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The Commonwealth

Tuesday Primary will determine the next Fayette County Attorney

Stu Johnson-Larry Roberts

Next Tuesday’s Primary Election in Fayette County will determine who serves as the central Kentucky community’s lead prosecutor in district court. There are two democrats vying for county attorney and no republicans, so there will not be a November contest.

The May Primary pits incumbent County Attorney Larry Roberts against former Lexington City Council Member Angela Evans.

Roberts once held the position of commonwealth’s attorney and has served in his current post for 16 years. He ran un-opposed for three terms. The 78-year-old said he could retire and draw more money, but he really enjoys what he does in making a difference for a lot of people. Roberts said that means in court and in the office.

“One of my main goals in this office is to make this a stepping-stone for lawyers. It’s never been that, ever. Forever in the county attorney’s office there were all part-time people. Lawyers had a part-time practice. And it was never a stepping-stone to get to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or get to be a judge or raise your level in expertise or money,” said Roberts.

Roberts said no complaints from judges in district court have come to him about attorneys and their efficiency.

He noted addressing community concerns about racial justice is a priority.

“The history of this is undeniable of social injustices that are caused. And I know that, but it’s not going to happen in this office in any respect. I want to ensure that. Now, I can’t go over issues and deal with that. I mean I’d like to but I can’t do that,” said Roberts.

Roberts said he wants to establish a new program to reach inner city youth, particularly Black youth. He said the aim would be to connect and talk about constitutional issues. One way would be through the use of a photography course. Roberts said police officers and social workers would be involved.

Angela Evans is seeking the county attorney’s office partly because she says community members are demanding to know more about the local judicial system. That would include tracking data about crimes prosecuted by the office.

“What are the charges that come through and how are they resolved in district court. We can’t do that for circuit court, but actually keeping track of that and using that information to then analyze how we can reduce the most common crime or help the repeat offenders,” said Evans.

Evans noted reducing recidivism has always been of primary interest. During her time in the public defenders’ office, the 46-year-old lawyer did see some disparity. Evans said she had two clients with the same charges, six months apart, who received different outcomes through plea agreements.

“Try to be more consistent, not just in the offer, but then also figure out what is..have a range of offers for people. People, like children, respond to discipline differently. Have the same concept for people who offend,” said Evans.

The county attorney’s office handles a variety of misdemeanor offenses including those related to child support. Larry Roberts said his office works to enhance collections through a program focusing on job placement.

“So if we get the job and they start making the payments then that makes us happy. Ok, that makes momma happy, that makes the children get food or whatever. If he’s got a drug problem in this court, we supervise that. We make sure that he gets treatment,” said Roberts.

Roberts said, if the participant keeps the job for a year, the child support charge is dropped. He noted one district judge has collected $600,000 through this program.

A great deal of attention recently has focused on license plate reading cameras in Lexington. City leaders have credited the so-called flock cameras with providing information leading to arrests. Others in the community have expressed an interest in knowing where the cameras are being placed.

Roberts is interested in already existing cameras used to monitor traffic in Lexington. He said he’s asked about recording footage on those cameras.

“Let’s say it’s a car wreck and somebody runs a red light and you got a video camera that shows that because, it’s running and the lawyers get involved. Ok, that video can be introduced in court without a witness or if it’s a witness, be a witness. This is our city and we need to solve it and not wait for a disaster,” said Roberts.

Roberts says he’s made this request to the current and previous mayors.

Angela Evans says her experience in the public defender’s office gave her the opportunity to interact with Fayette prosecutors. She says she worked well with those prosecutors.

Evans would like to investigate ways to address criminal activity through means outside of incarceration.

“You know we have the diversion programs. My concern is can we send more people to it. Specifically, the community service arm of diversion,” said Evans.

Prior to serving on the Lexington city council Evans worked in Frankfort serving in the attorney general’s office and as general counsel in the secretary of state’s office. Evans admits she would not enter the county attorney’s office with all the answers.

“I’ve got a large pool of resources and relationships that I will be bringing with me, so even if there is a deficiency somewhere I’m going to have a wealth of people to talk to and help bring that in. Fresh ideas and different ways to look at it,” said Evans.

Fayette County voters will make their choice in the county attorney’s race next Tuesday. Friday, we’ll conclude our pre-Primary political profile series with a look at the Lexington mayoral contest.

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