Montcalm County Prosecutor: Stanton attorney challenging longtime prosecutor

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 1:40 pm on Monday, August 06, 2012

STANTON — The longtime Montcalm County prosecutor is being challenged by an attorney.

Andrea Krause and Ronald Finegood, both Republicans, are facing off in the Aug. 7 primary election.

Krause, 48, of Greenville, has worked in the prosecutor’s office for 23 years — 14 years as head prosecutor. She was appointed prosecutor in 1998 and went on to be re-elected in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Finegood, 61, of Stanton, has practiced law almost 33 years. He previously ran for 8th Judicial Circuit Court judge in 2008, coming in third place.

The incumbent

Andrea Krause

Krause, who has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a juris doctor from the University of Detroit Law School, moved to Montcalm County when she was hired at the prosecutor’s office 23 years ago. She was named the Michigan Arson Prevention Committee’s Prosecutor of the Year in 2009 for her prosecution of the Haunted Mill fire in Greenville. She was appointed by the Michigan Attorney General  to serve as special prosecutor in neighboring counties.

Krause’s main concerns for Montcalm County include substance abuse, assaultive crimes and an adequate operating budget.
She has noticed an increasing percentage of crimes are committed by people who need to fuel their drug addiction. As a member of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court Adult Drug Court, she works to help some of those defendants stay off drugs and turn their lives around.

Krause said her office “aggressively” prosecutes assaultive crimes, whether it involves spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends or children and parents.

Krause said she has secured additional funding from other sources for child neglect/abuse cases. She also was able to return more than $16,000 to Montcalm County’s general budget over the past three years by saving on discretionary funds for her office budget.

If re-elected, Krause wants to continue her office’s fiscal responsibility, continue her “bad check” enforcement program (which has returned almost $25,000 to victims since 2009), her misdemeanor diversion program (for offenders who have committed non-assaultive crimes, such as retail fraud) and her office’s advocacy for all crime victims, as well as her proactive approach to educational neglect and school truancy.

“During the past 14 years as prosecuting attorney, I have shown that I am fiscally responsible, never over budget, that I am tough on criminals and that I am committed to the citizens of Montcalm County,” she said. “Being prosecutor means handling many different duties. You have to be the office administrator and deal with the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners and Controller-Administrator’s Office on issues, manage employees, manage your budget and manage a large caseload. We are on pace to authorize over 300 felony warrants this year. When you add misdemeanors and juvenile cases, it means each prosecutor is handling lots of cases at one time.”

The challenger

Ron Finegood

Finegood has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and is a graduate of the Detroit College of Law. He moved to Montcalm County about four years ago. He is a member of the Substance Abuse Advisory Council, the Address Appeals Board, the Medication Disposal Coalition of Montcalm County, North Kent Guidance Services and the attorney for the village of Sheridan.
Finegood’s main concerns for Montcalm County include properly prioritizing resources and funds, not wasting Montcalm County funds and educating and addressing what he believes is a public perception that the current prosecutor’s office is soft on crime and fails to take victim concerns into consideration.

Finegood wants to prioritize drug-fighting efforts and shift prosecutor’s resources to fighting the sale and usage of hard drugs, like cocaine and heroin, instead of prosecuting “low-hanging fruit” such as marijuana. He believes hard drugs are to blame for “an explosion” of property crimes, breaking and entering, armed robberies, bank hold-ups and shootings. He said several tools exist to fight hard drugs, including convening a one-man grand jury or using investigative subpoenas.

Krause said her office had a 31 percent prison commitment rate in 2011, compared to almost 11 percent in Isabella County, 13 percent in Mecosta and Newaygo counties, 17 percent in Clinton County and 22 percent in Kent County. Only two neighboring counties have a higher rate — Ionia County with 35 percent and Gratiot County with 36 percent. She said her office prosecutes what comes across the desk from the nine different police agencies in Montcalm County, regardless of the crime.

Finegood believes the current prosecutor’s office wastes funds by failing to properly evaluate cases from the start, leading to dismissing cases the night before a jury trial.

Krause said a prosecutor’s opinion of the law and a defense attorney’s opinion of the law can vary significantly. She said cases are sometimes dismissed due to witnesses not being available or witnesses changing their stories at the last minute. She said seven of 27 cases scheduled for jury trial have been dismissed so far this year, and of those seven trial dismissals, some resulted in guilty pleas to other charges, including felonies.

Finegood thinks the prosecutor’s office is soft on crime and doesn’t listen to the concerns of victims, making them “angry and frustrated by the entire process.”

Krause said her office has “one of the best” crime victim advocates in Teresa Good, who goes out of her way to make sure victims are kept up-to-date.
If elected, Finegood wants to treat victims and defendants with “fairness, dignity and respect,” make more efficient use of funds and resources, properly evaluate the facts of each case and charge accordingly, see a reduction in property crimes, educate the public about the role of the prosecutor’s office and court system, be willing to take on hard cases, create an effective program to prosecute and collect from bad check writers and address the public’s “high level of frustration” with the current prosecutor’s office.
“I have always believed in a commitment to fairness, respect and accountability,” he said. “As the next Montcalm County prosecutor, I will impartially examine the facts, determine what the appropriate charges are and proceed to charge and prosecute accordingly. Tenacity is a trait I have on behalf of my clients and their cause. I refuse to give up or in. I love being in the courtroom, arguing my client’s case, whether it is before a judge or a jury.”

Who’s more experienced?

Krause believes she is more experienced than Finegood when it comes to handling local criminal cases. She said she has successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases, from drunken driving to assault and battery to home invasion, as well as 11 murder trials.

“I believe I am the more qualified candidate for prosecutor,” Krause said. “Not only do I have the experience, but I have shown my commitment to the people of Montcalm County by making by home here for the past 23 years. This is a serious job and it takes someone who is serious about the duties of being a prosecuting attorney.”

According to 8th Judicial Circuit Court records, Finegood has handled 29 cases in the Montcalm County court since 2009, including one criminal case (as of late May).

Finegood said he handled almost 100 civil trials in his first three years as attorney and has three to five trials per year every year since then throughout Michigan, in addition to appearing in court regularly to argue motions and other legal matters.

“I have a longer, broader and more extensive range of legal experience than my opponent,” Finegood said. “I have a more varied trial experience than the current prosecutor. Given the breadth of my legal and courtroom experiences, I believe this makes me a more effective advocate.”

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