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Chester County DA Candidates Talk Tough on Crime

Democrat Chris de Barrena-Sarobe and Republican Ryan Hyde, both former prosecutors, have earned their parties’ endorsements for Chester County district attorney.

Democrat de Barrena-Sarobe is a career prosecutor, first in the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and then for the Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Wilmington, Del. He spent his childhood in Sacramento and came to the area to attend law school at Temple University.

Hyde’s background is more varied. Hyde grew up in Arizona and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before attending law school at Villanova. In addition to his law degree, Hyde holds an MBA.

Ryan Hyde

“In the last few years, you’ve seen crime in Philadelphia starting to creep out more and more into the counties. And it’s not just Philadelphia; it’s Wilmington,” Hyde said. “I talked to a narcotics (officer) the other day in Kennett Square, who told me most of the drugs in the lower part of the county are now coming up through Wilmington. And I know a lot of stuff is coming through Baltimore.”

“And to be honest with you, the reason I even toyed with this idea (of running) is because I have a daughter, and I don’t want her growing up with all these problems.”

Hyde, now in practice at Hyde Tebay in Exton as a defense lawyer, was formerly a deputy assistant DA in Bucks County.

“We have to get back to when criminals didn’t come to Chester County because they were afraid of it, frankly. Because we took a very hard stance on crime,” Hyde said.

Chris de Barrena-Sarobe

Chester County Republican Chair Raffi Terzian said, “Mr. Hyde is an experienced attorney with substantial experience as a Deputy District Attorney. At the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, he led investigations and prosecutions of high-profile drug, theft, and corruption cases.”

“I want to raise my daughter in a safe community, and I’m afraid that’s slipping by every day,” Hyde said. “It’s getting worse.”

Hyde lives in Chester Springs with his wife, Kristen, and 7-year-old daughter.

De Barrena-Sarobe resides in Willistown with his wife, Christa, and two daughters, ages 6 and 8.

He had to quit his federal prosecution job to run for office and is working at Bellwoar Kelly, LLP in West Chester.

“When I realized there was an opening at the DA’s office, I thought that it was the next thing that I could do to really help the community I live in,” he said.

He hopes to bring his experience as a federal prosecutor and deputy DA to Chester County. Asked if crime is increasing in Chester County, de Barrena-Sarobe said, “It’s hard to tell because we don’t get real-time stats, and this is one of the things I’d like to work toward building.”

“But if you look at studies, crime is down across the board,” said de Barrena-Sarobe. “I don’t think there’s been a homicide in Chester County all year…My perception is there is no significant change in crime in Chester County.”

“My priorities would be to make sure that resources and funding for investigations and programs to protect children remain in place,” he said. “The DA’s office has an amazing child abuse unit and detectives that I worked with before when I was at the DA’s office from 2009 to 2015. I want to make sure protecting children remains a top priority.”

He would also prioritize gun crime and investigate straw purchases “to prevent guns from falling into the hands of violent criminals.” He did that work as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wilmington. He also wants to invest in technology and programs to bring police and communities together and expand programs to treat addiction and mental illness. One program teaches teenagers how to act if they are in a car stopped by police, he said.

He also successfully prosecuted Delaware’s first fentanyl overdose death case after a trial. The defendant sold fentanyl-laced drugs, which killed a young woman.

“I’m the only candidate who’s prosecuted cases in Chester County,” said de Barrena-Sarobe.

Charlotte Valyo, Chester County Democratic Committee chair, echoed that.

“The Chester County Democratic Committee is proud to endorse Chris de Barrena-Sarobe for Chester County District Attorney. de Barrena-Sarobe is by far the most experienced candidate in the race with 13 years of prosecutorial experience both at the federal level and in Chester County,” she said.

Hyde wants to draw from his private-sector experience to improve the public service of the DA’s office. For example, he wants satellite DA offices to work with the police in high-crime areas. He would also like to see district court judges low-level hand crimes where defendants will be sentenced to probation, saving money and freeing up the criminal court docket for Common Pleas judges. Another idea is to start programs for young people in trouble to help them get back on track.

“I have a background in accounting and finance,” he added. “But I also did a lot of drug cases. And I had one of the first homicides by vehicles under the statute when it was formed. I was described as a creative prosecutor because I was willing to work with police officers (about) whether to charge somebody. We made iron-clad criminal complaints and indictments together.”

Hyde says the number of drug overdoses “terrifies me,” and he doesn’t support drug legalization. Instead, he says, his strategy will be “to educate people that this stuff is going on, even in Chester County.”

And, Hyde says, it’s time for a change.

“I think the Democratic Party has tried to take away law enforcement’s power to do good,” said Hyde. “You have to hold people accountable, and we’re getting away from that as a country. I think we need to get back to that, especially with law enforcement.”


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Chester Co. DA Deb Ryan Runs For Common Pleas Court Judge

From a press release

After dedicating her entire career to public service, Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan announced her candidacy for judge in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

“Serving as the Chester County District Attorney has been one of the greatest honors of my career. Since taking office, I have been dedicated to the mission of keeping our communities safe and doing everything in my power as DA to effectuate justice fairly. Now I look forward to the opportunity to serve the county as a fair and impartial jurist committed to the integrity of the courts, the protection of individual rights, and the due process of law,” Ryan said.

Ryan began her career as a prosecutor in 1998, working as an assistant district attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Since 2006, she has served as a prosecutor in the Chester County District Attorney’s Office (DAO), handling thousands of cases, including many high-profile matters, such as homicides, sexual assaults, child abuse, domestic violence, gun violence, high-level drug trafficking, and white-collar cases.

She was appointed Deputy District Attorney in charge of the Child Abuse Unit in 2013, overseeing all child sexual and physical abuse cases. She was awarded the Chester County Prosecutor of the Year in 2014 for her work with child abuse cases and her positive collaboration with law enforcement.

Ryan has also worked at several nonprofit agencies dedicated to protecting and advancing children, including serving as the county coordinator for the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative at the Crime Victims’ Center. This was the first comprehensive, evidence-based program in Chester County committed to eradicating child sexual abuse through prevention and education programs for children and adults.

In 2019, Ryan made history in Chester County after being elected as the first woman and first Democrat to serve as District Attorney.

“As a result of working smart on crime, I am proud to report that crime in Chester County has decreased by over 10 percent in the past three years. My office has implemented necessary reforms that address critical changes in the criminal justice system, such as combatting the drug epidemic by helping those with substance use disorders while prosecuting the high-level drug traffickers who bring this poison into our community,” she said.

“Under my direction, the Chester County DA’s Office has expanded eligibility into our treatment courts; we have one of the country’s most robust mental health courts. My office has increased our efforts to investigate and prosecute the most serious offenders, like our child predators, murderers, gun traffickers, and others who hurt our county’s most vulnerable victims. Most importantly, as DA, I place victims first, treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Ryan said.

Since taking office in January 2020, the DAO has successfully apprehended and prosecuted some of the most serious cases in the county’s history. Working in collaboration with over 50 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, OAG, municipal police departments, the Pennsylvania state police, and others, the DOA has dismantled a human sex trafficking organization. These convicted defendants committed grisly murders of domestic partners and strangers and prosecuted child abusers at a rate unlike before.

Since taking office in 2020, the DAO has increased the number of prevention and education programming for law enforcement, students, and adults throughout the county focusing on child sexual abuse prevention, internet safety, substance use disorders, crime scene forensics, treatment courts, juvenile justice, school safety and security, and elder abuse. Ryan created the Chester County Law Enforcement Task Force on Race & Justice to improve relationships between communities of color and law enforcement.

The task force has engaged with hundreds of students and adults around the county through workshops, town halls, and symposiums to discuss our criminal justice system and ways to do better in the community. Working with Attorney General (now governor-elect) Josh Shapiro, Ryan implemented the Chester County Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative (LETI). LETI provides help to those with substance use disorders to get access to free treatment. The program’s goal is to help save lives, reduce recidivism, and destigmatize those suffering from substance use disorders.

The program has already aided dozens of people battling this epidemic through partnerships with law enforcement. Ryan has increased the accessibility of Youth Aid Panels in the county, allowing juvenile offenders second chances instead of earning a record that will hinder them for the rest of their lives. Among the many boards she serves, she is a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, PA District Attorney’s Association, Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA, Chester County Prison Board, Chester County Hero Fund, and the Chester County School Safety and Security Task Force. Ryan won the Guardian of Victims’ Rights Award in 2020 and was a Power Woman of the Main Line and West Suburbs recipient in 2021.

After graduating from Boston University, magna cum laude, in 1993, Ryan earned her law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1998. She has resided in Chester County for over 20 years, where she raised her two children.

“For most of my career, I have been in a courtroom, seeking justice for those most vulnerable. I have been collaborative with victims, law enforcement, judges, defense attorneys, school administrators, mental health agencies, nonprofits, drug and alcohol treatment providers, community residents, and others,” Ryan said. “If elected judge on the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, I will make reasoned decisions for just outcomes by demonstrating dignity and respect to all who appear before me. I will listen to all sides thoughtfully, comprehensively, and without bias. And I will continue to implement the democratic values of fairness and equal justice under the law.”