Tonkin has the experience to get results

| 15 May 2015 | 02:04

    To the Editor:
    I have had the privilege of being a prosecutor in Pike County for over 15 years and during that time I have worked with and for Ray Tonkin. I have served as his First Assistant District Attorney since 2008. Each of the murder convictions he successfully prosecuted through a trial, I prosecuted with him. I have seen him successfully prosecute numerous other jury trials including cases involving robbery, aggravated assault and sexual assault, just to name a few. No one else knows more about him as a prosecutor than I do. From that experience with him I can tell you he is simply the finest prosecutor I have ever met in our County or anywhere else.

    To give you some idea of how much he has stood out as a prosecutor in our County, before Ray came to the District Attorney's Office, no other prosecutor in at least the last 40 years had obtained a first degree murder conviction through a trial that has withstood an appeal. Ray Tonkin has not only done that once but six times. Murder cases are not all that he has done, but they are the ultimate crucible for a prosecutor to endure and they are the ultimate measure for their skill. Ray’s cases have withstood numerous legal challenges by defense attorneys through both our state appellate courts as well as in federal court.

    I am not alone in having inside knowledge of his abilities and in being very impressed. Just to give one example, I will quote the words of a forensic pathologist that worked on a case with Ray. Forensic pathologists are doctors that perform autopsies to determine the cause and manner of death. This particular pathologist has worked with prosecutors from New York City to Baltimore to various counties throughout eastern Pennsylvania. After working with Ray on a case in which Ray obtained two first degree murder convictions for the murders of seventeen-year-old girl and her six-month-old child, this pathologist said of Ray, "I can't believe a little county like that has someone who is that good."

    The outcome of a criminal case often depends on the skill of the person prosecuting it. But for Ray's guidance in that investigation and his skill in prosecuting that case, I believe neither conviction would have occurred. This case is but one of 15 years worth of cases where Ray has made the difference.

    His opponent has no such experience; she has never prosecuted a case in her life. Further, she has never litigated a criminal trial in a non-prosecutorial role either. Her campaign seems to revolve around an endorsement she received from a state police lodge of which her husband is a member. He is not only a member but he actually took part in the selection process by being in the room when deliberations occurred. Could you imagine any fair decision being made between two parties where one party gets to have their relatives be a part of the selection process? Why not abstain from the selection process and not even be at the meeting if you thought her credentials could speak for themselves? Could you ever imagine a jury trial be conducted in such a manner? This lodge endorsement was followed by the endorsement of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association which serves as rubber stamp for the local lodge endorsement. Indeed, in accordance with PSTA rules no one other than the local lodge endorsee can even be considered for the PSTA endorsement.

    After obtaining her hollow local lodge endorsement, Mrs. Gaughan issued a press release trumpeting it. In response, one member of the state police apparently felt compelled to write a letter to a local newspaper explaining the limitations on the meaning of the lodge endorsement, a letter which I have read. This particular member of the state police is an investigator in the Eric Frein case and has previously resigned from this lodge. As a current member of the state police, he cannot endorse anyone, nor should this letter be seen as such. However, in simply explaining the limitations of the meaning of the lodge endorsement through his own personal opinion he said of Mrs.Gaughan, "I have never met her and have no opinion as to her abilities as a lawyer, but I and others in my situation bristle at the notion that an endorsement of an attorney with zero experience in criminal matters was done in our collective name."

    Throughout the turmoil of September and October of last year, one man came to be the face and voice of the Pennsylvania State Police. Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens was seen numerous times in new conferences and provided a strong and reassuring presence to a public looking for leadership. During those months, I was at the command center used by law enforcement as much as anyone from any state or federal agency and I had the opportunity to see the numerous occasions where the Lieutenant Colonel and District Attorney Tonkin worked hand in hand. Lieutenant Colonel Bivens, speaking as a very informed voice of the State Police, has publicly commended Ray Tonkin stating, “He’s done an outstanding job of representing our people.” The Lieutenant Colonel obviously came to understand during those important 48 days what I have seen for 7 years, which is the value of having Ray Tonkin as a District Attorney.

    Mrs. Gaughan has used the word commitment as one of her campaign slogans. Since graduating law school she has shown her commitment to law enforcement by avoiding it and by being a divorce attorney. If Mrs. Gaughan has a commitment to being a prosecutor, why has it taken over 15 years for her to give it a try? Ray Tonkin has shown his commitment to law enforcement in Pike County by serving as a prosecutor and police officer for over 20 years. He has earned the vote of the people of Pike County once again.

    Bruce DeSarro