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Taylor takes on Butikofer for Jefferson County Prosecutor

Mark Taylor (left) Paul Butikofer (right)
RIGBY — Incumbent county prosecutor Paul Butikofer is being challenged by former federal prosecutor Mark Taylor.
Butikofer and Taylor are contending for the Republican nomination as voting continues in the May primary. Voters have until June 2 to return their absentee ballots. To learn more about their platforms, sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less. has not received Taylor’s responses. We will update this story when we do.
For more information on Paul Butikofer, visit his Facebook page or website.
For more information on Mark Taylor, visit his Facebook page or website.
Candidate Questiones
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Butikofer: I was born and raised in Rigby and graduated from Rigby High School. I hold a bachelor’s in business from Boise State and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Idaho College of Law. I have over 26 years of experience in criminal, civil, and military law. I have prosecuted for a combined total of over ten years and did defense and private civil work for sixteen years. I have prosecuted or defended criminal cases in Ada, Canyon, Jefferson, Teton, Madison, and Fremont Counties. I also served in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps for six years. I have approximately 20 jury trials to verdict, to include a civil jury trial. I am currently married to my beautiful wife, and together, we have three children and nine grandchildren.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Butikofer: My proudest personal accomplishment is my family. They have been my rock and I could not do it without them. Professionally, my proudest accomplishment has been the establishment and implementation of our Multi-disciplinary Team (MDT). Crimes against children are the most difficult cases we handle. Many of the victims do not come forward until months or years after the abuse and most of the abuse happens behind closed doors. This means that we have to develop a case with little to no physical evidence. The victims are not only suffering from the trauma and grief of the original abuse, but must then go through the stress of criminal proceedings where they have to face their abuser. To help counter this, we utilize our MDT. The MDT is a team consisting of law enforcement, victim advocates, probation officers, and social workers who come together to solve and prosecute child crimes as a team. The differing backgrounds of the team members allows us to work together to develop evidence that would have otherwise been overlooked while ensuring the victims receive the necessary personal support. Nobody “wins” in these cases, but we will continue to work as hard as we can to let the victims know that someone is fighting for them.
Briefly explain your political platform, and/or legislative goals if you are elected to office.
Butikofer: My goal is to promote and preserve community safety while maintaining the integrity of the criminal process. The Rules of Professional Conduct direct a prosecutor to be a “minister of justice,” and not merely an advocate for the State. I must ensure that cases are handled in a professional and ethical manner to safeguard the community as well as the rights of the accused. Prosecutors are constantly faced with difficult decisions where the correct answer may not be obvious. We get cases where there is no doubt that a crime occurred, but I cannot confidently say that the accused was the perpetrator. Political pressure wants its pound of flesh, but a responsible prosecutor will not take that from an innocent man. We also have cases where I am confident that the accused committed the act, but the cases may be unprovable. In those cases, we work with law enforcement to strengthen the case to ensure that prosecution is within the ethical standard before proceeding. My policy has been, and always will be, to follow the ethical rules and let work ethic make up for the rest.
It is also important to remember that Prosecutors do not make the laws. We enforce them. My office plays an important role in advising the County Commissioners and different departments on civil law issues. My goal in this arena is to ensure that they receive timely, competent legal advice at every stage of the process so that their vision can become policy.
What are the greatest challenges facing your county?
Butikofer: The greatest challenge I have recently dealt with is the pressure that the criminal process places on child victims. Many of the defendants we charge with sex crimes demand a preliminary hearing which requires the victim to testify in front of his/her abuser twice: once at the hearing and later at trial. This increased contact with the abusers re-traumatizes the victims and creates an incredible amount of anxiety about the upcoming trial. After numerous phone calls and meeting with the parents or guardians of these children, I decided to request a grand jury for these types of cases. A grand jury is a sealed proceeding where the victim testifies to the grand jury without the defendant present. If the grand jury believes that the victim’s testimony meets the probable cause standard, they will issue an indictment and we proceed to a plea agreement or trial with the victim only having to face the abuser once.
In the civil arena, the greatest challenge facing our county today is unprecedented growth. Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states and Jefferson County is one of the fastest-growing counties. This growth brings new people, business, and opportunities to our community, but it also pressures our infrastructure. The County Commissioners and Planning and Zoning Commission, are working tirelessly to address these issues. My office is aware of the issues identified by the commissioners and we are working with the current officials to ensure they receive timely legal advice at every step of the process.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor?
Butikofer: To quote Ronald Reagan, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” From the beginning, my goal has been to run a clean, positive campaign and I believe that my accomplishments over the last three and a half years show that we are doing very well. Over my twenty-six years of criminal law experience, I have prosecuted or defended all manner of criminal cases all over the State of Idaho. After thousands of hours spent with victims, witnesses, and criminal defendants, I developed a solid understand the human element that goes into the work. I understand the County’s history, people, and future, and know where we have been and where we are going. The position is also as much or more about leadership than anything else. As the elected official, I must manage three other attorneys and support staff. I have to interface and work with the public, supporting agencies and organizations, and different county departments. I could not do this without the wonderful people who work in my office. I have hired quality criminal deputies and Weston Davis, my civil deputy, is second to none. He has saved our county from unnecessary litigation over and over and our County is fortunate to have his experience and efforts. My opponent’s proposal to eliminate Mr. Davis’s position would be detrimental to the County. I hired quality, professional people, and I intent to let them continue to do quality, professional work.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Butikofer: The prosecutor’s job is to do justice and the prosecuting attorney has broad discretion on how to handle cases. We decide who to charge, what charges to bring, what plea agreements to offer, and what sentences to recommend. These decisions impact every facet of the involved peoples’ lives. We must recognize that every defendant is unique, but that justice requires equal treatment of similarly situated people. The political affiliation, religion, or demographics of the defendant or victim should never matter to a prosecutor. We are all equal under the law. That is my policy.
How do you plan to improve relationships with other elected officials in your county and with state legislative officials?
Butikofer: That is a good question. It is important to understand that as Prosecuting Attorney, I do not make the laws or set the policies for the other elected officials. My job is to provide legal advice to them to assist them in dealing with their own internal issues. Our County’s unprecedented growth provides a wonderful opportunity to work with our County Commissioners and Planning and Zoning commission on the creation of new land use ordinances. These policymakers are elected or appointed to bring the vision and set the policy for the County going forward. It is my job to ensure they get the best legal support available during this process so that the final product is legally sound. We are serving the County’s needs and will continue to do so as our County grows.
Where the overwhelming majority of the work done in county prosecutors’ office is criminal, the Prosecuting Attorney works with the County Sheriff as much or more than any other official. We are fortunate to have such a professional and competent Sheriff in Jefferson County. Sheriff Anderson previously issued a statement relating to our relationship. However, like all professional relationships, everyone must work and do their part. My goal is to continue to work with our local law enforcement agencies to provide legal support, training, and guidance so that local law enforcement can keep pace with our growing population.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your county? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?
Butikofer: The First Amendment is one of our most important rights that must be safeguarded. I appreciate the role that the media plays in keeping our government’s actions honest and transparent. This is especially true of the criminal justice system and how the State penalizes members of our community. However, in dealing with the media, the office of the Prosecuting Attorney is different from other elected officials. Rule 3.8(f) of the Idaho Rules of Conduct limits what I can say during a criminal proceeding. Generally speaking, I am limited from making statements that might increase the public condemnation of the accused. The policy behind the rule is to ensure a person receives a fair trial with an impartial jury, and to ensure the State does not use public ridicule as a weapon. I am also bound by attorney/client privilege on County civil matters and must limit my statements to the media to comply with that rule. That being said, most court proceedings are open to the public and I will always do my best to support public access to the truth.

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