1. Provide a brief professional and personal background.
I first joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1997 when I was hired by then District Attorney, the Honorable Paul E. Cherry.
I worked as an assistant under Cherry for six years. During that time, I was trained by Cherry and learned how to prosecute criminal cases and manage the Office of District Attorney.
In 2001, Cherry appointed me as the First Assistant District Attorney, a position I held until being first elected as the District Attorney in 2003.
As an Assistant District Attorney and First Assistant District Attorney, I was trained by Cherry to conduct jury trials and prosecute criminal cases.
Cherry trained me to conduct murder trials, and I successfully obtained my first murder conviction in October of 2000, and I’ve successfully prosecuted a volume of murder cases since that time.
I am a 1985 graduate of the Clearfield High School. Following graduation from high school, I served four years on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard.
I was stationed in South Florida where I served as a Coast Guard law enforcement officer. During my enlistment, I received extensive training in federal law enforcement and investigation.
I made multiple felony arrests, including arrests for drug smuggling and alien immigration. I assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office with preparation for criminal prosecution and have testified as a Coast Guard law enforcement officer in various Federal Courts.
Following my initial enlistment, I worked my way through college and law school by serving in the Coast Guard Reserves.
As a reservist, I served on active duty during the summer months, and was stationed on the Great Lakes and the Coast Guard District Headquarters located on Governor’s Island, N.Y.
During my final year of law school, I served as an active duty legal intern for the Coast Guard’s legal division.
I returned to Clearfield County following my initial service in the Coast Guard and enrolled in the first class of students attending the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven University.
I graduated summa cum laude from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in criminology and went on to earn my law degree from the Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, R.I.
I am a life-long resident of Clearfield County and my wife, Jennifer, and I make our home in Pine Township. I am the son of retired Clearfield County Prothonotary William Shaw and Jeannie Shaw.
I am an avid outdoorsman, a member of various sporting clubs and civic organizations and a member of the St. Francis Catholic Church.
2. Why did you choose to run for the office of Clearfield County District Attorney?
I joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1997, and at the time, I had a salary of less than $20,000. I have never worked in the District Attorney’s Office for money.
I work as a prosecutor because I believe in doing good for my community, and I believe in the mission of a prosecuting attorney.
Because of my background in law enforcement, from my years spent in the U.S. Coast Guard, I have always had a passion to work as a prosecuting attorney.
Today, people seek the job for the wrong reason, specifically for the salary and that is the wrong reason. I believe in serving my country and my community and that is why I am running for the position of District Attorney.
3. How many cases have you tried in court?
Since joining the District Attorney’s Office, I personally have selected 166 juries and prepared those cases for trial. Of those juries selected, 113 have gone to trial.
The remaining 53 case have settled prior to the trial beginning. I average approximately two juries selected each trial term and slightly more than one trial completed each trial term.
The trials I have conducted include murder, rape, burglary and other serious felony cases. Because of my excellent reputation for obtaining convictions, many defendants decide to tender a guilty plea at the last minute and seek leniency from the court.
It is always a benefit to taxpayers when criminals tender a guilty plea. The high cost of trial and subsequent appeals is avoided.
Plus, a guilty plea is a guaranteed conviction that holds the offender accountable.
4. What was the most challenging case you tried and how did you navigate through it?
I have had many challenging cases over the years. Murder trials are always difficult because of the volume of witnesses and evidence.
Additionally, child sexual assault cases are extremely difficult to prosecute. Generally, very little evidence exists when prosecuting child rapists because these crimes are done in secret.
Child abuse cases are very emotionally charged and require excellent trial skills to successfully prosecute. No two trials are the same and every trial has unique challenges.
I am able to navigate these challenges because of my years of experience, training and the large volume of trials I have conducted.
5. If elected, what would be your top priority as Clearfield County District Attorney?
I have several priorities. Initially, I want to continue building on the services offered by our Child Advocacy Center. I am currently working to have a full-time medical professional on staff at our CAC to treat victims of child abuse.
I am also working to enhance our efforts at identifying and prosecuting cases of elder abuse. Investigators at the Area Agency on Aging do a superb job
6. What are the greatest challenges facing the District Attorney’s Office? If elected, how would you overcome them?
The greatest challenge facing the District Attorney’s Office is the continued loss of funding and budget reductions. Last year the commissioners took more money from the District Attorney’s budget and as a consequence, my office is down a full-time Assistant District Attorney.
This makes it very difficult to handle the huge caseload of serious and complicated cases. If reelected, I will continue to work hard to make certain that criminal cases are prosecuted, and criminals are held accountable, despite budget limitations.
7. How can the District Attorney play a role in addressing the Opioid Crisis?
I am addressing the opioid crisis by establishing a drug diversion court for low-level drug offenders.
The goal of the diversion court is to identify drug users who have not committed serious crimes but who can benefit from intense counseling and supervision.
The goal of drug diversion court is to help beginning drug users to break the cycle of drug abuse, so they do not commit more serious crimes in the future. If we can stop the drug use early, then we can save time and money in future prosecutions and jail space.
8. In what ways can a District Attorney positively impact such things as addiction and mental illnesses through the cases they are prosecuting?
When prosecuting criminal cases, it is important to identify mental health issues and seek appropriate treatment. Often times the correct resolution of a case should require mandatory therapy and or counseling.
A District Attorney has a duty to achieve justice and this duty includes treating people with mental health disorders fairly and justly.
9. What specific efforts can the District Attorney make to interrupt the cycle of crime and address trauma in communities?
As the District Attorney, I have established and promoted a system for community members to report crime anonymously. The District Attorney’s Web site, “www.ClearfieldDA.org,” was created and is paid for by me.
This Web site enables community members to send anonymous e-mail or make an anonymous phone call to report criminal activity in their neighborhood.
Promoting community involvement helps the police, who are unable to be on every street corner, to identify and stop criminal activity.
I am a firm believer that we need to work as a community to support law enforcement and stop crime in our communities.
10. What do you think makes you the better candidate for Clearfield County District Attorney?
My years of experience and proven ability to successfully prosecute the most difficult of criminal cases makes me the best candidate for Clearfield County District Attorney.
Over the years, I have taken on very difficult and complicated criminal cases and have gained successful convictions. I have helped thousands of crime victims seek justice and recover restitution.
I have learned to manage a high-volume case load with very little resources. I am a leader in creating crime-fighting techniques.
I have created the highly successful Fugitive of the Week program, that is now copied by countless departments throughout the state.
I was the first District Attorney in the state to institute a process for electronic discovery to save tax dollars. My electronic discovery program is now copied by many District Attorney Offices in the state.
Through my hard work and leadership, Clearfield County now has a fully-functioning Child Advocacy Center that is invaluable for our investigation of child abuse and treatment of child victims. I believe all these attributes make me the better candidate for Clearfield County District Attorney.
I was able to achieve these very notable accomplishments because I first worked as an Assistant District Attorney for six years before assuming office.
During that time, I learned how to manage the office and prosecute crime. My years of training under the Honorable Paul E. Cherry have paid off for our community.
Like District Attorney Cherry, my office continues the awesome achievement of maintaining a 99 percent conviction rate. This is an outstanding record that I have worked very hard to achieve, and a record that I am very proud of.
Someone with no experience will never achieve these goals and will only tarnish the fine reputation of the Clearfield County Office of District Attorney. That is why I am the best candidate. I respectfully ask for your vote.