Retired Jefferson County DA pinch hits in Lewis County Court

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LOWVILLE — When Lewis County’s district attorney had no one else to handle prosecutorial duties in last Friday’s County Court session, she turned to an old friend: retired Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy F. Intschert.

“I called Cindy, and she changed her plans,” Leanne K. Moser said.

Ms. Moser said her lone assistant district attorney, Mark R. Lemieux, was on vacation in Colorado and she learned Thursday afternoon of a family medical emergency — which ultimately turned out OK — that would take her out of town during the Friday morning court session.

While County Judge Daniel R. King was willing to postpone the calendar, Ms. Moser said she didn’t want to inconvenience the roughly 40 defendants and their attorneys — including one slated to come from Long Island — or risk them making a special trip only to learn of an emergency cancellation when they got here.

So, the 10th-year DA placed a call to Mrs. Intschert, who retired at the end of 2015 after 16 years as Jefferson County district attorney and 40 years in the DA’s office.

She agreed, and Ms. Moser got permission from county leaders to have her sworn in as an assistant DA to fill in for the day on a per-diem basis.

“I think that speaks to her quality as a prosecutor and quality as a person,” Ms. Moser said.

Ms. Moser said she didn’t have time to brief Mrs. Intschert on the cases, which included seven sentencings or guilty pleas. However, she and other office staff stayed late into the night Thursday to get everything ready, and two staff members were in court Friday to assist the fill-in prosecutor.

“Everything was smooth under the circumstances,” she said.

Jefferson County residents should feel fortunate to have had a representative like Mrs. Intschert for such a long time period, Ms. Moser said.

“I think she’s the best example of a DA, both in office and retired, that anyone could aspire to be,” she said.

Ms. Moser said having only two attorneys on staff has caused difficulties in covering town and village courts on a few occasions, but County Court had never been impacted.

Last winter, she did ask Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Fitzpatrick to take over the drug-overdose-death case of Brenda E. Roth after three trials — including that one — were scheduled during a six-week period in January and early February. Caleb J. Petzoldt, a past Lewis County assistant district attorney, was assigned by Mr. Fitzpatrick to handle the trial, and it resulted in a manslaughter conviction and state prison term for Roth.

For at least the past several months, Ms. Moser has asked county legislators to consider adding a second assistant DA to help handle an ever-increasing caseload, particularly those involving drugs, and that is expected to be discussed during upcoming budget deliberations.

“We have numbers here that are overwhelming our office,” Ms. Moser told members of the legislative Courts and Law Committee in early July.

According to Ms. Moser, also the county coroner, Lewis County this year has already seen 10 overdose deaths, up from four all of last year. In overdose death cases, the DA’s office not only handles coroner duties but also assists law enforcement with investigations into the deaths and the source of the drugs, she told legislative committee members.

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