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Counties review cost of program to bring in federal attorney

Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:46:00 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2014 10:40:03 AM CDT

The Bannock County commissioners have been discussing how much money they can contribute to the eastern Idaho partnership wanting to bring in a federal attorney to help crackdown on high crimes.

POCATELLO, Idaho -

The Bannock County commissioners have been discussing how much money they can contribute to the eastern Idaho partnership wanting to bring in a federal attorney to help crack-down on high crimes.

On Wednesday the county's prosecuting attorney, Stephen Herzog, proposed a $5,000 contribution from the county as its part of the total cost.

He said the partnership will ask the state to fund 75 percent of the overall cost and the partnership will split the other 25 percent among themselves, each amount depending on the population size of each county and city.

"So, if the state pays $75,000 the partnership has to pick up $25,000 and we would pick up a percentage of that as Bannock County," Herzog said. "So, it depends on how many partners you will have as to what your share will be and it depends on how much the Department of Correction is going to pitch in."

The counties and cities involved in potentially bringing in a specialized assistant U.S. attorney (SAUSA) are all pretty much on board, but the only current concern felt by everyone is the financial agreement.

At the end of the day, it will all come down to how much the state will agree to put forward during its upcoming legislative session. Once that is decided upon, the partnership will reconvene to determine if it also agrees with the state's proposed amount.

For example, a proposed 50-50 percentage split by the state could lead everyone to go back to the drawing board to renegotiate. 

Herzog said, overall, this will save the state money.

"If we can access the federal system and prosecute in the federal system, then those people get sent out of state to be incarcerated and the state doesn't have to pay the cost of their incarceration," Herzog said.

Herzog said there are currently three federal attorneys in the federal courthouse in Pocatello.

"Those three federal attorneys are responsible for handling a significant portion of crimes that occur on the reservation along with other federal offenses that occur off the reservation, so right now they have more work than they can handle," Herzog said.

In 2007 the Treasure Valley was the first in the state to implement this program and had reported significant decreases in the amount of gang-related crimes and drive-by shootings.

Under the current system, if there just isn't enough manpower to handle these high-crime cases in a federal court. These individuals are then tried under state law, held in the already-crowded county jails, released after about a year, and then they are often re-entered back into the system.

U.S. Attorney for the State of Idaho Wendy Olson said sending these criminals to prisons out of state has a higher chance of them usually not returning back to the state. She also mentioned the average time served in a federal prison for these crimes is usually about four years.

Those crimes usually include major drug trafficking cases, cases involving firearms or gangs, and Internet predators.

Click here for more information on the SAUSA program.

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