Craig Carriero: District Attorney?

September 4, 2015

 

— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

.
At the beginning of the college football season his senior year, he snapped a finger in practice.  The orthopedist warned him to skip the season if he wanted his hand to heal properly.  “Otherwise, you will pay dearly for this injury later in life.”   “Nope!” promptly replied the strapping young man, smiling.  “I’m team captain this year.  I can’t do this to the team.”

There was no way he was going to let broken bones keep him out of the game.

The team had a stellar season, inspired by a captain who played with a broken finger on his “throwing” hand.  (Should I mention that he was also on the baseball team?)
Not only was he a good athlete; he was smart.  The football star graduated magna cum laude in political science.
.

.
Next stop was Albany Law School (Union University), where he became associate editor of the law journal (a prestigious position in law school, by the way). Once more he graduated cum laude.  (Latin for “with distinction.”)Apparently at Albany Law, students are seated alphabetically, in rows, in the lecture halls.  In the “C” section, there was “Carriero” and, next seat over (or was it two seats over?), sat a bright young woman with the last name “Cantwell.”  It wasn’t long before “Carriero” (from Connecticut) was taking notice of “Cantwell” (from Malone NY).

You guessed it.  This is them in the photo, below, with their two boys between them.  (Who woulda thunk a goofy bureaucratic rule like, “You gotta seat yourselves alphabetically!” would result in two kids?)

.
After law school, he landed a position with a distinguished Albany law firm.  And then — then the young attorney he had married brought him back home to Malone.

“How do you like living here” I asked as we settled into conversation in my living room.  “I love it!” he exclaimed.

I liked his answer. “Albany didn’t really need you and Ginger,” I observed, “but Malone does!”  (Young, high-powered professionals moving to Malone:  The town should hold a ticker-tape parade for these people!)

.
Derek Champagne soon hired the young man as Assistant District Attorney.  The same grit that propelled him through a football season with crippled hand — and four years of college and three of law school, graduating both with honors — won over District Attorney Champagne.  For 11 years, Franklin County has been the beneficiary of Derek’s decision.

A year ago, when Derek decided to seek election to the bench, Craig felt it was time to run for DA.  Running against him in the Democratic primary is his boss, Glenn MacNeill, Acting District Attorney.  (Peter Dumas, a formidable trial attorney, will run on the Republican ticket in the November general election against either Carriero or MacNeill — whichever one wins the Democratic primary on Thursday, September 10th.)

Consider this.  The DA is the chief law enforcement officer for the county.  He (or she) must work smoothly and successfully with the state police, Homeland Security (border patrol), village police, municipal courts, county courts, probation department, county sheriff, various health agencies, the media, and any number of state & federal agencies.

Think of the DA as the coach of an athletic team.  A football team, let’s say.  A coach who has to inspire his players, a coach skilled in strategy, with a grasp of the overall picture — the strengths and weaknesses of the numerous teams they will be playing during the football season.  A coach who can orchestrate and coordinate the game, drawing on the skills of everyone on the team without alienating or discouraging his players.

Such are the skills we expect from our district attorney.  Who demonstrates these skills most clearly, MacNeill or Carriero?  (I address Thursday’s Democratic primary, only, not the November general election which will include Peter Dumas.)  For the answer, speak to the Malone Village Police.  State Police.  Homeland Security.  Probation Department.  People who work in the courthouse.  And the municipal judges.
.

.
Consider this advice from Bill Walsh, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers and, before that, the Stanford University football team.  The ideal coach, says Walsh, must “condition the athletes’ minds and . . . train them to think as a unit, while at the same time making sure each athlete approaches his own game with total concentration, intensity, and skill.”

Walsh continues:

Those teams that have been most successful are the ones that have demonstrated the greatest commitment to their people [players]. They are the [teams] that have created the greatest sense of belonging. . . . The coach must account for his ego. He has to drop or sidestep the ego barrier so that people can communicate without fear. They have to be comfortable that they will not be ridiculed if they turn out to be mistaken or if their ideas are not directly in line with their superior’s. That is where the breakthrough comes. . . . A successful, winning organization . . . starts with the expectations the head coach sets. It is part of the job to expect everyone in the organization to be an expert in his or her particular area of responsibility, to refine their skills continually. . . . The head coach has to make it clear that he expects everyone to participate and volunteer his or her thoughts, impressions, and ideas. The goal is to create a communication channel that allows important information to get from the bottom to the top.

— Harvard Business Review

.
I have talked to the Malone police. I have talked to a judge in the Malone municipal court. They tell me Assistant DA Craig Carriero fits the above criteria perfectly. They support him for district attorney. He has as well the support of many in the Franklin County Probation Department and widespread support among the state police.
.

Richard Matt, R.I.P.

In my conversation with him, Craig made an interesting distinction among lawbreakers.  (I prefer the old-fashioned name for lawbreakers, “scofflaws.”  People who arrogantly and callously “scoff at” — “blow off” — the law.)  There are, he says, the hard-core criminals who seem impervious to any kind of incentive or, for that matter, punishment. (Remember Matt & Sweat?)  Frankly, the only realistic solution for this crowd is removal from society (incarceration), in the hope they will, someday, simply get too old to continue inflicting their insanity on the rest of us.

The other group is redeemable, if given the proper coaching. These are the ones who don’t really want to keep screwing up, yet seem lost in a dizzying vortex of destructive behavior. They need firm, steady guidance — mentoring — to navigate their way out of the hellhole of their lives.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, by Portia Nelson

#1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

#2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

#3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

#4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

#5

I walk down another street. 

.
The Franklin County Adult Treatment Court Team was set up to respond to the sinner who keeps falling into that hole in the sidewalk.  (Yeah, I’m dusting off that evocative 17th-century word “sinner,” though in this case the sin is committed against oneself and society — and maybe against God, too.  Despite my name, I try to stay out of theology.)  Craig represents the DA’s office on the recovery team.  He tells me they often succeed at reclaiming broken lives. I quote from his resume:  The team’s “responsibilities include attendance at weekly meetings and court appearances, working and consulting with representatives from numerous county agencies in developing treatment plans for defendants convicted of crimes resulting from addiction to alcohol, controlled substances, narcotics, prescription medications or other illegal substances.”

.
Craig says he’d like to see the DA’s office involved in more restorative and rehabilitation projects, showing lost souls that they can in fact “walk down another street.”

All in all, the old football star is an impressive candidate.  Smart, tough, experienced, creative — and a bum hand that now straps shin-guards on a little guy wearing a jersey with “Carriero” stenciled on the back.
.

.
If you’re a registered Democrat, I urge you to vote for him at the primary election this Thursday (September 10th) from 12 noon to 9 PM.