Local prosecutors say threats come with job

Dick Uliano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Area prosecutors are being extra vigilant after the killings of two Texas prosecutors in three months.

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were found dead last weekend in their home and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed in January.

“Everyone who pays attention to the news has seen what happened in Texas,” says Arlington County Commonwealth’s attorney Theo Stamos. She has asked her staff to look out for each other as they go about their jobs.

Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert says the killings in Texas have heightened vigilance.

“Because of this recent publicity, I think more of us are more aware of our surroundings and more concerned to some extent,” Ebert says.

But Stamos and Ebert agree that threats go with the job.

“I think every prosecutor gets threatened from time to time, but usually nothing more than threats,” Ebert says.

“Given the nature of what we do, we should always have a level of concern. It’s goes with the territory,” Stamos adds.

In at least some Maryland states attorney’s offices the Texas killings have or will be discussed at staff meetings, in which prosecutors, their assistants and staffs are being asked to be extra aware of their surroundings.

“There are always security precautions that you take, but in light of what happened in Texas you try to make sure you’re as vigilant as possible to protect yourself,” said a staff member in a Maryland office who asked not be named, reluctant to publicly discuss security issues.

The Arlington County-based National District Attorneys Association has sent a letter to DA’s nationwide reminding all prosecutors to exercise caution.

Executive Director Scott Burns says the killings of prosecutors are rare, just 13 in the past 50 years.

But Burns says threats come with the job.

“You can’t be a prosecutor for any period of time without receiving threats, it goes on every day all across the country. But with these shocking murders in Texas, it’s brought it close to home,” he says.

The two Texas prosecutors weren’t the only public safety officials targeted recently. Wednesday, a West Virginia sheriff known for his aggressive drug enforcement was shot and killed near the Mingo County Courthouse. And Colorado’s corrections director was shot outside his home in March.

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