Luzerne County Prosecutors Overloaded By Cases

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WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County’s top prosecutor told Newswatch 16 that her office is working on more violent and time-consuming cases with less county funding and a staffing shortage.

District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis made her case for more funding at Luzerne County Council’s annual report, which is required by the new home-rule charter.

According to Salavantis, staff members in the District Attorney’s office handled 400 more criminal cases in 2012 than the previous year, while working with cuts to the operating budget and losing five assistant district attorneys through attrition.

“They call it a triage unit here. We have so many cases that are coming through and so little time to handle these cases,” said Salavantis. “One day there will be a mistake and that`s why I'm here trying to let council know, let the county manager know that we need the help to make sure that mistake doesn't occur.”

Salavantis said assistant district attorneys and county detectives are also bogged down with cases of rumors and threats spread through cell phone text messages and online social media, which can take weeks of interviews and subpoenas to resolve or prosecute.

“For each case, you have to imagine hours upon hours that are put into finding that information and making sure that everything is covered before charges are filed,” said Salavantis.

The District Attorney is urging Luzerne County council members and County Manager Robert Lawton to restore funding and staffing.