Harter announces bid for second term as prosecutor

Brent Brown | Daily NewsDecatur County Prosecuting Attorney Nate Harter believes he has delivered on his campaign promises from 2014 and on Saturday formally announced his intent to seek re-election in 2018.

GREENSBURG – Nate Harter made a promise to voters in 2014 that he would be “tough in the courtroom, innovative in the office and engaged in the community.”

Three years later, the Decatur County Prosecuting Attorney said he feels he has made good on his campaign pledges.

And he’s far from finished.

On Saturday, surrounded by friends, family, fellow Republicans and other supporters, Harter formally announced his intent to seek re-election in 2018.

The Tree City native and graduate of Greensburg Community High School and Butler University said his hometown is something “worth protecting and defending” as he outlined his accomplishments and hopes for the future in a special “block party” program organized by his election committee.

Hearkening back to his campaign promises, Harter said he and deputy prosecutors set a new record for the number of jury trials in Decatur County in a single year only seven months into 2017. Harter noted that such a statistic is not always a barometer of “courtroom toughness,” but reasoned that the sheer number of trials shows his office’s willingness “to fight” for justice.

Harter said his office’s hardline stance on crime is exemplified by a push for habitual criminal status for offenders with multiple previous felony convictions, which often tacks on years to prison sentences. Harter said some prosecutors use the enhancement as a bargaining tool, but in Decatur County, state attorneys use it as a means to further punish those who have repeatedly broken the law.

Along with a push for stiffer sentences, Harter said his office is also filing criminal charges at a rate more than 40 percent higher than the average number throughout the last decade.

The prosecutor said an average of about 850 cases were filed annually within the last 10 years. This year, prosecutors are on pace to file approximately 1,400 criminal cases.

The Indiana University Maurer School of Law grad said his staff’s approach has changed as well and would rather meet with defendants and defense attorneys to go over the case instead of offering multiple (ultimately rejected) plea deals.

“We cut to the quick and we move on, either fighting or resolving cases that end in justice,” said Harter.

Changes in the office include the addition of interns who help attorneys with cases while earning educational credits and valuable experience.

The office is also moving to an electronic filing system that will save the county on paper and other office-related costs.

Additionally, Harter said community engagement is taking place via media releases detailing major criminal cases. The prosecutor and his staff are also working to be active community members.

One such project, “Pancakes with Prosecutors,” has taken place in Westport and may eventually move to other small Decatur County communities. The event is a free breakfast prepared by prosecutors who also meet with citizens to hear concerns and answer questions.

Harter was recently tapped by Attorney General Curtis Hill to lead a public safety initiative with the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC). Harter is a member of the IPAC legislative committee and teaching faculty.

Part of the public safety commission’s duties include working toward in-jail treatment programs for substance abuse offenders.

Substance abuse-related crimes are among the most common committed in Decatur County, and Harter said he plans to continue working toward helping those people receive needed treatment.

Harter recently voiced his support for a proposed new Decatur County Jail that he and other officials have said would include a treatment center for offenders battling addiction.

Positive results are not likely to be reached easily, but Harter remains optimistic.

“The evils that plague our community … are daunting obstacles, long in the making and difficult to undo swiftly,” Harter said.

The prosecutor stated his belief that Decatur County is “uniquely positioned” to face these challenges – and to unite against them.

“Together we will build the facilities and resources the criminal justice system needs to hold offenders accountable,” Harter said. “We will continue to show the world that this is a welcoming community and one which protects its people by demanding that we all behave by certain basic rules. I want to be part of rallying this community together, raising our children in safety and love. There is work to be done and much that we can do together.”

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056; brent.brown@greensburgdailynews.com

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