Ontario County DA Ritts Found Guilty of Misconduct

DailyMessenger - "A recent state Supreme Court Appellate decision says Ontario County First Assistant District Attorney Jim Ritts is guilty of prosecutorial misconduct.

The case involved Braolio J. Vargas, convicted of first-degree attempted assault. In the Nov. 9 decision by the 4th Department Appellate Division, the court agreed with the defendant that the prosecutor, Ritts, improperly used the defendant’s nickname, “Diablo.” The Appellate division upheld Vargas’ conviction, finding the misconduct “not so egregious as to deny defendant a fair trial.”

The prosecutor “engaged in misconduct by improperly eliciting prejudicial testimony about defendant’s nickname, ‘Diablo,’ for purposes other than identification from witnesses who knew defendant by his real name,” states the decision on appeal from an Ontario County Court judgement in June 2013.

In response, Ritts said Tuesday: “It will not happen again.”

“I have already talked to my staff about this,” added Ritts, who was elected Nov. 7 as the next Ontario County district attorney. “We need to be hyper-critical and careful with what we do. This will not be something that will be repeated.”

Ritts said this was the first time he was cited for misconduct by the court and he plans for it to be the last. On the timing of the decision two days after the election, Ritts said, “The Appellate Division always releases two weeks after the last argument.”

“I have no one at the Appellate Division who was looking out for me,” he added.

Prosecutorial misconduct was a theme in the heated Republican primary between Ritts and opponent Kristina “Kitty” Karle. Ritts won the primary, though Karle remained on the Nov. 7 ballot on the Conservative, Reform and Independence party lines for the general election. She did not actively campaign after the primary, and the Ontario County GOP committee endorsed Ritts.

District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo, in endorsing Ritts early in the campaign, stated Karle was unfit to hold the office “based on her history of prosecutorial misconduct, including a major admonishment” from the 4th Department Appellate Division in Rochester. Karle fired back, calling Tantillo’s claims false and misleading, and defended her handling of the case Tantillo referred to, as well as two other cases, all involving sexually abused children."


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