A verdict on Lungen's tenture?
Chief assistant ready to take over
By Frank Rizzo
SULLIVAN COUNTY Back when he officially announced his retirement this past February, longtime District Attorney Steve Lungen had this to say: “Sullivan County needs an experienced and proven district attorney. There is no time for on-the-job training. The incoming DA must be qualified, competent and experienced to handle the job. These criteria I call the right stuff.”
Lungen had such a man in mind: Jim Farrell, his chief assistant.
“It was [Steve’s] way of giving me more responsibility, of showing recognition,” Farrell said of his boss’ naming him chief assistant back in February 2007.
The lifelong Republican is certain he has the “right stuff” to take over for Lungen.
“We have the foundation. Steve has been here 28 years and I’ve been a block in that foundation,” Farrell said. “We have an experienced staff and a good reputation in the Mid-Hudson region.”
“The law is a perfect fit,” said Farrell, a graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, SUNY-Binghamton and Albany Law School (Class of ’93). “The courtroom is a familiar place, it’s a place I want to be to help people.”
After working briefly for a small law firm in Rutland, VT, Farrell came to Sullivan to join Lungen’s staff in 1995 at the urging of Joey Drillings, still an assistant DA.
Contrary to the assertions of his opponent, Glenn Kroll, Farrell said that state stats show violent crime has declined 22 percent in the time span 2005-08 within Sullivan.
“I don’t know if the DA’s office as an entity is a deterrent, that’s hard to gauge,” said Farrell. “What is a deterrent factor is being convicted and going to jail. And we have close to a 90 percent conviction rate. It’s 100 percent on murders, first and second degree.”
Farrell touts the backing of law enforcement, noting, “Not one police agency hasn’t endorsed me. They know my record. They know what I’m capable of doing.”
Fighting crime, he noted, “is a combined effort of all the departments. It’s important that we have coordination and cooperation.”
For Farrell, one of his selling points is that “I’m one of the most experienced criminal lawyers [in the area], prosecuting thousands of criminal cases. I’ve proven cases beyond a reasonable doubt the highest standard in the law. People elect you for that.”
Farrell believes in continuing his education. He received training in identity theft prevention, DNA technology, arson investigation and advanced trial advocacy through the National District Attorneys Association.
He has also been a faculty member at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, SC, since 2006 and has taught other prosecutors at the National District Attorney's Association and at the National College of District Attorneys.
He is proud of such programs as the Stop-DWI initiative, which he said was copied by DA offices around the state.
Farrell is most passionate about protecting our most innocent and vulnerable the children and the elderly, and said he is vigorous in prosecuting those who would violate or do them harm.
In fact, he is a co-founding member of Sullivan County TRIAD, an organization for protecting senior citizens.
Though he acknowledged that plea bargaining “is a necessary evil,” since “we can’t try every case,” Farrell defends his office’s use of it.
“”We’re getting the sentences on plea bargains that other counties get after going to trials,” he claims.
“I wish it wasn’t an elected position,” Farrell said of the DA. “When politics and law enforcement mix, it’s a dangerous combination. Politics shouldn’t matter in the DA’s office. It should not impact what you do. We’ve never gone after or prosecuted people because of who they are or their politics.”
Farrell lives in the Town of Cochecton, is a volunteer firefighter with the Lake Huntington Fire Company and has been an elected commissioner of the Cochecton Fire District since 1995.
A life member of the NRA and a parishioner at Holy Cross Church in Callicoon, he and wife Nicole have two sons, Douglas and Kelsey. Nicole teaches elementary school in the Sullivan West district.
Kroll believes he's the agent of change
By Frank Rizzo
SULLIVAN COUNTY Early in 2008 Bloomingburg lawyer Glenn Kroll heard rumors in the attorney community that longtime District Attorney Steve Lungen would be stepping down.
“Several colleagues told me, ‘You’d make a great district attorney,’” Kroll recalled in an interview. “At first I was flattered. It wasn’t something I had set out to do. But the more I thought about it… [running] seemed like the right thing to do.”
And so Kroll, a Democrat, got the county’s Democrat Committee backing and began a campaign against Chief Assistant District Attorney Jim Farrell, a Republican whose elevation to Lungen’s top assistant all but made him the veteran DA’s chosen successor.
It has not been a campaign without controversies, silly and not. Kroll came under criticism for handing out bottles of Kröl Vodka to supporters and putting up reward money in the case of an unsolved Monticello murder. Lungen has faced accusations that he skirted the state’s District Attorneys Association’s rules by endorsing his successor.
“I feel I’m really running against Steve,” Kroll noted, adding, “This election should be about the ideas I have for the office. We can do better than what’s been done.”
One of Kroll’s main talking points is Sullivan’s crime rate.
“We’re a rural county with an inner-city crime rate,” he said. “When I tell people who haven’t dealt with the DA’s office or who don’t have strong opinions about the race, ‘We have the same crime rate as New York City,’ people respond, ‘I’m not surprised.’”
Kroll is quick to interject that he’s not fully blaming the DA’s office for the high rate, “But this office is being reactive, not proactive.”
“The gang situation is getting worse. There are proven gang violence prevention programs in place all over. Gangs are responsibility for much of the bad stuff that happens,” Kroll said. “If not the district attorney to take the lead against crime, then who? He should be the leader in the fight to curb crime.”
Kroll believes that he can “bring the DA’s office into the 21st century. I did a lot of research in preparation for my run. Every other DA’s office publishes a yearly report with crime statistics, crime trends, noteworthy cases… This office has no annual report, no website… It lacks transparency.”
From his lawyer’s perspective, Kroll believes that “the office is unduly harsh on low level offenses” and spends too much time on traffic offenses.
“Anybody who wants to be a prosecutor should spend some time as a defense attorney, and you would see the world in shades of gray, and not black and white,” Kroll said.
Kroll, 38, has lived in the county for seven years but his roots go deeper: his great-grandmother founded Bloomingburg’s Camp Na-Sho-Pa in 1937, and he was camp director from 1990-2004. He spent two years as a NYC schoolteacher before turning to law. He passed the bar in 1996 and now practices mainly criminal defense law. He was Village of Bloomingburg justice for five years.
Kroll is willing to put up his courtroom experience against Farrell’s, having tried hundreds of cases in 12 counties across the state.
“I’ve practiced law in all the courts in the county,” he said. “I’ve served as judge and seen the legal system from another vantage point. I have as much, if not more, trial experience than [Farrell] it’s just that I’ve been on the opposite side.”
“When you’re the DA, you have the resources of the state and county behind you,” Kroll noted. “I want to be DA to make improvements… The county is very important to me and something needs to be done”
“Change is long overdue in the DA’s office,” Kroll added. “If people are happy with the current crime rate, if they feel safe and can sleep with their doors unlocked and feel safe sending their kids to school then they can vote for my opponent.
“But if they want this office to get into the 21st century, if they want gang prevention programs and community outreach and expanded drug court and crime hotlines and implementation of a mental health court I’m the man.”
Kroll and wife Kim have two children, Charlie and Brandon.