I. Why I’m Running for DA
With over twenty-five years of felony trial practice in Broome County, I’ve had the unique privilege of serving as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. These complementary responsibilities have given me a priceless and balanced perspective on the American criminal justice system. I am deeply grateful to have spent almost my entire professional career in service to our criminal justice system and the people of Broome County.
I believe in the value of hard work in service to a cause greater than oneself. I have dedicated my career to public service as a prosecutor, as a municipal judge in Town of Union court, and as a defense attorney representing indigent clients. I worked my way up from Assistant DA, to Senior Assistant DA, to Chief Assistant DA and started my first term as District Attorney on January 1, 2020.
You deserve an experienced prosecutor as DA, someone who has already served with integrity, professionalism, and respect.
You deserve a DA with a proven track record. I’ve put away some of the most heinous criminals in Broome County history. Broome County is a safer place to live because these murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and child predators have been taken off the streets. As District Attorney, I have assembled an exemplary team of consummate professionals who successfully carry out the mission of the District Attorney’s office.
II. The Bronx DA’s Office (1989—1995)
My career as a felony trial attorney began 30 years ago. I was hired, fresh out of Pace University Law School, to serve as one of fifty new Assistant DA's in the Bronx County District Attorney’s office.
It was the height of the crack epidemic in New York City. During the seven years I worked for the Bronx DA’s office I was exposed to many violent, hardened criminals. But I also got to work side-by-side with the talented and dedicated law enforcement professionals whose job it was to keep those criminals in check. I learned a great deal about criminal law and evidentiary procedure from watching these professionals do their jobs – far more than I ever learned from my law school books.
I tried my first felony case as a Bronx County Assistant DA. It was a great place for a young lawyer like me to start at the bottom and work my way up the prosecutorial ladder. It was also a brutal pressure-cooker of a job. Court was open day and night. Young prosecutors were on a rotation to work all night – “on-call”.
There were some nights when it felt like we were working in a hospital ER – high-volume, fast turnover, everything having to be done now. There was a lot of violent crime – murders, gang violence, and domestic assaults. The DA required that a prosecutor be present among the first responders at every homicide scene. I remember once getting three such calls in one night!
Right out of law school, it was baptism-by-fire! I look back now and realize how crucial those years were in my development as a successful prosecutor. With every arraignment, grand jury presentation, and trial, I learned something new – about the law, the duty of the prosecutor to help victims, and about what it means to be a career public servant. I learned these important lessons from seasoned prosecutors with decades of experience.
III. Starting a Family in New York City
I met Nadine at a Slovak church dance in Manhattan. I wonder now, had she seen what a difficult life lay ahead as the wife of a career felony trial attorney, if she’d ever have married me. But she did, and I’m glad.
We started our family in a tiny Manhattan apartment, a one-bedroom walk-up. Maria was born in 1993. Michael Jr. was born two years later.
The salary of an Assistant DA in New York City in the early ‘90s was fine – if you were single. With a new baby and a growing family to think about, I did what I thought was the responsible thing. I accepted a job offer (and a much better salary) at a big Manhattan law firm. Despite the increase in pay, working for big corporate clients after doing the People’s work as a prosecutor was a letdown. And New York City was too expensive and too challenging a place to raise children.
Nadine grew up in Broome County – in Binghamton’s First Ward and in Johnson City, where her parents still had a home. Although I had a job with a good salary in a big city law firm, Nadine and I decided we wanted to be closer to her family. Nadine wanted to return to work as an engineer at IBM, so I started my job search in Broome County. It didn’t take long – I interviewed with District Attorney Gerald Mollen and, in 1996, accepted a job as Senior Assistant District Attorney in the Broome County DA’s office.
IV. A new life, and a prosecutor’s career… in Broome County
After seven years of rewarding work as a Bronx prosecutor and a year at a Manhattan law firm, my new job in Binghamton felt like I’d landed right where I belonged. I was very happily a prosecutor and public servant again – in a community that was ideal for raising our family.
The next eleven years were some of the most satisfying years of our lives. Our daughter Anna was born in 2000. Nadine and I were able to take on the kind of volunteer work there was no time for in New York. I coached the St. Mike’s boys’ basketball team and we both volunteered at St. Mike’s annual Lenten Pirogi Sale – a commitment we’ve kept up for 25 years. We were a family constantly on the go, with school activities and sports and charitable work.
Supporting it all? A career in public service to a community that I came to love as my home.
I served the people of Broome County as Senior Assistant DA from 1996 to 2007, during the tenure of former District Attorney Gerald Mollen. I’ll always be grateful to Jerry for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to serve again as a prosecutor. I was able to grow into the kind of professional I’d worked beside and admired so much in the Bronx: Prosecutors dedicated to an ideal – justice – and willing to work hard to make it real in their lives and the lives of their fellow citizens.
During those eleven years I had the privilege and responsibility of prosecuting and putting away some of the most notorious felons in Broome County history. Criminals like Hashim Herring—convicted after trial, of Murder 1st Degree, and sentenced to Life without Parole in the shooting death of Luke Spencer on Munsell Street in Binghamton; Clemmeth Maddox—convicted after trial, of Murder 2nd Degree, and sentenced to 18 Years to Life in the murder of a four-month-old infant on Crandall Street in Binghamton; and Devaughn Ballard—convicted after trial, of Murder 2nd Degree and Conspiracy 2nd Degree, and sentenced to 33 Years to Life in the shooting death of Ronnie Davis on Chenango Street in Binghamton.
These are just a few of the more than 100 felony trials I’ve taken to verdict – fourteen of them for murder – in the 30 years I’ve been a felony trial attorney.
V. The 2007 Campaign for Broome County District Attorney
I’ve always tried to do my best, stepping up when I felt that duty called. When I chose to challenge Gerald Mollen in the 2007 campaign for DA, I honestly believed I was the candidate who could bring the change that was needed in the leadership of the District Attorney’s office. We ran a tough campaign in what became a close election. Unfortunately, I was not successful, and Mollen won a sixth four-year term as Broome County DA.
It was a disappointment, but it taught me two valuable life lessons:
- Persevere, No Matter the Setback
- Be Open to New Challenges
VI. Private Legal Practice (2007—2015)… and a Judgeship
So I dusted myself off and became, for the first time in my life, a private attorney. After working for the Law Office of Carman Garufi for several years, I opened my own practice, in Binghamton. I specialized as a felony trial attorney, but I also provided a variety of other legal services for a growing list of clients. It was a challenging transition at first, but before long I adjusted to life in private practice.
The results of the DA’s race in 2007 opened up a whole new perspective on my work as a felony trial attorney. Given the new and different responsibility of providing a vigorous defense for my clients, I gained a new respect for the rights of the accused.
For the first time in my felony trial career I now appeared, not as a prosecutor, but as a defense attorney – in the same courtrooms where I’d spent the previous eleven years as the people’s advocate, and in front of the same criminal court judges: The Hon. Martin E. Smith and The Hon. Joseph F. Cawley. I had always held these two jurists in high esteem. Now, working before them as a defense attorney, I felt even more respect, and I gained a fresh perspective on the heavy burden born by those we elect to preside over felony trials in our community.
I was also able to practice for the first time in Broome County Family Court. I became a Law Guardian – a court-appointed legal advocate for children – and represented some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens in Family Court. It was a humbling experience. How critically dependent are children on the responsible behavior of the adults in their lives!
During this period in my life I also had the honor of serving for one year as an elected judge, in Town of Union municipal court, where I gained valuable experience arraigning misdemeanor and felony defendants and presiding over misdemeanor trials.
Soon fate would call, and when it did, I was able to return to the Broome County DA’s office with a deeper, more profound understanding of our criminal justice system. I was truly better prepared for the responsibilities I would now face as Broome County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney.
VII. Chief Assistant DA Michael Korchak (2016—2020)
When Stephen Cornwell was elected District Attorney in 2015, he called and asked me to serve as his Chief Assistant. I accepted Steve’s offer, happy to return to my great passion – felony prosecution – and for the last three-and-a-half years I’ve served the people of Broome County again, this time as their Chief Assistant District Attorney.
Among the felonies I’ve prosecuted since returning to the DA’s office are some of the most horrific crimes ever witnessed in Broome County. When Dwight Burton murdered two innocent children in an arson fire on Floral Ave in Johnson City, I was called upon by the DA to take the case to trial. A guilty verdict was secured and a sentence of Life Without Parole was handed down – another of the fourteen murder trials I’ve taken to verdict in my career as a felony trial attorney. Others include Nicholas Chappell—convicted of Murder in the 2nd Degree and Attempted Murder in the 2nd Degree, sentenced to prison for 50 Years to Life; and James Starnes—convicted of Predatory Sexual Assault against a child and Course of Sexual Conduct against a child, sentenced to prison for 30 Years to Life.
In this role I worked closely with an excellent team of fellow prosecutors and dedicated local police officers. As a career prosecutor, my goal was to simply protecting the rights of and seeking justice for our most vulnerable citizens, victims and their families.
VIII. The 2019 Election
In the spring of 2019, Nadine and I walked into the Broome County Board of Elections and handed over 257 pages of my designating petition, with a whopping 3,415 of my fellow Republicans’ signatures – securing my place on the ballot in the June 25th GOP Primary for Broome County DA. We’re delighted that our campaign may have set a Broome County record, with more than four-and-a-half times the number of signatures required! I am deeply honored by the efforts of 125 dedicated volunteers, including GOP Committee members, who carried my petitions door-to-door, after dark and in the dead of winter!
Over the next few months we ran a campaign for the GOP primary based on my experience and facts regarding the current state of the district attorney's office and my desire to take a solid foundation for the office and make it even better.
Along the way we learned a great deal about the corruption and deceit with not only my opponents campaign but also the Republican Party leadership. Despite all attempts to discourage me from running for office or swaying voters with lies or other information taken out of context, we aggressively maintained our course.
On June 25, 2019 the primary election results were so close a winner could not be declared.
On July 8, 2019 absentee votes were counted and we lost by less than 150 votes.
Over the next several weeks we evaluated our campaign and our options moving forward, eventually agreeing to meet with the Libertarian Party.
For those unaware, the Libertarian Party is the third-largest political party in the United States after the Republican and Democratic parties. The party aims to emphasize a commitment to free-market principles, civil rights, personal freedom, non-interventionism, peace and free trade.
After interviewing ALL 3 Candidates for endorsement, the Libertarian Party offered me their endorsement and a line on the November 2019 ballot which I gratefully accepted.
As a lifelong Republican, this was a decision I did not take lightly. To be very succinct in my reasoning, I truly believed that by making this decision I was not abandoning the party. The party had already abandoned me. I approached the party prior to any candidate for District Attorney announcing their intentions. Despite my exceptional experience for the position, I was not even given the courtesy of consideration by the party and had to fight my way through the primary spending thousands of dollars against not only my opponent but the party leadership who continually paraded other Republican officials with my opponent to obtain votes by association. Despite my efforts to work with the party, I was shunned at every attempt.
On November 5th, 2019 the voters selected me as their next District Attorney.
IX. Your Current District Attorney
As your current District Attorney I have assembled an elite team to carry out the responsibility and mission of the Broome County District Attorney’s Office. Together we will make Broome County a safer place to live by aggressively, effectively, and fairly prosecuting criminal activity, guided by principled professionalism, using compassion when called for, punishment as necessary, and justice always.
And to all Broome County citizens – Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Independence and Working Family Party members, and all other affiliations, the District Attorney’s office is not, and should never be a political office. In my over thirty years as a trial attorney and nearly 25 years as a prosecutor I have never been asked my political affiliation by a crime victim, nor have I asked anyone I represent. My election was based on my qualifications, my experience, and my personal values & mission to serve. I am proud to be your District Attorney and fulfilling my promise to always put people ahead of politics.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.