Longtime prosecutor Mike Graveley is running for Kenosha County district attorney.
Graveley, the current deputy district attorney, announced Wednesday he will seek the office with the retirement of District Attorney Robert Zapf, who plans to step down at the end of his term.
Graveley, named last week as Wisconsin Prosecutor of the Year by Attorney General Brad Schimel, said he will run as a Democrat. In a bipartisan show of support, County Executive Jim Kreuser, a Democrat, and Sheriff David Beth, a Republican, both strongly endorsed Graveley.
Kreuser and Beth described Graveley as a strong advocate for crime victims and a friend of law enforcement.
“If a member of my family, a friend of mine, a neighbor, was a victim of a crime, who would I want to be district attorney? That would be Mike,” Kreuser said.
Beth called Graveley “tough and fair” and called him a “rock-solid person” for law enforcement in the community.
Long history hereGraveley, 52, joined the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office in 1989 and has remained a prosecutor throughout his career.
During his career he has conducted more than 200 jury trials, including more than a dozen homicides. He has been deputy district attorney for 10 years.
“This community, this county, has been very good to us,” Graveley said, speaking of his family. “It would be an honor and a privilege to pay that back by serving as district attorney.”
Improvements soughtIf elected, Graveley said he would seek to bring private sector improvements to the office, including a move toward paperless electronic files. He said he also wants the office to be data-driven and open to statistical study.
He said he would continue Zapf’s effort to focus on victim support in prosecutions, making sure victims and their families are informed, consulted and supported during the process of prosecuting crimes and “to make sure they feel we have fought for them.”
At the same time, Graveley said, as district attorney he would be open to diversionary programs for first-time non-violent offenders, possibly to community programs similar to those available in the existing drug treatment court that uses counseling and treatment for repeat non-violent offenders with addictions rather than prison sentences.
“Community safety must be first; that has to be first and foremost,” he said, but added that diversionary programs could be fair and efficient and would allow the office “to concentrate the resources we have on the most serious and most dangerous cases.”
He said he also hopes the office can be open to the idea that some people who come through the system do change.
“We need to be a flexible enough place in the district attorney’s office to acknowledge that some people do change, and when they do change, when they demonstrate that they have changed,” the office would be open to offering people with long probationary sentences a second chance.
More visibleGraveley said he thinks the district attorney’s office needs to be more involved and visible in the community through programs like the Kenosha Police Department’s neighborhood watch program or the Sheriff’s Department’s DARE program.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been a prosecutor at a time when there were more people who had some skepticism and, in fact, distrust of the criminal justice system,” he said. “We need to be a more important part of the conversation about the long-term problems that bring people into the criminal justice system.”
He said that is especially important in addressing the heroin and opiate addiction problem in the community, which Graveley called “the primary plague going on in all facets of the criminal justice system right now.”