Incoming D.A. Margaret Moore Continues Her Restructure of Office
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The Great District Attorney Shakeup of 2016 is 75% complete, says future Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore – only the third elected to that office in 40 years. On Tuesday, the Statesman published a takeout listing various incoming and outgoing attorneys. Longtime prosecutors Allison Wetzel, Buddy Meyer, and Gary Cobb – Moore's opponent in the March primary – are out, along with strangulation specialist Kelsey McKay and Dana Nelson, a leader in outgoing D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg's sexual assault unit. On their way in are Mindy Montford, Moore's first assistant; 450th District Judge Don Clemmer (who suspended a campaign for re-election to run Moore's special prosecutions unit); former Austin Police Association President and Chief of Lockhart Police Mike Lummus, who'll serve as special investigator; and Rickey Jones, most recognizable for his capital murder defense of Rashad Owens. Moore supported the moves as standard fare following 40 years of reign under Ronnie Earle and Lehmberg, Earle's longtime first assistant who succeeded the heralded D.A. in 2009.
Later on Tuesday, Moore told the Chronicle many of her changes were spurred by "organizational structure and the need to reduce down the top layers," i.e., the bevy of directors and high-ranking attorneys like Cobb, Meyer, and Robert Smith. Moore noted in particular that the office will now be rearranged under five units:
1) Intake, to be run by Dayna Blazey and including specialty courts, diversion, and major crimes investigation (Montford and Moore will head the division while Blazey prosecutes three men accused of racketeering and fraud charges and the Nov. 2015 attempted assassination of District Judge Julie Kocurek);
2) Trial, overseen by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jones, and to include appeals and juvenile;
3) Special Victims, which will prosecute family justice, family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, protection, and removal cases under Beverly Matthews;
4) Operations, or administrative support, under Greg Cox; and
5) Strategic Prosecutions, which will house the public integrity unit and prosecute white collar crimes, environmental cases, forfeitures, and human trafficking under Clemmer.
"I'm telling the people that I'm hiring and that I'm keeping that I'm looking for good judgment," Moore said of her incoming administration, which will assume duties in an office that's been hampered by inactivity in part because of the shuttered and scorned crime lab at APD. "What does an ideal prosecutor's office do? An ideal prosecutor's office makes a solid recommendation right up front: you don't overcharge; you don't over-recommend. And then you make that offer and give the defense what you've got."