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News State / Region Federal prosecutor to target violent crime

Buncombe County Assistant District Attorney John Pritchard has been appointed to serve as Special Assistant United States Attorney (“SAUSA”) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Ronald L. Moore, District Attorney for Buncombe County. Pritchard will prosecute state gang, violent crime and high level drug trafficking cases in federal court.

Pritchard, a veteran prosecutor with the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office, was sworn in October, as a SAUSA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville. Pritchard has been a state prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office in North Carolina for the past ten years, joining the Buncombe County office in December 2006.

As an Assistant District Attorney in Buncombe County, he has been a member of the Superior Court Division which includes misdemeanor appeals and all felony cases. Pritchard has prosecuted primarily felony property crimes, gun charges, drug offenses, and homicides since joining Moore’s office. He was co-counsel in the trial of Kasean Bryson for the 2006 shooting death of Lawrence Levi Jr., in which Bryson was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In 2008, he was co-counsel in the successful prosecution of Dmitry Simonovich for the strangulation killing of his pregnant wife. More recently, he was part of the prosecution team that tried Debra Madeo Clark for the shooting death of her estranged husband.

State and federal authorities share concurrent jurisdiction over many drug and violent crimes. Concurrent jurisdiction allows for prosecution in either state or federal court. To ensure that the appropriate and best choice of venue for prosecution is made, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office have established this formal partnership.

As a SAUSA, Pritchard will focus on violent crime, crime associated with gangs, high-level drug trafficking crimes, and will collaborate with state, local and federal agencies in determining which cases should be indicted and prosecuted federally. Having a dually-sworn state/federal prosecutor will allow the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to more effectively and aggressively prosecute violent criminals and drug traffickers. The goal of this partnership is to make Buncombe County safer through a coordinated enforcement effort.

Pritchard will identify and prioritize cases originating in state court for federal indictment, and then prosecute these cases in federal court. Pritchard’s duties as a SAUSA will also include the review of case reports, and consultation with local and federal case agents, U.S. Attorney’s Office staff, and state prosecutors. Even though he will remain on the staff of the District Attorney’s Office, he will serve in all respects as an Assistant U.S. Attorney including drafting charges, search and arrest warrants, complaints, motions and responses; presenting matters before the grand jury; representing the United States before all federal courts in the Western District of North Carolina; and other such duties necessary for the successful prosecution of these cases.

“We look forward to working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to help make our community a safer place by identifying violent and repeat offenders for Federal Prosecution,” stated District Attorney Moore. “Having an experienced State prosecutor serving as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney will enhance the ability of both offices to identify and prosecute our most dangerous offenders in the federal system where the severity of the punishments are often greater than in the state system. I am appreciative of U.S. Attorney Tompkins’ willingness to partner with us in this endeavor and to the Governor’s Crime Commission for providing the funding.”

In making the announcement U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “We are excited about this unprecedented partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office. Our common goal is to identify repeat violent offenders and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law. To achieve this goal, we must utilize all available resources, both state and federal. Having a seasoned local prosecutor serve as a SAUSA with this office will enhance our ability to protect the safety of our community by identifying and prosecuting violent criminals more expeditiously. I am thankful to the Governor’s Crime Commission for making this partnership possible, and also thankful to District Attorney Moore for appointing John Pritchard to this position.”

“Our goal is to reduce violent crime in the community and this prosecutor’s position will help do just that,” said Gwendolyn Burrell, executive director of the Governor’s Crime Commission. The joint efforts of the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Buncombe District Attorney’s Office in prosecuting these cases will ensure criminals are expeditiously prosecuted for the crimes committed,” she added.

The SAUSA position is funded through a grant awarded by the Governor’s Crime Commission (GCC). The GCC serves as the chief advisory body to the Governor and the Secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety on crime and justice issues. The GCC has 44 members, including heads of statewide criminal justice and human service agencies, representatives from the courts, law enforcement, local government, the General Assembly, and private citizens.

The GCC sets program priorities, reviews applications and makes recommendations to the Governor for the state’s criminal justice and juvenile justice federal block grants. Federal block grants are awarded each year to government, education and social service agencies to start new and innovative programs.

In March, the Governor’s Crime Commission approved a grant to fund the special prosecutor position, which is duly sworn in both state and federal courts. The Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office requested the funding. GCC has funded 10 such prosecutors across the state this fiscal year.

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