Changes underway with new DA
Upon tossing his hat in the ring for the Lincoln County District Attorney’s seat last summer, Galen Bayne-Allison readily admitted he saw a need for change in the office of the DA, as well as goals he intended to achieve.
During an interview with the Merrill Foto News last Friday afternoon, Bayne-Allison discussed not only the changes he has made to date since stepping into the role previously held by the retired Don Dunphy in January, but changes he has his sights on for the future.
One of the key goals Bayne-Allison listed last summer was that of establishing a closer relationship between the county DA’s office and local communities, as well as local law enforcement. As part of a candidate profile he submitted last June, Bayne-Allison stated:
“In running for the District Attorney position for Lincoln County, I hope to team up with local law enforcement officers as well as community stakeholders to address issues facing the communities of Lincoln County. I would like to be a part of the solution to the issues in Lincoln County, especially drug issues, within the limitations of the criminal justice system.”
To date, it appears as if he has accomplished just that; indicating weekly meetings with both the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Merrill Police Department.
“I feel I have formed a good partnership with local law enforcement,” he explains. “I’m probably over at the Merrill Police Department once a week and at the Sheriff’s Office two-to-three times a week. My visits are often times related to cases which have been filed or under investigation, but I also focus on contact with officers and deputies, to address any questions or concerns.”
Bayne-Allison has also made a concerted effort to become involved with various community groups on a regular basis, including meetings with the Coordinated Community Response Team-a multi-agency group that meets monthly to discuss various issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
Group members include HAVEN, both county judges, local law enforcement and local agents with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections-Division of Probation and Parole. Bayne-Allison states he intends to attend the upcoming Community Night Out event and also participates in meetings of the Lincoln County Drug Free Coalition.
Since taking office, Bayne-Allison has set into motion the application of cash bonds and signature bonds of higher amounts, for some of the cases of which his office prosecutes.
Of the key changes, he listed as part of his candidate profile last summer; DA Bayne-Allison indicated a need for the county DA’s office to be more open and transparent with local law enforcement and local communities – not just when charging on offenses, but on an ongoing basis.
“I feel as a District Attorney, I should be held accountable for my actions and how I approach matters. The only way I can express accountability is to get out there in the community, talk to people and explain myself.” he stated.
Since January, signature bonds of nominal amounts reported out of the DA’s office have decreased considerably, in exchange for higher signature bonds and more frequent cash bonds. DA Bayne-Allison attributes the change to his drive to assure each case is handled appropriately in terms of bond types and amounts.
“I feel this was an issue before,” the 37-year-old Lake Tomahawk native states, “Some cases require a cash bond and we should be not only seeking it as a charging entity, but we should be arguing strenuously for it versus a signature bond. The primary consideration in setting bond, is whether or not a defendant is likely to appear for future court appearances. We must determine what type and amount is necessary, to assure a defendant’s future cooperation with court appearances. In doing so, safety of victims and witnesses is a key factor we take into consideration.
“I’ve taken the position of violent or infamous offenses are more likely to provoke a defendant to want to escape consequences for the offense. In such cases, I would ask for and argue for higher cash bond over signature bond.”
In an effort to minimize expenses of county resources, a rather new avenue District Attorney Bayne-Allison has recently pursued is Pre-Charge Deferred Prosecution Agreements.
As he explains, the agreements consist of contractual agreements with defendants who are referred to his office, and meet strict criteria including, but not limited to; a defendant being referred to his office for the first time and having committed low-level or non-violent offenses, such as low-level theft or shoplifting, possession of drug paraphernalia or possession of THC of a nominal amount.
“The agreements consist of a contract with my office which can include a variety of stipulations ranging from regular contact with my office to AODA treatment and restitution. Contracts can range anywhere from six months to a year,” he explains. “By the defendant fulfilling his or her obligations, he or she then avoids prosecution. By using these agreements, we avoid expending resources from charging on relatively petty offenses.”
As for the future, Bayne-Allison plans to petition the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors to authorize a resolution allowing his office to charge a fee for monitoring deferred prosecution agreements.
“By expanding services my office provides, there is cost involved,” he explains. “In terms of the county budget, funds are limited. I feel if I am going to request an extension of services such as Pre-Charge Deferred Prosecution Agreements, I should also make an effort to offset the costs of extended services.”
In the near future, Bayne-Allison indicated he would also like to see some type of AODA treatment court or substance abuse court established in Lincoln County and is currently investigating funding sources for such.