Bristol County Prosecutor Picked as 1st Assistant DA Here
With the hiring of Leominster native Steve Gagne, incoming Northwestern DA Dave Sullivan completes his leadership team of outsiders.
NORTHAMPTON – Once again, DA-Elect David Sullivan has reached across jurisdictions and picked an outsider to fill a key position in his administration.
Sullivan, who will be sworn in here as the next Northwestern District Attorney on Jan. 5, has named Bristol County Assistant DA Steven Eric Gagne of Fairhaven, Mass. as his First Assistant DA. His duties will be handling major felony cases including homicide, as well as supervising other assistant DAs in the office, Sullivan said in a press release issued late Wednesday.
“I’m just thrilled, I can’t wait to start,” Gagne, 36, told Northampton Media Thursday.
Gagne’s Big-Time Crime-Fighting
Gagne, a Leominster native who graduated from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., joined the Bristol County DA’s office in 2002. As a member of the Child Abuse Unit there in 2005, he prosecuted felony cases in Superior Court.
“He was appointed head of the Major Violators Unit, in 2007, where he targeted gang-related offenders and habitual criminals, helping to coordinate multi-agency investigations and prosecutions of gangs and violent offenders,” Sullivan’s statement read.
Gagne, the short bio stated, “has handled cases involving homicides, robberies, drug trafficking, sexual assaults, motor vehicle homicides and other offenses. (He) served as liaison to the United States Attorney’s Office in Boston, coordinating numerous investigations and prosecutions of habitual offenders and firearms violators.”
With the hiring of Gagne, Sullivan completes putting together his top team of prosecutors and staff.
In recent weeks, Sullivan has hired four longtime law enforcement professionals, including two top managers from the state Attorney General’s office, two members of the Hampden County DA’s office and a narcotics prosecutor from Suffolk County.
Janice Healy, the longtime chief of the AG’s Western Mass. division in Springfield, will serve as Sullivan’s Deputy DA; and Rosemary Tarantino, Healy’s long-serving deputy chief, will work here as the new chief of district court.
Assistant Hampden County DA Yvonne Pesce, a former Republican newspaper reporter and editor, has been hired as Sullivan’s supervising attorney for the juvenile courts; and Martha Murphy Kane, superior court supervisor for outgoing Hampden County DA William Bennett, will be Sullivan’s director of operations.
Also named to Sullivan’s top staff was Suffolk County ADA Jeremy Bucci, who will serve as chief trial counsel and attorney-in-charge for the district’s Franklin County office in Greenfield. Bucci will also supervise all narcotics and forfeiture cases for Sullivan, a job he has held in Suffolk County since 2008.
“We are building a great team of attorneys and staff who will make a difference protecting the public and helping victims of crime,” Sullivan said in a written statement earlier this week.
Gagne’s Interview About the New Job
Gagne said he was comfortable in his current job, but heard through word of mouth that Sullivan was looking for a first assistant. When he heard that Jeremy Bucci was hired here, Gagne told Northampton Media, he figured the Northwestern DA’s office “was shaping up to be a top-notch office,” and applied for the open position.
And last weekend, Gagne met with Sullivan (for the first time) and his transition team at a downtown Northampton law office. The meeting apparently went well: “They made me an offer I couldn’t possibly refuse.”
Gagne said the move to Western Mass. will work out well logistically for him and his wife Kate, who is currently working on her doctorate in sociology at SUNY-Albany, where the couple rents an apartment in addition to their house in Fairhaven. “In many ways, this will make our lives simpler,” he said.
He said the couple and their son are looking forward to the move, in part because his parents still live in Leominster.
Gagne said he expects to be sworn in soon as a special prosecutor here so he can, with Healy, start reviewing particular cases so he can hit the ground running on Jan. 5.
Toward that end, Gagne said, he will spend much of the next few weeks tying up loose ends in Bristol County, so that he has no more than one or two cases left on his plate, since his job here will be all-consuming.
He said his new post will be exciting, especially since he will be doing trial work and prosecuting, and not simply administrative work. He said he likes to be “in the front line in the courtroom.”
A quick search of the internet found several high-profile cases that Gagne prosecuted.
One was a second-degree murder conviction of a Fall River man who in 2008 was given life without parole in a gang-related shooting; another involved a case this month where a Seekonk man had his driver’s license revoked for life after a ninth DUI conviction; a third is the recent indictment of three top members of the Mafioso Street Gang in Fall River for the 2005 shooting of two men.
Sullivan, who was elected unopposed on Nov. 2, replaces outgoing Northwestern DA Elizabeth Scheibel, who chose not to run for re-election after 17 years in the $148,000-a-year job. The district includes Hampshire and Franklin Counties, and the Town of Athol.
Sullivan is currently register of the Hampshire County Probate and Family Court here, a post he was twice elected to and will resign from effective Jan. 4. In a September primary, he soundly beat ADA Michael Cahillane, winning all but four of the district’s 43 cities and towns. Cahillane is leaving the office, along with other top staffers.
Sullivan told Northampton Media Thursday that Healy has already been sworn in as a special prosecutor here, which allows her to begin reviewing case files. It is expected that Gagne will soon be given the same status. Sullivan said he cannot review the actual case files until he takes over next month.
Asked how communication with Scheibel and her outgoing team is working out, Sullivan described the relationship as “cordial. We’re making progress.”
While he has not released a list of which prosecutors will remain on the payroll here and who will be let go, Sullivan said most of the district court prosecutors will stay on the job.
As is typical when there is a change DA, Sullivan asked for all staff and prosecutors who wanted to stay on the job here to complete a short re-application process along with resumes.
Interviews with those folks began in mid-November and was completed recently, while at the same time would-be applicants from outside the Northwestern District staff went through a separate hiring process.
Sullivan said Thursday that, when a new DA is elected, prosecutors from other offices looking for career advancement apply for a job. He said some people from his office were doing the same thing.
The Swearing-in Ceremonies
On Wednesday, Jan. 5, there will be two swearing-in ceremonies, with the public invited to attend.
At 7:30 a.m., Mass. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray will give Sullivan the oath office in the old Superior Court building here. Hampshire Superior Court Clerk Harry Jekanowski, Jr. and Assistant Clerk Nancy Foley will swear in the assistant DAs assigned to the Northampton office on Pleasant Street.
At 10 a.m. in Greenfield, the ceremony for assistant DAs assigned to the Greenfield office will take place in the Franklin County Courthouse. Franklin Superior Court Clerk Eve Blakeslee and Assistant Clerk Susan Emond will perform swearing-in duties.
Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, senior pastor of the Haydenville Congregational Church, will give the invocation in Northampton and Greenfield. Madeline Lukomski will sing in Northampton, and Ariana Plante will sing at the Greenfield swearing-in.
“I will be honored to take the oath of office to be the next Northwestern District Attorney,” Sullivan said in prepared remarks. “I am looking forward to serving our justice system and community.”
Receptions will follow both ceremonies.
© 2010 Northampton Media
David Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org