|Get to know Pennington County's new top prosecutor|
|Friday, 18 January 2013 16:08|
Officially Mark Vargo's four year term as Pennington County State's Attorney started January 7th. But after winning the Republican primary in June he's been putting in months of work shadowing various positions in the county's criminal justice system. And THAT was only possible after being sworn in as an Assistant Attorney General by South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Vargo says, "The idea was, normally if I was going to shadow a normal criminal investigation, there would be all sorts of barriers that would have to be up to comply with the statute, or for privacy purposes. As an Assistant Attorney General, those fall down and I can actually work on cases." So, in those months Vargo has worked with a number of different offices and even lent his expertise to the case of Michael Youngwho allegedly fatally stabbed a woman in a Rapid City Wal-Mart parking lot last year. Since being sworn in as State's Attorney last week he felt some change was necessary in the office. Rather than both new attorneys and veteran attorneys sharing a combination of misdemeanor and felony cases he felt the types of cases handled by his staff needed to be assigned based on experience. Vargo says, "I felt that that meant the misdemeanor attorneys, who are usually younger, less experienced attorneys were being presented with cases they might not be ready for. And the felony attorneys who are handling more serious cases were being assigned to cover misdemeanors, which meant they didn't necessarily have the time that they should to put into those more difficult, more complex felony cases." And that's not the only change he's imposing to the county's judicial process. As South Dakota lawmakers decide whether or not to overhaul the state's criminal justice system. Vargo and the Pennington County Sheriff's Office are preparing to implement what they call a 'low-level offender dispositional scheme.' He says that new process is aimed at getting low level, non-violent cases resolved in a matter of days or even hours after an arrest. Vargo says, "So, we're trying to be more active, in the same idea as Senate Bill 70, in getting rid of the cases that don't require a great deal of resources, so we have the time and effort to be able to put into more serious cases." All in all it seems Mark Vargo is reorganizing his office in hopes to operate more efficiently with the resources at its disposal and he says he looks forward to upholding his public duty of diligence in his time as Pennington County State's Attorney.