Claremore Daily Progress

July 1, 2010

Meet the Democratic candidates for District Attorney

Abitbol says growing county calls for greater efficiency; Steidley believes DA’s Office belongs to the people

Joy Hampton
Staff Writer

CLAREMORE — Abitbol:

In certain circles Assistant District Attorney Patrick Abitbol is know as “Pat the Pit Bull” for his aggressive prosecution in child sexual abuse cases. 

Abitbol has a softer side as well. A Board Member of Wild Heart Ranch, Abitbol is also an advocate for abused and neglected animals.

On the job, Abitbol’s priority is to protect the community and its most vulnerable citizens.

“You have to balance the safety of the community,” he said of Alternative Court programs such as Drug Court. 

Abitbol does not believe alcohol and drug use mitigates the commission of a crime. 

He does, however, believe in treatment when applicable and that there is a distinct hierarchy in how cases should be handled.

“My goal is to concentrate personnel on the people who are the greatest threat to the community,” he said. “We represent the law abiding people. It is this office’s job to be their advocate.”

Abitbol came to work as an ADA in 1979 then ran for judge in the early 1990s. From 1991 until 1995 he practiced with General Counsel Physicians Inc. In 1995 he returned to the DA’s office and remains there.

“For the last 15 years, I have focused on child sexual abuse cases and other serious criminal cases,” said Abitbol. 

He is aware that as District 12, especially Rogers County, has grown, there have been issues.

 If elected, Abitbol said he will resolve problem situations. That could include personnel changes. 

“I would like an opportunity to correct a problem if it exists,” said Abitbol. 

Abitbol said communication is essential. If elected, he will have a monthly meeting with law enforcement for the purpose of information exchange. 

“Every law enforcement agency has my cell phone number. You try to do the best job you can with a high volume of cases,” said Abitbol. “There needs to be a more collaborative effort with law enforcement about the direction cases take.”

With tough economic times creating challenges, Abitbol said it’s important to be open and accountable.

“People need to have faith that the office is operating appropriately and is approachable,” said Abitbol. 

 While changing times demand continued changes in the way business is done, Abitbol is proud of many successes in the DA’s Office.

“I don’t think there is any question that we’re going to have change, but I do think this office has appropriately and successfully tried a number of cases,” he said.

In Craig County the office was successful in obtaining “over $1 million” in a forfeiture case. 

That’s money taken from criminal activity that has become the property of the state.

“We have one of the most successful bogus check programs in the state based on revenues generated for merchants,” said Abitbol.

The DA’s Office also receives a percentage on those revenues.

Another area where the office generates much of its own funding is through DA supervision fees paid out when the office, rather than the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, monitors offenders.

Those offenders pay a monthly fee.

“A great deal of our budget for personnel we generate on our own,” said Abitbol.

Abitbol said he would be a hands on district attorney.

“I intend on being in all three counties and I intend on trying cases in all three counties,” he said. “I’m going to be active in the day-to-day operations in all three counties.”

“Change for changes sake doesn’t mean anything. The more important thing is, with the amount of people we have and what our responsibilities are, we operate efficiently and serve the needs of the county,” said Abitbol.

Abitbol and wife Lavon have five children and 12 grandchildren with another on the way. 

 

Steidly:

Janice Steidley is hoping to hit one out of the park at the Democratic Primary on July 27. On the ticket for District Attorney, her litigation experience spans both side of the criminal docket.

Steidley was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Florida in the second grade, but she’s spent her entire adult life in Oklahoma. She met husband Larry Steidley while attending law school in Oklahoma City. He is a fourth generation Rogers Countian with deep roots in the community.

Steidley said making the decision to run for District Attorney was one her husband supported fully.

“When I told Larry I was thinking about this, he said he was 110 percent supportive,” said Steidley. “That’s a great blessing to have.”

She worked as an assistant district attorney under Gene Haynes from October 1999 until April 2003. 

Since then she’s had a private practice as a defense attorney. She shares office space with her husband.

“We work together very well,” said Steidley. “We have different cases. We practice different areas of law.”

Steidley has been the Drug Court Coordinator for Craig and Mayes County, which along with Rogers County, makes up the 12th Judicial District. 

“I’m really involved in the criminal justice system,” said Steidley.

She also helped to implement the domestic abuse program.

“A lot of times the victim doesn’t want to testify,” said Steidley. 

Her reasons for running are many and varied, but in part she said she is fueled by the desire to make a departure from the past in order to meet the changing needs of a growing county. 

“I consider the District Attorney’s Office the wheel,” said Steidley. “You have many spokes, the commissioners, law enforcement and the public. It’s the people’s office.”

Her goal is to bring change to the office.

“I feel there are areas that need to be improved. I know what they are and I feel I’m capable of getting those areas where they need to be.”

Steidley said if elected she will “seek harmony” with other entities through good communication. While she supports alternative court systems like Drug Court, she doesn’t think criminals should get a walk in the park.

“I live in this community,” she said. “I have three young children growing up. We absolutely need to be tough on crime. My husband and I are going to grow old here.”

Steidley believes she has a broad base of support within the community to run for this office.

“It shouldn’t be political,” she said. “It should be about who can be effective. Who’s willing to step up to the plate and make the hard decisions?”

If elected, Steidley plans to be a working District Attorney who tries cases.

“I’m going to have a docket,” she said. “I’m an attorney first.”

She reiterated that communication and harmony between the various entities of government,  law enforcement and the public is key. 

“Whoever is elected needs to be a person who can sit down, rationalize and communicate,” she said. “You solve problems by working together.”

Having been on both sides of criminal cases gives her a broad perspective she hopes will contribute to the position.

“Law enforcement is the backbone of our society,” said Steidley. “They’re the ones that make the case. We’re the ones that take it to court.”