At year’s end, William Grady will be retiring as Dutchess County district attorney, having worked in the county’s top law enforcement office for over 50 years, including four decades as DA.
Two new candidates have emerged to fill the role, the first time each is running for the office: Matthew Weishaupt and Anthony Parisi.
“A district attorney’s responsibility is to keep the community safe by seeking justice for victims and holding offenders accountable through ethical prosecution. In my opinion honesty and integrity are the most important qualities a district attorney can have,” said Grady, who has also served as assistant district attorney.
Parisi and Weishaupt both worked under Grady for some time. Weishaupt, a Republican, is chief assistant district attorney and Parisi, a Democrat, is major crimes bureau chief. Grady, a Republican, had suggested to Parisi he should resign if he was endorsed by the county’s Democratic committee, but later reversed course on that request.
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Weishaupt plans to improve on many of the same programs he’s helped implement under his predecessor. Parisi sees Grady’s retirement as an opportunity to “modernize” the office and to use new strategies to tackle old problems such as gang violence. Both men agree that more community engagement is needed to improve how the office does its job and to mitigate the impact of crime on both victims and those accused.
“The view of law enforcement is at an all-time low, and I think there are a lot of changes that can be made in the district attorney’s office to improve that, and one of the biggest is transparency, obviously and community engagement,” Parisi said.
Weishaupt sees discovery law changes made at the state level as a main challenge facing the office. He said while bail reform brought about some positive changes, the new discovery law has burdened the office at the expense of letting some criminals go free.
“We have to work within those laws in an effective manner, to prioritize cases, but also to make cases or provide services where lower level offenses are occuring that are either repeat offenders or need help,” Weishaupt said.
Parisi: Wants DA’s office to move forward
Parisi started his career in the Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office in 1995 before becoming an assistant district attorney. His wife, Sinead McLoughlin, is a senior assistant district attorney for Dutchess County.
Parisi said a career highlight was using Intelligence Led Policing and Intelligence Driven Prosecution in a city of Poughkeepsie gang case that helped to mitigate crime for two years. The idea behind IDP is using technology and working with law enforcement and the community to gather and analyze information about the people, places and factors driving up crime.
Parisi thinks the district attorney’s office has “failed to keep pace with modern ways of operating.” He plans to implement technology that will streamline and eliminate paperwork and expedite evidence sharing. He also wants to create a portal by which victims and those accused are notified and updated about cases.
He would also provide written guidelines and policies for the district attorney’s office that would be available to the public and appoint a conviction integrity unit to investigate wrongful conviction cases involving a felony and disproportionate sentencing.
“Without meaningful and easily accessed policies and guidelines, unchecked prosecutorial discretion can lead to unequal treatment, rogue prosecutors, confusion for defendants and victims, and the inability of county residents to understand and effectively question what’s happening in our justice system,” Parisi stated.
Weishaupt: Vision for what DA’s office can be
Weishaupt has worked for the Dutchess DA’s office for 36 years, having also previously worked in the Westchester DA’s office.
“I’m responsible for all operations of the office and I have created many of the new programs that we have in place since the change in the law in 2020,” he said, referring to changes in state law to reform bail practices and expedite the transfer of evidence from prosecutor’s office to the defense team.
Weishaupt believes while bail reform has had some positive impact, he sees the new discovery law as “dangerous.” If the prosecutor’s office fails to provide material by the arraignment date, the case could be dismissed, which he said has happened a lot in New York City, and not as much in Dutchess County.
Weishaupt helped to create a discovery strategies enhancement unit that works with all the material that is coming into the prosecutor’s office on a crime case and needs to be transferred to the defense team. The material is collected and transferred electronically.
He has also helped to change how lower level cases committed by non-repeat offenders are processed with the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program. The program, which is in collaboration with the Dutchess County Behavioral and Community Health department, provides services to low level offenders instead of charging them with a crime.
Weishaupt wants to “embed” the office within the community and to collaborate more with agencies in the public and private sectors. He also wants to see his department more involved with the discussion on housing and job creation since they must also work towards the reintegration of individuals in the criminal system.
“I think the DA’s office for too long, has been looked at as an office that only puts people in prison. That is part of our mission, where there are violent crimes and people who pose a risk to the community. That is not our only mission and should not be,” he said.
Grady’s unique request
Over two months ago, Grady, a Republican, told Parisi he would expect his resignation if he was endorsed by the county’s Democratic committee. His reason being that he wanted to avoid what he saw as political disruption in the office. He described the statement as “impulsive” and reversed his request at a following meeting. He did not make a similar request of Weishaupt.
“I had many concerns about opposing parties campaigning in the office and creating an atmosphere of hostility and affecting our ability to function properly,” Grady said. He added he’d created guidelines for his staff regarding politics in the office. Parisi declined comment on the exchange.
Saba Ali: Sali1@poughkeepsiejournal.com: 845-451-4518: @MsSabaAli
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Weishaupt, Parisi seeking Dutchess DA role after Grady retires