cobb explained, "and sometimes there's a reluctance on their part because they don't understand who we are and what we do."

Van de Rostyne said he wants to attack elder abuse and envisions a closer relationship with federal authorities "particulary with large scale drug dealers and gangs. I believe we can do a lot of work in that area," he said.

And Wine says he would open up the office "getting prosecutors out into the neighborhoods again. I think I would want to improve the education process," he said.

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