Candidates offer opinions on problems in Pettis County criminal justice

Last updated: July 07. 2014 11:55AM - 814 Views
By - ppratt@civitasmedia.com



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As a community service, the Sedalia Democrat will profile each of the candidates in contested races in the Aug. 5 primary election in the weekend edition,


Four candidates will vie for the Republican slot for Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney in the Aug. 5 primary, Phillip Sawyer, Kim Tanner, Andrew Rehmer and Myron McNeal.


Phillip Sawyer


Currently working as Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Pettis County, Sawyer has already seen the courtroom through the eyes of a prosecutor.


After graduating high school in Windsor, Sawyer attended Missouri Valley College where he received a bachelor’s in sociology and a bachelor’s in criminal justice. He then attended law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


Personally, Sawyer said the accomplishments he is most proud of are his wife and two children.


What does Sawyer feel is the biggest problem the community faces relative to the realm of criminal justice?


“Plain and simple it’s crime,” Sawyer said. “Everybody wants to say that it’s drugs, but we have a drug problem, a burglary problem, an assault problem, we have lots of problems. What I mean by that is we hear about the drugs. We have a STING Unit that does a marvelous job. All of our law enforcement does an excellent job of focusing on drugs and helping us deal with that problem, but we have problems in this community outside of drugs.


“We have everything I’ve just mentioned and more. We have stealing issues. Child abuse issues are a big problem right now and have been. There are problems outside of drugs that concern me. We can’t just focus on drugs. We can’t.”


If elected, what does he intend to do about these problems?


“I can do what I’ve been doing for a number of years now. I will continue the strict enforcement on drug dealers. I will continue strict enforcement on our drug users,” Sawyer said. “At the same time, we will continue to evaluate people properly for programs that are available. Our programs need to drive our defendants, not our defendants driving our programs. We need to put people in programs that belong in them, people that can benefit from them.”


In addition, he said he will continue to pursue all crime, taking cases to trial when necessary and seeking the best possible outcome for victims.


“If a perpetrator commits a separate offense to a separate victim, when there are multiple victims, I thing that perpetrator should serve time for each victim, each occurrence. I think those sentences should run consecutive and I think they should be serious and I have a proven record of doing that,” Sawyer said.


Kim Tanner


By maximizing the use of, and advocating for additional, court treatment programs, Tanner said she can reduce repeat offenses and return productive citizens into the community.


Tanner is a Smith-Cotton High School graduate who attended State Fair Community College before receiving a bachelors from the University of Central Missouri in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. She graduated law school from the University of Missouri in 2002.


She worked as a criminal defense paralegal from 1994-2002 and afterwards established her own private practice, located in Sedalia.


She said she is proud of her family, her volunteer work, her interest in church and social service organizations and the reputation she has built for herself personally and as an attorney.


What does Tanner feel is the biggest problem the community faces relative to the realm of criminal justice?


“I think you are going to get a similar answer form everybody and that’s going to be the drugs,” Tanner said. “Nearly 40 percent of the cases filed over the last two years were directly related to drug and alcohol offenses. That does not even take into consideration the indirect correlation of the abuse, the violence cases, the stealing. If you had a way to factor all that in it’s obviously the drugs.”


What can Tanner do to solve the problem?


“That is difficult to answer not being able to access the office as freely as I would like to now since one of my opponents is assistant prosecuting attorney,” she said. “Additionally, I would need to work closely with law enforcement to see what challenges they are currently facing. You have to take into consideration the victim and what they are struggling with.”


She added that she can bring a passion and resourcefulness to the job she feels her opponents are lacking.


“I’m running because of the effects I’ve seen first hand in the community,” Tanner said. “I’m just not willing to tolerate it anymore.”


Andrew Rehmer


An assistant prosecuting attorney in Stoddard County with more than 7,000 prosecutions under his belt, Rehmer said he will make Pettis County “unattractive” to criminals.


Smithton High School Valedictorian in 2003, Rehmer finished his undergraduate studies at Westminster College in Fulton and graduated law school at the University of Missouri.


He began working in civil litigation in 2010 and became assistant prosecutor in Stoddard County in 2011.


Outside of his accomplishments in the realm of criminal justice, he said he is most proud of being able to take care of his grandparents.


What does Rehmer feel is the biggest problem the community faces relative to the realm of criminal justice?


“Here in Pettis County the biggest problem is drugs, both cocaine and methamphetamine,” Rehmer said. ”We have a lot of drug dealers here in Pettis County and a lot of people that are addicted to methamphetamine or cocaine or crack.”


How does Rehmer plan to deal with the drug problem?


“You make Pettis County the least desirable place to do business as a drug dealer. You do that through a two-fold process,” he said. “One, you seek maximum penalties on the people that are selling the poisons to our kids. That will make the cost of doing business unattractive to those folks.


“On the demand side of the equation, you get treatment for the people that are addicted to drugs. By treating them, you break their addiction. There are various ways to treat them, drug courts, 120-day treatments and long-term treatments are all good things.”


Myron McNeal


After practicing law in Sedalia for more than 10 years, McNeal said many of the problems the community faces are related to the abuse of methamphetamine.


McNeal is a Smith-Cotton and State Fair Community College graduate. He received his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and currently operates a private practice in Sedalia that has been open since 2003.


He, like many of the candidates, said he is proud of his family. His oldest son is a CPA, his daughter works for a law firm in Texas, another daughter is raising a family and his youngest son just returned from a tour in Afghanistan serving with the U.S. Army.


“There are so many crimes related to the meth,” McNeal said. “You’ve got burglary, stealing, car theft, prostitution and a lot of it is due to people wanting this drug. Not only this drug, a lot of others, but primarily that drug.”


After a recent conversation with a prosecutor from another county, McNeal said he is also concerned the drug heroin is pushing its way into the area.


“He said heroin is a big problem in his county and I believe its pushing our way,” McNeal said. “One of the main things we have to do is make sure the heroin does not reach us and control the methamphetamine to get the crime rate down.”


McNeal said aggressively pursuing the methamphetamine problem will reduce the residual crimes.


“By actively prosecuting the drug-related crimes you can cut down on the burglaries, the theft, the stealing and the prostitution,” he said. “As far as keeping the heroin out of our county — it is not here yet, I think there were maybe one or two cases last year — we need to keep an eye out. When it gets here we need to work with police and law enforcement to make sure it doesn’t stay here.”


 
 
 
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