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Bannock County deputy prosecutor in charge of special victims cases launches campaign for chief position

Erin Tognetti | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com
POCATELLO — After three years as Bannock County’s deputy prosecuting attorney handling child sex crime cases, Erin Tognetti has announced her candidacy for county prosecutor.
Tognetti, who was hired by current Bannock County Prosecutor Stephen Herzog in April 2021, was quickly put in charge of the cases involving sex crimes against children. She has served “the most vulnerable of victims” by creating open lines of communication with those victims and pushing for just penalties for their attackers.
“Because I’ve worked in victim cases since I’ve been here, I feel very strongly about the way that those cases need to be handled and the way that we need to communicate with our victims. That is something that I would want to ensure is happening all the time,” Tognetti told EastIdahoNews.com. “I think a very victim-focused office is important. … Victims of crime deserve our support.”
Tognetti will be on the May 21 primary ballot, running as a Republican.
She told EastIdahoNews.com Herzog informed his deputies he would not be running for re-election. EastIdahoNews.com requested confirmation and a comment from Herzog, who has held the office since 2012, but did not receive a response.

Erin Tognetti sits next to current chief county prosecutor Stephen Herzog and fellow deputy prosecutor JaNiece Price. | Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com
Law is a “second career” for Tognetti, who previously worked in broadcast television market research. She decided to pursue her passion after 10 years in her previous role. As a wife and mother of two, Tognetti attended law school at night.
She started her law career as a civil attorney, but later accepted a position with the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office.
“Once I became a prosecutor, it was something that I really loved,” Tognetti said. “I feel so passionate about it because we have such an immense obligation to the community.”
Tognetti believes she has developed a reputation among defense attorneys as a prosecutor who is not afraid to go to trial.
In cases like those she handles, Tognetti said, some defense attorneys will push for a lenient deal knowing the prosecutor is trying to avoid putting the victim on the stand — especially when the victim is a child. If the victim is willing and able to take the stand, she will work with the victim to make sure they are comfortable doing so and put them there, in front of the defendant, jury, judge and gallery. Sometimes, she added, victims are empowered by the act of taking the stand, telling their story and identifying their attacker.
“Not in this county — you are not going to get a slap on the wrist if you hurt a child,” she said adding her goal is to make the entire community safer by making sure people know they will not receive “a slap on the wrist” for any crimes.
There are times, Tognetti added, when a plea deal is the best option while fulfilling her “ethical obligation” to the victims.
If she can get a just punishment without putting the victim on the stand, she will do so. And those opportunities have presented themselves more recently as her reputation as a prosecutor unafraid of trial has grown.
Along the same lines, Tognetti said part of her duties as a prosecutor is distinguishing when leniency is necessary, when rehabilitation is more important than punishment.
One example she offered is rape cases where the victim is 15 and defendant is 19. By Idaho code, even if the sex was consensual and the sexual relationship began when the defendant was 18, if found guilty of rape the defendant would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life.
That, Tognetti believes, is not what was intended with the creation of the sex offender registry and is a situation in which she would look for a plea deal fitting the circumstances.
“If you’re a young person, we’re going to handle you differently,” she said.
No matter the situation, Tognetti added, the victim and victim’s family remain part of the decision-making process throughout proceedings and is consulted when considering any deal.
“I’m willing to fight,” she said, adding her willingness to do so, combined with the passion she has for her duties, is something she believes could serve the entire community and help “elevate the office” if she is elected.
Tognetti’s role as the voice of child victims is one she has grown to truly appreciate — and would consider continuing even if she were elected as county prosecutor.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “In fact, I think, even as the elected, I’ll probably still keep all of the most difficult ones.”
Asked if there are any specific changes she would push for within the office if elected, Tognetti said she has already began attempting to affect change.
Across the state, she said, prosecutors offices are short-staffed. So, she has used what little free time she has to make trips to Boise, taking part in prosecutor panels and speaking to students at the University of Idaho’s School of Law satellite campus.
During those trips, she informs aspiring attorneys of what makes the job of a prosecutor “the greatest job in the world.”
The deadline for county elections filings was Friday. EastIdahoNews.com will compile a complete list of eastern Idaho candidates for all races — including Bannock County prosecutor next week.
The post Bannock County deputy prosecutor in charge of special victims cases launches campaign for chief position appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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