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2016 Election: St. Croix County District Attorney

Michael Nieskes and Sarah Yacoub vie for the St. Croix County District Attorney's seat.

With the 2016 Fall Election slated for Tuesday, Nov. 8, we here at the New Richmond News are providing profiles of the candidates running for office.

In addition to the St. Croix County District Attorney candidate profiles below, you can follow the links for the 7th Congressional District here; the 29th Assembly District here; the St. Croix County District attorney's race (View forum here)and the 28th Assembly District here ...

The following is a look at each of the district attorney candidates:

Sarah YacoubSarah Yacoub

Age: 32

Address: 81 Lockwood Court, Hudson

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Bachelors of Science Biopsychology, University of California Santa Barbara; Juris Doctorate, Southwestern Law School

Family: Husband, Essa Yacoub; six kids, ages 8 months to 12

Civic involvement: Hudson Area Goliath Mobile Pack (Feed My Starving Children) Committee; Volunteer Attorney for Free Legal Clinic, St. Croix County Bar Association

Q. Why are you more qualified than your opponent to be St. Croix County’s district attorney?

A. I am the only candidate who has worked both as a prosecutor and a public defender. I understand the need for a District Attorney who is both tough and smart on crime. My opponent treats domestic violence like a traffic ticket and believes that all 17 year olds charged with a crime should be in adult jails with adult criminals. While admittedly my opponent has more managerial experience, our past two District Attorneys began their service with little to no managerial experience. One is now a judge. The other served for 27 years as our District Attorney.

Q. What do you see as the biggest issue facing St. Croix County’s criminal justice system? What would you do about it as DA?

A. Hands down, drugs, more specifically, methamphetamine. Whether it is the children who are exposed to it or those who are battling addiction who find themselves desperate enough to commit crimes to support their addiction, drugs are the root of so much erosion of healthy family life within our community. My opponent supports Drug Court in name only and only allows participation once someone is bad enough to go to prison. As District Attorney, we will have a Juvenile Drug Court and a Low Risk Track. Drug Court is cheaper than incarceration and better at getting people on the right path.

Q. What principles guide your decision-making as a prosecutor? Explain.

A. The pursuit of truth, justice and a resolution that brings a sense of justice, protection and closure to the victim, as well as that which moves the community forward. My opponent operates as though driven by pride and fear. For example, I had a client who was the victim of road rage and acted in self-defense. My opponent made him prove his innocence at trial, taking him, his family and his small business through the ringer. In the words Potter Stewart, “Integrity is the difference between knowing what you have the right to do and what is right to do.”

Q. Mental illness is a factor in an increasing number of cases in criminal court. How do you see mental health issues shaping prosecution of criminal cases in a system that calls for justice?

A. Mental illness in the criminal justice system gives rise to the need for training and options for resolving cases. Currently, my opponent puts those suffering from issues of mental health in jail. Jail does not fix schizophrenia. As District Attorney, we will work with mental health professionals and law enforcement to resolve cases in such a way that moves individuals forward to reduce future crime. As District Attorney, we will not ask the county to fund a sixth supporting attorney position, which will free up more money for the county to put towards other community needs like mental health resources.

Q. This will be the first time since 1989 that St. Croix County will have a new district attorney. What, if any, changes do you plan on making to the office?

A. St. Croix County has twice the crime as Pierce County but four times the supporting attorneys. As District Attorney, I will cut wasteful spending by not filling attorney positions that become vacant. I will streamline case settlement with pre-filing diversion for qualifying youthful offenders and veterans. CCAP is like Google for the justice system, leaving anyone who is charged with a crime forever marked, making it hard to move on in life. Unlike my opponent, who strongly supports treating all 17 year olds as adults, I believe in holding our veterans and young people accountable but also preserving their future.

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Michael NieskesMichael Nieskes

Age: 61

Address: 5 Patron Blvd., Hudson

Occupation: Deputy District Attorney for the St. Croix District Attorney’s Office

Education: graduated University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1978, DePaul University Law School 1981

Family: Wife, Barbara; two adult children.

Civic involvement: We attend Faith Community Church in Hudson and are members of the Rivercrest missional community, the Hudson Boosters and Hudson Area Backpack Program

Q. Why are you more qualified than your opponent to be St. Croix County district attorney?

A. My qualifications are based upon my 33 years of experience as a prosecutor with 27 years in the state of Wisconsin. My background, judgment, integrity, leadership skills and decision-making all have been demonstrated to the courts, victims and the people I’ve worked with for more than three decades.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the St. Croix County criminal justice system what would you do about it as DA?

A. The continued destruction from people who abuse alcohol and who are addicted to controlled substances is the driving factor for crime in this community. As district attorney I will continue using a measured and tiered approach to those problems giving people the opportunity for rehabilitation, assisting them in finding treatment, and doing diversions to avoid criminal charges in order to give them the opportunity to assist themselves to a better life. The other problem is an erosion of confidence in law-enforcement in many parts of our nation. Fortunately the officers who protect us are supported by the citizens of St. Croix County.

Q. What principles guide your decision-making as a prosecutor?

A. A district attorney must be guided by a search for the truth, and the laws as written by the legislature and based on our constitution. Within those principles, prosecutors must seek to take actions which give justice to victims and protect the community that they are elected to serve. This is done by a combination of rehabilitation, holding individual defendants responsible for their actions and sometimes removing them by incarceration when necessary.

Q. Mental illness is a factor in an increasing number of cases in the criminal court. How do you see mental health issues shaping prosecution of criminal cases in the system that calls for justice?

A. Officers must be trained to recognize problems and to de-escalate situations. If people are arrested, it is the responsibility of all to recognize the problems presented and work to help them. As Racine County District Attorney, I initiated a program where individuals were fast tracked out of jail, to be kept out of the criminal justice system but held responsible for their actions with treatment and medication. The justice system has become the treatment center of last resort for mental health and substance abuse. Access to programming is needed to untangle those with dual diagnoses of substance abuse and mental health.

Q. This will be the first time since 1989 that St. Croix County will have a new district attorney. What, if any, changes do you plan on making to the office?

A. I will continue to handle a daily case assignment. I will make it a priority to continue to mentor and use my experience to help the increasingly younger lawyers handle the complex and difficult litigation. In addition, I believe there are ways to increase efficiency and productivity in the office by the electronic transmittal of discovery and law enforcement reports rather than on a paper copy.

There should be discussions with the judges and their staff to improve scheduling efficiencies.

These are all matters that I have accomplished before and I believe can be done again here in St. Croix County.

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