3 vie for prosecuting attorney

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Weatherman, Boxx, Dunker in race for seat

Two Cassville men and a Monett woman are aiming to be elected to the prosecuting attorney position being vacate by Johnnie Cox, who will replace Judge Victor Head as Division I associate circuit judge.

Matthew Weatherman, 29, of Cassville, Amy Boxx, 42, of Monett, and Steve Dunker, 50, of Cassville, will square off in the Republican primary election, to be held on Aug. 5.

Weatherman

Weatherman is a 2002 graduate of Cassville High School and a 19-year resident of Cassville. He graduated from Quincey University, in Illinois, in 2007 with a bachelor's of science in criminal justice, and from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, Mich., in 2012 with a juries doctorate.

After getting his law degree, he interned under Cox for five months before taking a job at the Missouri State Public Defender's Office in Monett. He was required to leave that position on March 25 to run for prosecuting attorney.

"I think my five months with Cox solidified what I wanted to be in getting my law degree, and that's to be a prosecuting attorney," he said. "Since I have been in Barry County for 20 years, I have seen the great work Cox has done and I want to continue that and move the county forward.

Boxx

Boxx, who is running for office for the first time, is a 19-year employee of Randall, Boxx, & Masri in Monett, joined the firm in 1995 under James Randall and became a partner only two years later. Boxx earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1992, and she graduated from the University of Oklahoma Law School in 1995. In 1998, she won the Legal Aid of Southwest Missouri's "Equal Access to Justice Award" for pro bono representation of indigent clients, and she has been the city of Monett attorney and prosecutor since 1997.

Boxx said she filed for prosecuting attorney because she felt it was the next logical step in her career.

"It seemed like a natural transition for me because I've been practicing law for a while and have been a Barry County guardian ad litem," she said. "It seems to me a lot of kids are in foster care because their parents have criminal issues, and it seemed like a good idea to continue my work in that area as county prosecutor. And, I think I'm the best-qualified for the job. My opponents are great people, I just think I'm the best-qualified at this point because of my years of experience."

Dunker

Dunker, who works for the Aurora Project and is also a first-time candidate for office, began his law enforcement career in Joplin, where he attended high school and worked for a department store catching shoplifters. Since then, he has been a Park Ranger in Colorado, an EMT, an officer and detective in the Joplin Police Department, and a teacher at multiple colleges and law enforcement academies. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school, and worked for a few months as assistant prosecutor in Lawrence County before joining the Aurora Project.

He said he joined the race because running for office is something he has always planned to do.

"I have been in the criminal justice field for decades, and running for prosecutor is something I have planned on doing some day," he said. "I've been a associate prosecutor for the last 3-1/2 years working for the Aurora Project, which is a child support enforcement unit. I travel throughout the 39th circuit [including Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties] and prosecute felony and misdemeanor child support cases."

Weatherman said if elected, he has a number of goals he hopes to achieve, starting with upgrading technology in the prosecuting attorney's office.

"I want to be at the edge of technology and run the office as efficiently as possible," he said. "Barry County courts are going paperless with the e-file system, so I would like the prosecuting attorney's office to do the same."

Weatherman said he also hopes to continue the county's Drug Court program, which he lauded as being one of the best around.

"This program offers offenders a second chance at having a life through a rigorous treatment and probation process, and it helps people turn their lives around," he said. "It's a fantastic program and needs tremendous support."

Boxx said she aims to be tough on drug offenders, because she sees drugs as still being a big problem in the county.

"I hope to keep the conviction rates for drug issues as high as possible," she said. "I think drugs are still a problem in Barry County, and they can lead to other crimes, as well. I also hope to help with the Drug Court in any way I can."

Dunker said if he is elected, he hopes to prosecute cases by taking each individual situation into account.

"The way I look at it is there are a couple policies you have to follow, and I think you have to take a look and determine all the factors when prosecuting a crime," he said. "You also have to have a punishment that will make it a deterrence for anyone else."

Dunker said he also hopes to continue the county's Drug Court program.

"Instead of jailing and warehousing some people dealing with addiction, Drug Court can help get them treatment and change their lives, and I will continue to support that," he said.

Weatherman said he also hopes to improve the fiscal responsibility of the office, especially when it comes to what cases see a jury trial.

"I want to continue moving the county to where we take the cases we need to take to trial in front of a jury of Barry County citizens, and if we do not need to take a case to trial, to solve those in a way that costs as little as possible so we can be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and not be wasteful," he said.

Weatherman said his advantage in the race is his time spent under Cox as an intern.

"I have seen how the Barry County prosecutor's office works, and I worked directly with Cox and Pat [Sullivan, assistant proseuctor] in my first foray into the legal world, so there would not be massive changes," he said. "I feel I can protect people, I've mercy where it's needed, and give fairness and justice to all."

Boxx said she does not plan to make many changes to the prosecutor's office, and she has some experience as prosecutor filling in for Cox when conflicts of interest arose.

"The staff and the assistant prosecutor do a great job, and Johnnie is running a great ship with good people," she said. "I've filled in for Johnnie about 3-5 times, and he doesn't have lots of conflicts, so it didn't happen that often."

Boxx said one case in which she filled in for Cox dealt with a hot check written for more than $30,000.

"I don't remember what it was, but he had a conflict, so I acted as prosecutor and we got the victim's money back," she said. "So, it was a good result for everyone."

Dunker said he hopes to prosecute cases fairly, holding people accountable for crimes they commit.

"If you get a case where someone murders, molests or rapes, you have got to take into consideration the punishment aspect, because people need to pay for their crimes," he said. "You have to look at every defendant and accused and their different stories, and you have to evaluate what's going on and pick a proper course of action to follow."

Dunker said he also hopes to move the office forward in technology, especially when it comes to going paperless.

"The more high-tech we are, the better," he said.

"If the county court system goes paperless, we will have to have the technology in the prosecutor's office to keep up with that."

Sullivan, who originally for the position, said he withdrew from the race for family reasons that kept him from devoting himself to the position.

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