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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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DelVal Reacts to Former President Trump Indictment

Tuesday marked a first in American politics and criminal justice: Donald Trump is now the first former U.S. president to be indicted on criminal charges.

He pleaded not guilty to a 34-count felony indictment of falsifying records for a $130,000 hush money payment to former pron actress Stormy Daniels. Shortly after the 45-minute hearing, Trump flew back to Florida and was expected to give a speech from his Mar-a-Lago home Tuesday evening.

As he has since he first ran for president in 2015, Trump drew praise from admirers and scorn from critics. But the larger implications for the country also weighed on people’s minds.

Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications, believes people will rally to Trump’s cause.

“In the short term, it’s certainly going to boost President Trump’s ratings,” said Gerow. “Not only in Pennsylvania but across the country, particularly among Republicans. People that weren’t necessarily big Donald Trump fans will become big Donald Trump defenders because they realize how outrageous this is.”

Gerow added, “Look, every Republican in the state is going to be asked what they think about this, and virtually to a person, they’re going to say it’s outrageous. President Trump is being treated unfairly. And that benefits him. He’s the subject of all the conversation, and among Republicans, it’s going to be virtually unanimously positive.”

Philadelphia election lawyer Linda Kerns said, “Note the symmetry of Trump’s quick return to the free state of Florida with the growing number of Americans who are leaving Northeastern cities, like Philadelphia and New York, to escape the disastrous policies of progressives. Rather than prosecuting violent career criminals, District Attorney (Alvin) Bragg routinely sets them free to terrorize New Yorkers. Now he used the grand jury as his pawn to fulfill a campaign promise to attempt to delegitimize President Trump.

“Today proves the Democratic Party has no interest in the safety of Americans and remains tactically terrified that, given the state of our nation, it cannot prevail in a presidential election without using political theatrics to undermine the opposition,” Kerns said.

Ryan Hyde, a Republican candidate for Chester County DA, said, “I’m very disappointed in the Manhattan DA. I don’t believe in prosecuting people who have left the office for political stuff. And the reason I say that is that’s what happens in Third World countries to keep dictators in power.”

With this prosecution, the country has embarked on “a slippery slope” that could lead to the prosecution of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Bidens, Obama, and others, he said.

“You see that in Latin America. When somebody gets out of office, the other party gets in, and they prosecute him. Everything they’re accusing Trump of their side has done as well. It’s a dangerous precedent,” said Hyde.

Gerow said, “This New York DA is out of his mind. He really is. This is just a brazen political move on his part, and I believe and hope it will backfire.”

“It’s horrible, and frankly, every American, regardless of your political persuasion or your opinion of Donald Trump, out to be frightened by this. It’s a scary proposition that they can just go after anybody, cobbling together these flimsy legal arguments to make a presumed misdemeanor into a felony charge,” said Gerow.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) tweeted, “No one should be above the law. Today proved that Mr. Trump was a president of many firsts — none of which were good for our country. His arraignment is another first—all of his own making. An immoral man. Corrupt citizen. Twice-impeached former president.”

Conservative pundit, lawyer, and frequent DVJournal contributor Christine Flowers tweeted, “To those who say ‘no one is above the law,’ I agree. I am a staunch supporter of applying the law equally to kings and commoners. However, I don’t believe this prosecution is anything more than a campaign promise fulfilled by a man who abused prosecutorial discretion.

“Far from being ‘above the law,’ Trump is, in this case, being subjected to prosecution not because of what he allegedly did, but because of who he is perceived to be by a large portion of this electorate. Any attorney, or voter, who claims the opposite is not being honest.”

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) said, “There is nothing unprecedented about a grand jury handing down charges in an indictment of a public official when presented with evidence of criminal conduct. That is how our criminal justice system works. What is unprecedented is a former president of the United States engaging in conduct that invites an indictment on 34 criminal counts. 

“We must swiftly reject any attempt to excuse such conduct and denounce all acts of violence, incitements to violence, and attacks on our justice system. Like all Americans, former President Trump is entitled to all protections guaranteed by our Constitution. We must allow our justice system to proceed free from political interference and unite as a community behind the fundamental American principle that no one is above the law,” she said. 

Delaware County GOP Chairman Frank Agovino said, “The Democrats will disingenuously affiliate President Trump’s troubles with local candidates. Just as they will falsely accuse our candidates of being extreme on abortion when nothing can be further from the truth. The reality is our locally elected Democrats and their current candidates share a radicalized view of abortion desiring to make full term abortions legal for any reason. Simply put, they are the extremist.

“I would caution voters from both parties to see through the political fog, and hold Democrats accountable to local issues that matter, fiscal instability, rising crime, record property taxes increases, and misguided priorities. National chaos, while distracting, has very little to do with a brighter future for Delaware County,” he said.

Asked if Republican district attorneys will now go after Democrats, including former presidents, who may have committed crimes, Gerow believes that will now happen.

“They’ve opened Pandora’s box,” said Gerow. “And I fear for the repercussions and ramifications of this…Some Republican district attorney somewhere is going to say, ‘Hunter Biden, and Biden’s brother and Biden himself and Hillary and everyone else, we’re going to figure out a way to go after them.’ It’s the weaponization of the criminal justice system, and it’s terrible and has incredibly bad potentialities.”

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