Two candidates are vying to spend the next four years as Franklin County’s commonwealth’s attorney.
Incumbent A.J. Dudley, who has served one term as the county’s lead prosecutor, faces challenger Steve Maddy, an attorney whose clients include the Franklin County school division. Both are running as independents.
Dudley, 50, views the commonwealth’s attorney job on both a macro and micro level. It allows him to positively impact the Franklin County community as a whole, he said, but also the lives of individual victims, witnesses or even defendants.
Dudley said he’s worked to ensure staff resources — in this case, intellectual capital — are not wasted. Key to that effort was implementing case management software to increase efficiency.
Dudley also counts obtaining a grant to hire a victim-witness coordinator, an issue he campaigned on in 2015, among his proudest achievements.
Maddy, 48, is a former police officer who began practicing law in 2010.
Maddy said his background would make him a strong commonwealth’s attorney. He can anticipate the moves of defense attorneys and, having worked as a police officer, understands what it’s like to deal with victims and work on the investigation that’s later handed off to the commonwealth’s attorney.
“I’m a defense attorney, I was a police officer for almost 10 years, I was in the military for six,” Maddy said. “I feel that those qualities have prepared me to be an effective prosecutor.”
He hopes to work closely with law enforcement to combat the drug problem Franklin County, like other localities, is facing. The attorney has seen the negative effects of the crisis — a client died just a few weeks ago of an overdose.
Maddy identified two strategies he plans to utilize. One is targeting suppliers, rather than low-level drug users, and the other is starting a drug court for adults in Franklin County. Maddy said he would pursue grant funding to get the court up and running.
“If we can save one, two, three, four, five people and they become productive citizens through a drug court, then why wouldn’t we write the grant and try to get that program started here?” Maddy said.
During his first year in office, Dudley pledged to personally handle as many drug distribution cases as possible. He said it resulted in a strong relationship and regular interaction with narcotics officers.
With non-violent drug offenders, Dudley said it’s important to make decisions about punishment on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, incarceration is the best solution. But in others, it’s not.
“We strive to be thorough and evaluative with regard to how we handle those types of offenders,” he said. “One size fits all is a bad policy when it comes to addressing substance abuse dependency.”
Though Maddy realizes the office can’t try every case, he feels too many result in plea bargains. Bringing the cases to trial and doling out stiffer penalties may act as a deterrent in drug cases, he argued.
Dudley said he considers a number of factors before going that route, one being sentencing guidelines.
When a defendant agrees to plead guilty, a prosecutor may drop another charge. But often, Dudley said, it doesn’t significantly reduce the amount of time the individual is incarcerated — it may be just a couple months — because of how sentencing guidelines work.
Plea bargains also result in a conviction, respect the time of law enforcement and lab experts and, in cases where there is a victim, spare them from going to trial, Dudley explained.