Editorial: Race for DA needed contenders | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Race for DA needed contenders

A familiar and qualified prosecutor was elevated Monday to one of the most important public offices in Craig and Moffat County — 14th Judicial District Attorney.

Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed Brett Barkey, 51, a Republican and the 14th’s former assistant district attorney (see related story, page XX). He replaces Elizabeth Oldham, who resigned before the completion of her first term so she could accept a position in Arapahoe County.

Barkey, a Hayden resident, is also a former chief deputy district attorney in the Moffat County office, and the sole candidate for district attorney in November’s election.

The governor made a practical appointment with Barkey, an experienced prosecutor within the office who already has ties to the judicial district.

The editorial board has no issue with his elevation to office, at least on a temporary basis.

It’s his unchallenged path to a four-year term in November that bothers board members, though this is no fault of the candidate’s.

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District attorney is not only one of the most valuable positions in our community, but also in Routt and Grand counties, the other two areas the judicial district encompasses.

The office sets the tone for prosecuting criminal offenses and providing justice for victims.

And yet it’s been largely overlooked.

A disservice was done to voters in the judicial district when only one candidate emerged for district attorney.

A legitimate debate about issues affecting the courts was needed leading into November, and so too was a candidate who won the office rather than received it almost by default.

Voters deserve debate and options.

That’s not likely to be the case this year.

While the editorial board wishes Barkey well in his new position, we can’t help but be disappointed a discussion on the issues wasn’t part of the process.

In keeping with issues regarding the 14th, the editorial board also remarked Monday about a district judge up for retention in November.

Michael O’Hara, the district’s chief judge, recently received a unanimous recommendation for retention from a commission designed to critique judicial performance.

Commission member Sharon Timmerman said “we’re fortunate to have (O’Hara) in the 14th Judicial District,” a point on which the board agrees.

O’Hara, who was appointed to the district in 2003, has been a stalwart on the bench with the 14th. He communicates clearly, provides fair and balanced rulings, and above all else, uses common sense.

This was never more clear than last week’s sentencing hearing for Craig resident Christopher Genova, who was convicted of possessing sexually exploitative material and child pornography.

Genova’s case has been described as one of the worst child pornography cases in Craig and Moffat County history. It also extended beyond local borders to include possible offenses in Freemont County, and a potential probe by the FBI.

Genova reached a plea agreement with Moffat County prosecutors, but used his sentencing hearing to lobby the court for a lighter punishment. He described his crimes as being victimless.

O’Hara didn’t budge. His stance was stern but fair, and he held Genova accountable for his crimes, which meant forfeiting years of his freedom.

“When I consider the length of the sentence compared to allowing you to remain at large, it’s really not a question,” the judge told the defendant. “There is no defense to the possession and distribution of these images, and you admitted to both.

“(That fact) coupled with the sexual assault allegations in Freemont County and, what I can only call a conspiracy to solicit others to sexually assault a minor, makes you a scary person.”

Genova’s future will be lived within prison walls.

For this, the editorial board thanks police, prosecutors, and Judge O’Hara for ensuring he won’t be allowed to victimize more children while living free as a member of our community.

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Our View

14th Judicial District Attorney is one of the most important positions in Craig and Moffat County, let alone other communities within the district. And yet it’s largely overlooked. A new DA took office this week, but voters will be shortchanged leading up to November’s election because he’s the only candidate for the office. The public needed a debate about issues in the 14th, and a choice come Election Day.

Editorial board members:

• Al Cashion

— Community representative

• Alisa Corey

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Patt McCaffrey

— Community representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

• Joshua Roberts

— Newspaper representative