Fitz seeks GOP nomination

Published 5:27 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Last spring Cass County Prosecutor Victor A. Fitz distinguished himself in a bench trial of sorts, winning Circuit Judge Michael E. Dodge's appointment from 15 applicants to succeed Scott Teter.
This August Fitz will be making his case for election to the office to a "jury" of Republican voters as he seeks the GOP nomination.
Fitz announced his intention Tuesday, Jan. 27, to continue his "fight against crime and the fight for justice" which saw his office achieve a 100-percent conviction rate in felony jury trials for 2003.
Fitz, who had been senior assistant prosecutor in Muskegon County since 1989, emphasized his "proven track record," a "tough stance on crime" and an efficient and effective staff who share his "passion to protect the public."
As a prosecutor Fitz has tried 20 murder cases, conducted 13 armed robbery jury trials and tried 26 major drug offenders before juries, including approximately 10 drug kingpin jury trials -- the most of any prosecutor in west Michigan.
Fitz has been to the scenes of dozens of murders. He has been involved in investigating major drug dealers. He has talked with children who have been brutally raped or assaulted.
With the help of his staff and attorneys, "We have done the job in Cass County," Fitz said, "and we have done it well."
The 100-percent felony jury trial conviction rate included the Gary Marchbanks case. The Calvin Township defendant was involved in Internet child pornography, as well as molesting two minor girls.
It included the Ahmed Williams-El case, where Damon Burroughs, 37, "a fellow member of our community was abducted just down the street from this old courthouse, taken out into the country and shot six times while he pleaded in vain for his life" by the 22-year-old Vandalia man in a wooded area along North Street in Jefferson Township.
A jury returned a guilty verdict in one hour in November.
Fitz said his office's tough stance on crime not only gets convictions, it also yields "major time" for offenders -- kidnapper Terry Drake, 25 years in prison; Marchbanks, 18 years; Williams, mandatory life in prison.
Fitz also said he looks forward to a "continued stellar relationship with the men and women of law enforcement. From department leaders such as Sheriff Joe Underwood and Cassopolis Chief Frank Williams," who were both present, "Dowagiac Chief Tom Atkinson, Edwardsburg Chief Ken Wray, the Pokagon Band Director of Law Enforcement Mike Jungel, to the Michigan State Police post commanders" at Niles and White Pigeon, "to the deputies and officers who brave the cold and the dangers of our roadways and crisis situations, Cass County has true and effective leadership."
Fitz also expressed pride in his staff, including Terri Bauer, Cindy Peters, Karen Gillam, Joann Sepic, Amanda Smego, Karen Buchanan and Sara Heuer, who "do the job that makes the office effective. They work hard and diligently. They also have the passion to protect the public. If they did not, they would not be there. They are efficient and effective. I wouldn't trade them for anyone."
His office has three other attorneys, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Jason Ronning, David Moore and Leigh Rogner. They "provide this community with a solid nucleus to secure convictions and fight crime in the courtrooms of Judge Deats, Judge Dobrich and Judge Dodge," Fitz said, adding, "My staff, my assistant prosecutors and law enforcement have worked hard to keep the community safe. My office will continue to be aggressive and tough on crime. We will continue to work for justice in the streets, in the office and in the courtroom. We will continue to fight to keep our community safe."
Fitz graduated from the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1983, then went to work for the Tuscola County Prosecutor's Office. He served as an assistant prosecutor until his 1987 promotion to chief assistant. His experience in Tuscola County included trying more than 50 jury trials.
Fitz joined the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office in August 1988. Comprised of 18 attorneys, Fitz was senior trial attorney and ranked fourth among the office's prosecutors. In almost 16 years in Muskegon, Fitz tried more than 100 jury trials, including 19 for homicide, 56 for life offenses, 25 for drugs and 13 for armed robberies.
For eight years he was in charge of all drug prosecutions for the office, headed up the office's forfeiture unit and supervised all assistant prosecutors who handled drug cases.