The District Attorney's Office has a big job to do in Del Norte County. It must not only handle the prosecution of crimes that occur in the community, but also prosecute crimes that occur behind the walls of Pelican Bay State Prison.
All told, the DA's Office takes on 2,000-plus cases a year ¬ó double the load the office handled in the early 1990s with the same staffing level as today.
District Attorney Mike Riese has proven that he can do that big job well. Riese not only efficiently manages a giant case load with modest resources, but more importantly he effectively serves the interests of justice in our community.
His opponent in this year's election, attorney Jon Alexander, has made plea bargains a top campaign issue. He has criticized Riese for agreeing to too many plea deals. Certainly, that approach is not always the appropriate way to dispose of a case, but for an understaffed DA's office operating in a county with an overburdened Superior Court system, plea deals are going to be a fact of life. Otherwise, the whole system grinds to a near halt.
Riese made his mark prosecuting the high-profile Robert Wigley murder case back in 2003. Wigley, a Crescent City motel manager, raped, tortured and killed a teenage girl here in 1994. A jury convicted Wigley of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Riese has been especially dogged in his prosecution of sex crimes, especially those in which the victims are children. We hate to introduce such an embarrassing statistic, but the fact that the DA's Office makes these crimes such a high priority is a big part of the reason that Del Norte County has the second-highest number of registered sex offenders per capita in California.
And, yes, he is doing his part to fight the methamphetamine war. Those arrested with three grams or more of meth are routinely charged and prosecuted as dealers, which is where the prosecutorial attention should rightly focus.
Riese has done a good job as Del Norte County's district attorney. He has earned another four years in office.
¬ó The Daily Triplicate