2012-07-28 / Top News

J. Stuart Spencer, Fred Feleppa Are Candidates for County Prosecutor

Mackinac County Primary Election August 7
By Martha Stuit

J. Stuart Spencer J. Stuart Spencer The 2012 primary election will take place Tuesday, August 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

J. Stuart Spencer and incumbent Fred Feleppa are running for county prosecutor, a fouryear term.

Ivan Wilde and incumbent Scott Strait are running for county sheriff, a four-year term.

Bill Wagner and incumbent Frank Luepnitz are running for a Mackinac County Road Commission commissioner position, a six-year term.

All Mackinac County Board of Commissioner terms expire this year, and all candidates are all running unopposed for twoyear terms. These individuals include Jim Hill, Republican for District 1; Mary Lynn Swiderski, a Republican for District 2; David Sudol, a Democrat for District 3; Diane Patrick, a Republican for District 4; and Calvin McPhee, a Democrat for District 5. Mr. Hill, Mrs. Patrick, and Mr. McPhee are incumbents.

Prosecutor Candidates

Fred Feleppa Fred Feleppa Two candidates are running for one prosecutor position. Terms are for four years.

J. Stuart Spencer

Firm, fair, and consistent are the words that county prosecutor candidate Stuart Spencer, a Republican, uses to describe himself and his approach to law.

“My entire background is criminal justice,” said Mr. Spencer, who has been the Mackinac County Public Defender for 21 years.

His goal is to apply accurate charges to cases according to each specific situation, which will result in settling most of the cases outside of trial and reducing the number of cases that do go to trial.

“Most cases do not need to go to trial,” said Mr. Spencer. In his assessment, involved parties can often come to a resolution outside of a trial when the charges to the defendant are in agreement with the circumstances.

Mr. Spencer said that the law system, from the police to the prosecutor to the judge to the court staff, is like a geared machine. When a tooth is missing in the gears, the mechanism cannot run. Mr. Spencer views the prosecutor’s office as a cog that is not working as it should because there are too many trials that go to court and do not end in convictions.

Additionally, Mr. Spencer plans to change how the prosecutor’s office applies charges to defendants. He is concerned about overcharging, meaning that charges include what might have happened. Mr. Spencer said he will apply charges to a case only according to what he can prove happened.

“You can’t let your own bias of the person inflate the charges or cause you to charge the person incorrectly. You have to look yourself in the mirror and say, can I do this with a clear conscience?” Mr. Spencer said.

Mr. Spencer is a member of the Sobriety Court board, which counsels, tests, monitors probation, and gives sanctions to the participating alcohol and substance abusers. The board meets every two weeks to review the drug test results and behavior of the offenders.

“The defendants are eventually going to get out, and you don’t want them coming back and reoffending,” Mr. Spencer said.

His approach to the county prosecutor position would consist of both finding justice for the victims and treating the defendant fairly so that the defendant does not become a repeat offender.

Particularly, Mr. Spencer takes an interest in tethering to rehabilitate alcohol and substance abusers. Tethers range from ankle bracelets to car ignition breathalyzers. This technology reveals right away if an individual has violated their curfew, or even consumed alcohol.

“We need to improve the health of society,” said Mr. Spencer, and he views tethering as a solution to keeping the offenders accountable.

One project that he would like to see is the development of a mental health court in Mackinac County, similar to the sobriety court. With budget restrictions, mental health cases turn into criminal cases because the court cannot monitor whether the offenders take their medication, said Mr. Spencer.

Mr. Spencer received his Juris Doctorate from Cooley Law School in Lansing in 1991. He then worked in private practice for six months before becoming the Mackinac County public defender. Mr. Spencer owns his firm, Spencer Law, and he opened Lighthouse Ice Cream with his family this year.

Mr. Spencer serves as a board member for the Child Protection Roundtable. He is a member of the Hessel Presbyterian Church, trustee and treasurer of the Les Cheneaux school board, and member of the Clark Township Sewer Advisory Committee.

Mr. Spencer has been married to his wife, Deana, for 24 years, and they have two daughters, Meghan, 19, and Gretchen, 16. He named his main interest as his family, and he enjoys sailing, kayaking, and racing sailboats with them. He and his family live in Cedarville.

Fred Feleppa

Fred Feleppa, a Republican, views victim services as his most important responsibility. Of his time in office, Mr. Feleppa said, “We’ve focused on the needs of the victim.”

To effectively serve the victims, he believes that following protocol is essential. For example, proper protocol for Mr. Feleppa in child abuse cases means making sure that the police, Department of Human Services (DHS) workers, and prosecutor’s office employees communicate and attend victim interviews so that each department receives the information they need for cases. Improper protocol could be, for example, interviewing victims twice and possibly subjecting them to more trauma by making them recount their story multiple times.

Mr. Feleppa’s goal is to renew and update the child abuse protocol for Mackinac County with partner agencies. Police lieutenants, police chiefs, sheriffs, and DHS employees would sign a compliance document outlining their responsibilities for responding to a situation, interacting with child victims, and documenting the case. Mr. Feleppa said that it has been 10 years since these agencies have committed to a procedure and that newer officials also need to be included. Nine times out of 10, the practice runs correctly, he said, but he wants all 10 times to be right.

In addition to victim protocol, Mr. Feleppa relies on experience to handle individual situations. He said that he strives to understand his community better. His prior interactions with victims in Mackinac County have given him a sense of how to provide relevant information to Mackinac County residents.

He considers trials to be a way to make the community safer and keep county staff adept with trial procedures.

“I know in the past four years, we’ve taken more cases to trial than we had in the four years before, and that both improves our ability as attorneys to present a case the more we’ve done that, and it improves an officers ability to see what’s important when investigating a crime,” said Mr. Feleppa.

So far this year, Mr. Feleppa and his staff have taken four cases to trial when, in past years, Mr. Feleppa said that one to two cases went to trial. After 16 years in the prosecutor’s office, Mr. Feleppa said he knows the right results for trials.

In addition to sending cases to trial, Mr. Feleppa said, “A top priority would be responding to general budget cuts.”

Through a grant that Mr. Feleppa wrote, his office has instituted a paperless filing system in which documents are scanned into a highly secured server, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced paper costs, explained Mr. Feleppa. As prosecutor, Mr. Feleppa has assisted the prosecutor’s office in reducing the size of staff, from five employees to four, through voluntary retirement and redistribution of duties within other courthouse agencies.

Mr. Feleppa received his Juris Doctorate from Ohio Northern University in 1995 and was admitted to the state bar in 1996. He was hired as Mackinac County assistant prosecutor in August 1996, a position he kept for 10 years. In 2006, he was appointed to a two-year partial term as county prosecutor, and in 2008, he was elected to a four-year elected term for county prosecutor.

Mr. Feleppa participates in Sobriety Court board meetings to rehabilitate substance abusers and alcoholics. He also serves as a volunteer firefighter, an EMT volunteer with Allied EMS, and a member of the board of directors of St. Ignace Kiwanis Club. He belongs to Zion Lutheran Church in St. Ignace and was appointed to sit on the board of Hiawatha Behavioral Health, a regional community mental health association.

Mr. Feleppa grew up in Iron Mountain. He and his wife, Sandy have been married 12 years and live in St. Ignace. The couple has two children, Emma, 10, and Josh, 7. He considers himself an outdoorsman and enjoys canoeing, hunting with his daughter, maintaining his beehives, and making maple syrup.

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