Gerry Leone: a career prosecutor – but wait, there’s more!

Last weekend I, along with sco of .08 and Bill of Under the Golden Dome (and Charley by speakerphone), sat down with Middlesex DA candidate Gerry Leone.  Sco, diligent fellow that he is, quickly wrote up his impressions.  Bill has also chimed in with a few important observations (namely, that Leone is anti-death penalty and pro-gay marriage, contrary to some inaccurate reports), and he promises more shortly.  Here is what I took away from our conversation.

I think it’s very easy to caricature this race as Gerry Leone, the hard-core prosecutor who’s only interested in locking ‘em up and throwing away the key, vs. Jarrett Barrios, the progressive lefty who has never prosecuted a case but who has “big picture” ideas about crime and law enforcement issues.  I doubt that’s really fair to either candidate.  So my first question to Leone was for him to respond to that way of describing the race.

Leone spoke for about 20 minutes in response to that question.  No one doubts Leone’s ability to put the bad guys behind bars – he’s been doing that successfully for 15 years at the county, state, and federal levels.  But he speaks with as much, if not more, passion and commitment about the initiatives that he has created and advanced, both of the “internal” sort (such as a hiring program that dramatically increased the number of attorneys of color at the Middlesex DA’s office), and the “external” sort (such as his work on the anti-terrorism task force at the US Attorney’s office).  Leone also spoke at length about the Middlesex DA community-based justice program – designed to keep kids out of the system, via among other things getting state agencies who wouldn’t normally talk to each other to work together – which he says has become a national model for similar programs in district attorney offices around the country.  And he mentioned that when he was considering young prosecutors for promotions, participation in the community-based justice program was a sine qua non – no participation, no promotion, regardless of how many bad guys you locked up.  Interesting, no?

There was an unmistakable common theme that ran through Leone’s discussion of the kinds of programs that he had run in the past, and that he wants to continue to work toward if elected.  It’s basically this: there are a lot of stakeholders around criminal justice issues.  Different state agencies with different responsibilities and areas of expertise; federal agencies with priorities that may not dovetail with those of their state counterparts; and private entities whose interests are almost by definition not the same as public agencies.  This situation inevitably leads to turf battles, misunderstandings, failures of communication, and a resulting inability or unwillingness to work together.  Leone has worked hard in the past, and wants to keep working hard, to break through those kinds of barriers to get these various entities to, in his words, “come together, stay together, work together.”  He said that one of his chief priorities is to get people, and agencies, to collaborate and cooperate that aren’t used to doing so – something that he also calls “breaking down silos.”

Leone sees himself as uniquely qualified to take on this project.  Certainly, he is personally well acquainted with a lot of the players – he’s been the number two guy at the Middlesex DA’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and the US Attorney’s office, and anyone who’s spent any time around Mass. politics knows that personal relationships matter.  A lot.  He also has extensive practical knowledge of how each of those agencies work, and so is well-positioned to speak to what each agency can, and cannot, do well.  That, in fact, was another important point he made: that part of building those kinds of bridges was to know when your agency is not the best one to handle a particular issue, even if it technically falls within your jurisdiction, and he recalled instances in which he had done exactly that.

We spent nearly an hour with Leone, and I could write a lot more about what we talked about (his focus on paying special attention to the most vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and the LGBT community, and his emphasis on not sacrificing civil liberties on the altar of public safety, among other things), but that’s enough for now.  Was I impressed?  Yes, yes I was.  I’m convinced of this: it’s not accurate to write Leone off as the “conservative” candidate – I saw no evidence of that in our talk and I haven’t seen any elsewhere – or to pigeonhole him as “just a prosecutor” who only cares about locking up bad guys.  Of course, putting the bad guys in jail is important, and Leone noted that whoever takes over the Middlesex DA’s office had better understand how to manage that aspect of the job or there won’t be time for anything else.  But don’t believe the caricature.  Leone knows there’s a lot more to the job he’s seeking than just prosecuting cases, and he’s thought a lot about how to accomplish it.

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4 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Gerry Leone - The Real Deal

    It should be apparent that Gerry Leone is the real deal in the race for Middlesex DA.  One can only hope that bloggers like David, Sco, Beyond 495, and all the others that take the time to learn about both remaining candidates for this critical office, will influence the outcome.

    Even those who zealously support the Senator (D-Boston Globe) must acknowledge that their candidate is completely outmatched on the professional qualifications for this position.

    Does it really matter that the next DA should know how to run an office of 200+ professionals?  Does it matter to their morale that their leader is serious criminal justice professional in it for the long haul, or a politican shamelessly intent on using the office for a stepping stone?

    You bet it does!

    What else matters?  Well, I personally could not support a candidate who is not progressive, or at least doesn't share my democratic values.

    We now know that Gerry Leone is against the death penalty, supports gay marriage, believes in community based criminal justice policies, opposes mandatory sentences for some drug-related crimes and is, perhaps most important, a thoughtful and compassionate guy.

    Enough said. Gerry Leone is the Real Deal (when Kerry used that slogan, it just didn't resonate the same way!).

    The ONLY reason the Senator can be taken seriously in this race is because he has money, and with it, the ability to possibly overwhelm the truth.

    But no amount of money can buy a resume, nor should it buy an office so important.


  2. Barrios should Reconsider...

    and keep his senate seat.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
    • Toast

      Barrios is toast; what's he thinking. Not ever trying a case in a county where there are real high profile trials is a huge issue and leone should harp on that all campaign long. Also, Barrios would have lost the Senate race if it was one on one. Barrios is nervous of one on one races. Leone is a career prosecutor; Barrios a political phony with money and an uncanny ability to confuse with his smoke and mirrors.

  3. Gerry Leone: Portrait of a Professional

    In a recent article in the Lowell Sun, Gerry Leone called himself a professional not a politician and I would completely agree with that. Leone has done all he can for Massachusetts and the War on Terror since the 1990's and has done it by being a professional. I remember reading about his handling of the Louise Woodward and Richard Reid cases. In making sure that the guilty were prosecuted he did it in a very professional manner. Sometimes you will get a prosecutor who will dominate the headlines not for how well they handled the case but the language that they used in the courtroom or their lack of respect they showed for opposing counsel. Leone never garnished that reputation and he has demonstrated the same professionalism in his run for the Middlesex DA's office. When two of his opponents dropped out the race, Leone sent press releases congratulating them on their efforts and saying nothing but positive things about them. Just think if John Kerry had done that to his opponents when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 2004. He might have gotten their support a little sooner instead of alienating half of them. Leone isn’t your typical candidate for the DA’s race. He isn’t like his opponent Jarrett Barrios who I think should go back to the State House and focus on actually passing one of a 1000 pieces of legislation he has filed but has made no effort to pass. Barrios is a politician seeking another office. But Leone is not a politician, he IS a professional and I always support professionals over politicians. That’s why I am supporting him and I would urge all Massachusetts voters to do the same because we don’t need just another politician to win this race. The Middlesex DA is an important position as Martha Coakley has shown us. Just today she was featured in a poll in the Boston Globe and has an approval rating almost as high as Senator John Kerry and higher than Attorney General Tom Riley who is running for Governor and whose position she seeks. In order to make sure that people like, Reid and Woodward are brought to justice we need someone in the DA’s office who is going to do it with professionalism and Gerry Leone is that person.

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