MADERA COUNTY – District Attorney Michael Keitz has announced his plans to seek another four-year term.
Keitz says he is optimistic about the future, although the recent recession, countywide budget cutbacks, and the early release of inmates through prison realignment has brought unprecedented challenges to his office.
“Crime did not go down during the recent economic recession, in fact, it went up significantly,” he says. “In this time of ever increasing serious crime, my experience and track record make me uniquely qualified to serve as the District Attorney and seek justice for the people of Madera County.”
Keitz first started his career in law enforcement when he became a Madera County volunteer reserve deputy sheriff in 1980.
“That’s a very valuable perspective to have when you are a prosecutor,” says Keitz. “To see crime first hand and know what law enforcement is faced with everyday.”
In 1992, Keitz began his career as a deputy district attorney in Madera County, and was appointed District Attorney by the Board of Supervisors in January 2009. He was then elected to the office in 2010.
Keitz says beefing up the homicide and a gang prosecution team is a major priority, and that drug abuse continues to drive up the crime rate.
“70 percent of all crime is drug related,” he says. “Combating the drug environment is a difficult challenge, particularly when, thanks to prison realignment, state prison time isn’t an option, and drug treatment programs are so limited.”
Keitz says he is proud of the staff at the DA’s office, and credits them with achieving successful prosecutions for violent felonies like domestic violence, sexual assault, animal abusers and DUIs, while working with a very limited budget and short staffing.
“I started as the DA at a time when budgets were very tight and this particular office has always been understaffed for attorneys, clerical staff and investigators,” says Keitz. “All things considered I think we are doing pretty well with the just over $4 million budget we have to work with.
“I am very grateful for the people I have in my office and attribute our wonderful successes to them. Many of them work 50 to 60 hours a week and many come in on weekends because their case load is so high.“
Keitz said the office’s diligence in prosecuting cases shows. “In my first year as DA in 2009, this office conducted 26 jury trials. In 2013, we did 60.”
However, he says the number of homicides, violent crimes and gang crimes are also up, with 20 pending homicide cases at present. “I don’t recall having this many homicides outstanding during all the years I have been in the office.”
Keitz declined to address his “frequent and opinionated critics,” saying they are politically motivated and it isn’t productive.
“It is easy for people to spout off when they are less than fully informed, don’t know the law, and are not the ones having to make decisions considering the limitations under which I have to run the District Attorney’s office,” he says.
As to the lawsuits against the District Attorney’s Office, Keitz says, “Many public offices and officials are sued in our litigious society. That’s why public agencies, including Madera County, carry liability insurance. Other Madera County departments have been sued as well, and there are suits pending even now.”
Keitz is proud of the work he and the DA’s office have done over his past term, and is confident they will accomplish even more in the next.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Madera County.” Keitz says. “I am looking forward to serving another four years, seeking justice with truth and integrity.”
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