After nearly two terms in office, the Rutland County state’s attorney has decided not to seek reelection and is endorsing her chief deputy.
Rose Kennedy, who became the county’s top prosecutor in 2015, said the coronavirus pandemic led her to evaluate what makes her happy. While she described her job as “fantastic,” she also said it’s very challenging.
“It's a tough job,” she said in an interview Tuesday, “and I'm ready to have a little bit more balance in my life.”
State’s attorneys hold a lot of power in the criminal justice system. Their duties include deciding whether to file criminal charges against a person, how severe those charges should be, whether to recommend a defendant be held in jail while awaiting trial and whether to seek, for instance, probation versus a prison sentence.
Kennedy declined to discuss her professional plans after leaving elected office. Voters will choose her successor in the November election.
When asked what she considers her biggest accomplishments as state’s attorney, Kennedy said her office has become more adept at handling domestic violence cases, given the complex personal dynamics involved.
She said some victims recant their statements because they need the defendant’s financial support or parenting help and not because the abuse never happened. Kennedy said she has worked with her deputies to be more patient and understanding of the process.
“I think we've been very good about trying to really appreciate where the victim is in the relationship,” she said, “and trying our best to figure out a way to resolve the case in which the abuser is held accountable.”
Kennedy said she would be leaving an office filled with high-caliber deputy attorneys, prosecutors who are not only skilled litigators but also care about their community and are excited to present their cases to judges and juries.
Her second-in-command, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan, is seeking the Democratic nomination for Kennedy’s position. He declared his candidacy earlier this week.
Sullivan, 35, has been a Rutland County prosecutor since 2015, the first prosecutor Kennedy hired after taking office. When he learned that his boss was not seeking another term, Sullivan said, he decided to step forward because of the job’s personal and social relevance.
“It's work that is deeply meaningful to me,” said Sullivan, who lives in Pittsfield. “I find working on behalf of the public, trying to ensure public safety in a way that is just and equitable and fair, to be really something that resonates with me.”
He said the problem that needs the most attention from the county’s next state’s attorney is the backlog of criminal court cases, which grew during the pandemic. Unresolved cases began piling up following courthouse closures, the suspension of jury trials for more than a year and what Sullivan said are still limited jury trial slots in Rutland.
As for prosecutions, Sullivan said he wants to prioritize crimes of violence against people.
“Those cases, I think, cause some of the broadest-reaching harms throughout the community,” he said, “so they deserve our attention and our full efforts.”
Sullivan, who hails from Jericho and graduated from Vermont Law School, said he has prosecuted cases as varied as driving offenses, retail thefts, drug crimes, sexual assaults and homicides.
Kennedy said she believes the Rutland County prosecutor’s office would benefit from additional personnel. It currently has six deputy state’s attorneys and two victim advocates.
Kennedy worked at the Vermont attorney general’s office for about a year before being elected state’s attorney. She was a Rutland County deputy state’s attorney in June 2014 when then-State’s Attorney Marc Brierre fired her after she decided to run against him.
She graduated from American University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government, and earned her law degree in 1998 from American University Washington College of Law.
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