District Attorney Race

Liberman touts experience in run for district attorney

By Stephen Betts | Sep 24, 2018

Rockland — Jonathan Liberman said he has devoted his entire legal career to public safety and he wants to use that experience to continue as the district attorney for the region.

Liberman, a West Bath resident, is seeking election for the district attorney post that serves Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Sagadahoc counties. The Republican is being challenged by Democrat Natasha Irving.

Liberman grew up in Bath and attended the University of Maine School of Law. While attending law school, he served as a student prosecutor for the Cumberland County district attorney's office beginning in 2009.

There he litigated his first jury trial and argued his first case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

After law school, he served as assistant district attorney, first in Knox County and then in Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. In 2016, then-District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau named him deputy district attorney for the four counties.

Liberman was appointed in May 2017 as district attorney by Republican Gov. Paul LePage when Rushlau was confirmed as a district court judge for the state.

"I'm very committed to public safety. I grew up here. I'm raising a family here. I want to make sure Midcoast Maine stays a safe place and a great place to live life to the fullest and raise a family," Liberman said.

The chief local prosecutor said the opioid crisis has created a lot of challenges and changed the dynamic of law enforcement.

"One of most important things when talking about non-violent crimes committed by people addicted to drugs is you have to find a way to emphasize treatment and supervision. If you emphasize that, rather than sending people straight to incarceration, you will have a big payoff," he said.

The district attorney said the prosecutors in his office work closely with probation officers, who also work to make sure people get treatment rather than being sent to jail.

The prosecutor said nearly all residential burglaries are related to drug, mainly opioid, addictions.

"If we lower the number of people with addictions, we've made the area safer," Liberman said.

There are misconceptions, Liberman said, that the district attorney's office is focused on jailing all people for drug offenses. He disagreed strongly, saying the office often seeks fully suspended jail sentences to be followed by probation, split sentences where there is minimal jail followed by probation, and deferred dispositions in which defendants are given time to receive treatment before a sentence is imposed.

"We're not tone deaf. We know that throwing them into jail time after time does not work. We can't just jail our way out of it," Liberman said.

The exceptions, he said, are when someone with addictions commits a violent crime. He said the state has an obligation to take those individuals off the street.

LIberman said he has been asking the state judiciary department to create a drug court in the Midcoast counties. He said he was optimistic there would be one in one to two years.

Plea agreements are part of the criminal justice system, Liberman said, pointing out that judges will bring the prosecution and defense attorneys together to review each case and see if an agreement can be reach so a trial is not necessary. He said trials are expensive and that if every case went to trial, it would take years to resolve cases.

The factors that his office uses when trying to reach a settlement are a person's criminal record, the nature of the crime and the strength of the evidence in the case.

He stressed that the greatest difference between himself and his challenger, Irving, is experience as a trial prosecutor. He said without that experience he does not believe someone would have the right ideas to prosecute cases.

He cited the case of Randall Weddle, a truck driver convicted earlier this year of two counts of manslaughter and other related offenses for a truck crash that killed two motorists in the town of Washington. He said without the experience he brought and that of Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody, he questions how the case would have concluded.

Liberman pointed out that the 25-year prison term that Weddle received was the longest ever imposed in Maine for vehicular manslaughter.

"Midcoast Maine has been fortunate to have a track record of trial prosecutors who have worked in the trenches. She [Irving] has never been a prosecutor," Liberman said.

Liberman said he is also proud of the creation of the first child advocacy center in Maine being used in the Midcoast, in which the District Attorney's Office, police, medical and mental health staff, and caseworkers from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services work to have a one-stop spot to meet with children who have been abused. This reduces the number of times they must be interviewed, he said.

The prosecutor said he also has worked hard for the rights of victims and has a standing order with his office staff to oppose fishing expeditions by defense attorneys who seek information such as psychiatric records of victims.

He is married and has two children, a 3-year-old son and a 12-week-old daughter.

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