Appellate prosecutor comes under fire

January 10, 2019

MT. VERNON — A lawyer frequently assigned by the State Appellate Prosecutor’s office to work in Jefferson County came under fire during the Dec. 27 County Board meeting.

According to County Administrator Suzy Tate, the county pays $15,000 to participate in the Appellate Prosecutor Services program. The program assigns an attorney to prosecute cases when the State’s Attorney’s office is unable to do the job due to conflict of interest. Tate indicated the program is an annual expense that is budgeted.

Before the board voted to approve the program, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Bullard asked to address the board to “make you guys a little bit more educated on the kind of service we get.”

Bullard said attorney David Rands of the State Appellate Prosecutor’s office is frequently assigned cases in Jefferson County.

“He has handled many cases throughout the years and he has done a very poor job,” Bullard said. “He has pled things down, lost murder cases. He has done a very poor job. I have requested several times through the Appellate Prosecutor’s office that he not get assigned Jefferson County cases because of the type of work he does, and that was before I knew we were paying to get that service. Now, the fact that I know it’s $15,000 for the service, now I’m making an official request that maybe you guys could pass on that he does not prosecute our cases anymore because he has not done a good job.”

Bullard said examples of cases on the public record include a recent one with an older lady who had been committing burglaries for years.

“We had her set up for a pretty good size prison sentence,” said Bullard, who was a detective captain for the Mt. Vernon Police Department prior to his election as Jefferson County Sheriff. “Mr. Rands took over because there was a conflict with the State’s Attorney’s office and she ended up getting probation. This was something that could have been multiple years in prison.”

Bullard also pointed to a murder case from several years ago in which the defendant was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

“The jury found it was self-defense because Mr. Rands didn’t impeach witnesses about the fact they said in their original statements, the original investigation, that the victim was not armed,” Bullard said. “They came and testified later that he was (armed) and made a self-defense argument. Mr. Rands, who had those original statements from the police department that they were armed, did not use the statements to impeach the witnesses who lied on the stand and helped get the defendant acquitted on self-defense.”

Bullard said he has previously spoken with Jefferson County State’s Attorney Sean Featherstun about the issue, and Featherstun has also made requests not to use Rands.

“He is not someone that, especially since I now know we are paying for that service, he’s someone I don’t want us to use. That’s something you guys need to know.”

The County Board approved using the Appellate Prosecutor’s program, however, County Board Chairman Cliff Lindemann said he would be checking with Featherstun and others to find out the county’s ability to determine who is assigned to cases.

“It may be something that we have one of the judges do,” Lindemann said.