When Bay County Prosecutor Kurt Asbury announced that he will retire at the end of 2016, it created an open race to fill the office in this year’s elections. Asbury, who was initially appointed to the position of Prosecutor back in 2006, was re-elected in 2008 and 2012.
Three candidates have filed to run as Asbury’s successor. Two, Assistant Prosecutor Nancy Borushko and Bay City attorney Marcus Garske, will vie for the Democratic nomination in an August primary election. The winner will face off in November against Bay City’s Edward Czuprynski, who will be on the ballot as an Independent.
Nancy Borushko has been in the Prosecutor’s Office since 2001, serving as the Chief Assistant Prosecutor since 2006. She is a 1988 graduate of Standish-Sterling High School, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University and a Law degree from Cooley Law School. In her current role, Borushko has led the prosecution of many types of cases, ranging from those as modern as slanderous comments in social media to those as classic as revenge murder. She is known as an advocate of victim’s rights and has taken a lead in the office in prosecuting domestic violence cases.
Marcus Garske, a native of Bay City, practices law with the Gower Reddick Law firm. The 2003 All Saints Catholic Central grad took his legal education at Michigan State University. His specialty with Gower Law is criminal defense.
Edward Czuprynski is a well-known Bay City criminal defense attorney and thorn in the side of the local legal establishment. A graduate of Michigan State University and University of Detroit Law School, he has handled many high profile criminal defenses, and set a precedent with a landmark case in 1992 for possession of 1.6 grams of marijuana, which was successfully overturned in Federal Court by lead counsel Randall Karfonta. Czuprynski has also made his mark in several instances of having the convictions of clients overturned on appeal; and is currently defending himself against a charge that he was impaired when a pedestrian was injured after walking into the path of his car in June of 2015.
Czuprynski originally filed as a Democrat for this current Prosecutor's race, but withdrew to file as an Independent. He is currently seeking the necessary signatures for this current race, which carries a July 15th deadline for independent candidates to register. You can sign the nominating petition at his office in Bay City and he believes his campaign will make the signature requirement with some room to spare.
The Review posed several questions to the candidates in the first of this season’s political candidate forums. Below are the answers from Borushko and Czuprynski. Garske did not respond to the questionnaire.
Review: What do you think is the biggest priority “right now” in terms of criminal justice in Bay County?
Borushko: The biggest issue that I see is the protection of children. Children are being impacted by all different crimes. They are the victims of physical and sexual abuse. They are not only victims of crimes but also witnesses to crimes. They are impacted by the crimes of those individuals in their lives. A child will model their lives around what they see around them. When an individual involves themselves in criminal activity there is a ripple effect. Their choices do not just affect them, but also others in their lives, especially their children. For example, if a child sees domestic violence or substance abuse in their homes the impact on them will be far reaching. If the criminal justice system intercedes then there is the potential to change patterns and directly impact not only the adult’s lives but also children’s lives now and in the future.
Czuprynski: High on my list is how we approach the heroin problem that's gripped our community. Rather than squander our limited resources prosecuting those who use the "poison", as is our current approach; we should channel that funding into treatment and community involvement instead, to ride out this scourge. A prosecutor's discretion is a powerful tool in deciding the course of our destiny. That's why I've decided to give up my successful practice of law (and take a substantial pay cut in the process) to lead the charge of reforming our failed criminal justice system.
Review: The County Prosecutor not only tries cases, but also has responsibility for running the Prosecutor’s Office, including managing staff and meeting budgets. Describe your approach as an administrator?
Czuprynski: We must restore credibility to the citizens who enter the criminal justice system, and to the taxpayers who foot the bill for many unnecessary procedures, such as expensive and inconvenient (not to mention unconstitutional) daily PBT testing at the jail as a condition of the accused person's pretrial release on bond prior to any conviction.
In managing the staff, it's important to maintain communications with the public-at-large and the Defense Bar to determine the inadequacies in office functions. A box should be installed for "Comments and Complaints Regarding Prosecutor's Office" at the entrance of the courthouse building. Budget leads can be better met by re-prioritizing how the Assistant Prosecutors spend their time. Rather than attending hearings about missed or dirty urine drops, these prosecutors could better spend their time on more important things, like ensuring that police reports are reviewed promptly with follow-up in obtaining additional police work where warranted, photos, taped statements and other deficiencies revealed when a police report is first read. Presently preliminary examinations are scheduled and witnesses subpoenaed, only to have the hearing adjourned because some of these things that are needed in follow-up have not been accomplished.
Assistant prosecutors must be more sensitive to citizens' needs and welfare. They must be more mindful of shielding the police from unwarranted criticism that rightly falls squarely on the incumbent prosecutor's office administration. Justice delayed is justice denied, particularly where onerous requirements are enforced such as daily PBT testing prior to any conviction.
Borushko: My approach as an administrator is to have the office function as a team. Based on my fifteen years of experience as an Assistant Prosecutor, with ten years as the Chief Assistant Prosecutor, I know that everyone working in the office has an important role in making the Prosecutor’s Office function successfully. A Prosecuting Attorney needs to make sure that the staff has what they need to do their jobs in the most efficient manner that is possible. And because the Prosecutor’s Office is taxpayer funded it is also crucial to be fiscally responsible in making decisions regarding the management of the office.
Review: Some in the public criticize the number of plea bargains offered and accepted in Bay County. How would you describe the role of plea bargains in settling criminal cases brought before the Court?
Borushko: Plea bargaining is an important part of the system. To have every case proceed to trial would not be serving justice. It would merely cause the system to be completely overburdened and not function. There are many aspects to how a case is resolved and every case is different. When making decisions about cases things that can be considered are the history of the Defendant, nature of the offense, the evidence, if it is a felony, what the sentencing guidelines may be, consideration of the victim (if it is a victim crime) and what end result of the case serves justice the best.
As an example, I resolved a case which ended in a prison sentence. This case involved a victim who was a child. I spent a great deal of time talking with the victim and those individuals that are helping her through the trauma. Those discussions would not be something that I would make public out of respect for the victim. The case ended in the victim having some closure and allowing her to begin to move on with her life and the perpetrator serving prison time.
Czuprynski: Presently, the Prosecutor's Office over-charges when an arrest warrant is initially issued. Then they plea bargain the trumped-up charges down to what the charges should have been at the outset. That's why there is so much plea bargaining in Bay County. The solution is to simply charge the offences that should be made at the outset, establishing a more reasonable and appropriate plea bargaining process. Currently, plea bargaining is not appropriately done because of the overcharging at the outset.
Review: While it is still a Scheduled drug, attitudes towards marijuana have relaxed in this State. On the other hand, opioid abuse is growing, heroin has made an unwelcome resurgence and the “socially acceptable” drug alcohol is a prime factor in many violent and property crimes. As Prosecutor, how would you allocate resources to help the community find lasting solutions to the link between substance abuse and crime?
Czuprynski: My response to the first question addresses this issue. In addition, I would follow the lead taken in many other communities who are realistically responding to the present times by making simple possessions of small findings of marijuana a low priority in our local law enforcement. Far too much time is being spent pursuing such petty matters when the police resources could be better allocated to pursuing real crimes.
Borushko: In this community we are lucky to have programs within the Court system which allow an individual the opportunity to address issues they may have with substance abuse. Sometimes an individual coming into the legal system can be the catalyst to begin their recovery. Plea bargaining can be utilized to balance the needs of the community. Cases can be resolved to assist a person in seeking and completing treatment programs that exist within the Court system and other sources. If an individual takes advantage of these opportunities, there is the strong potential that they may not involve themselves in further involvement with the criminal justice system.