Hard to know whether to feel sorry for forty-six year old Worcester County Assistant District Attorney John A. O’Leary who has been with that District Attorney’s office for over ten years or not. He has been suspended without pay until he clears up the mess he finds himself in. All I know about his family situation is that he has a 13-year-old daughter and owns an Audi A6. I assume losing his salary for a short period of time will not send him to the poor house. If he loses his job permanently, as some seem to hope, well that may be another story . They suggest after all he is an attorney and can continue practicing in his chosen field of law to earn a living.
That is not something easy to do after being a state prosecutor for a period of time. I had trouble. I had been a criminal defense attorney for about 10 years before becoming a prosecutor. I handled whoever walked in the door telling me of his problems and his close friendship with Mr. Green who rarely showed up at the appointed time. I then became a prosecutor for more than 20 years.
When I left that job I thought I could go back being a defense attorney. I found that I could no longer do it. The idea behind that job is to get your defendant client the best deal possible. It sometimes involves judge shopping – finding a judge who is more lenient in the situation your client faced. My problem was I had become an expert at deciding the punishment a defendant should suffer based on his record and crime. It rubbed me wrong to try to get him less which was my job.
Failing to get a deal I would then be obliged to try the case to help my client beat the rap even when I knew he committed the crime. I had no trouble doing it in the first phase of my career. I reasoned it was the state’s job to convict him so if I could beat the state lawyer that was how things were supposed to be. That reasoning seemed hollow to me after many years as a prosecutor. That’s just me. I don’t fault others who do it and are able to do it. But we do have to march to the beat of our own thoughts..
Whether O’Leary will lose his job or not will depend on his boss District Attorney Joseph Early. I met him once for a long discussion based on my prior experience. He seemed like a fair and smart guy interested in doing a good job. As far as I can tell has done that.
This situation though is a little different. He will face public pressure not to have a prosecutor on his staff who got arrested for operating under the influence. Can he stand up to it?
In this case I suggest he should because from what I can determine O’Leary is not in the position of prosecuting people who have been arrested for OUI. He is in the white-collar crime unit. Also, few people involved in one OUI lose their jobs.
The incident O’Leary found himself was not out of the usual. A motorist notified the state police that a car was driving erratically west on I – 290. Trooper Gregory Zanni in his cruiser came upon the car and observed the same thing and signaled with its lights (those dreaded blue lights in the rear view mirror) for him to pull over. O’Leary pulled off the road, down a ramp and stopped in the middle of it. Not a good sign. The trooper asked him to pull over to the side. Those observations as well as subsequent events such as O’Leary’s actions and alleged belligerence after the stop confirmed the trooper’s belief O’Leary was driving impaired.
On that topic here’s a little hint: by not cooperating with a trooper or any other police officer you only make things worse. No matter how unfair you think the stop or request is you can only make it worse. You’d think O’Leary would have known that. Perhaps booze hindered his judgment or this may be a “do you know who I am” situation or most likely it was a panic reaction by someone in his position.
O’Leary erred in his interactions with the trooper. Like you, cops respond to respect. At a minimum by getting along it is less likely one will have charges loaded up on him as was done here with the endangering a child charge. O’Leary had his 13-year-old daughter with him when he was stopped.
I feel sorry he got into that jam; then again I don’t. As a prosecutor he should have known better. You don’t get behind the wheel after having more than two beers and even then it is risky. Not that two beers may impair you. It’s just that someone else might be impaired or inattentive and run into you. With alcohol on your breath you are likely to be charged. As a prosecutor when arrested your charged it becomes newsworthy.
I’ve had my days sitting around having a couple as an ADA and then driving home. Back then, unless you were in an accident, if a cop pulled you over he’d make arrangements to get you home. It never happened to me but did to others.
One day I watched the media clamor after a judge got arrested for an OUI. The cameras showed up at his arraignment and much ado was made about it. It dawned on me that as an ADA the same would happen to me. Not wanting that, I cut back substantially on having a drink before driving.
O’Leary’s case will end up with no more than a hand slap. He’ll have the embarrassment of living with his bad decision and hopefully getting his job back. That I’m writing about it shows the real danger of driving after having alcohol if you are a public official. Today there is no excuse for not calling Uber.
Where’s the strangeness? I’ll talk about that next post.