District Attorney Jonathan R. Liberman, R-West Bath, is touting his trial experience as he seeks his first full term as top prosecutor in the Midcoast.
Liberman graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and from the University of Maine School of Law in 2010 with a Juris Doctor.
He started his career as a student prosecutor with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office in 2009.
He had a jury trial and a successful argument to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court behind him before finishing law school.
“I knew very early that this was what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I was really drawn to working with law enforcement and using my skill in the courtroom to advance public safety.”
Liberman worked as an assistant district attorney in Maine Prosecutorial District 6 from 2011-2016, in the Knox, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc County offices.
Then-District Attorney Geoff Rushlau appointed Liberman deputy district attorney in 2016.
Gov. Paul LePage appointed Rushlau a Maine District Court judge in spring 2017 and appointed Liberman to take Rushlau’s place as district attorney. Liberman was sworn in May 19, 2017.
Liberman represents District 6: Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and Waldo counties.
In his brief tenure as district attorney, Liberman points to a victory at trial and changes in the way the office approaches cases of child sexual abuse as key accomplishments.
Liberman and then-Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody prosecuted Randall J. Weddle, a long-haul trucker who, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, caused a crash on Route 17 in Washington that killed two people.
A Knox County jury found Weddle guilty of all 15 charges against him, including two counts of manslaughter. Weddle is serving a 25-year prison sentence, “the longest vehicular manslaughter sentence in Maine’s history,” according to Liberman.
“Getting a result like that is something that only comes with years of experience and hard work,” Liberman said.
Outside the courtroom, Liberman participated in the development of the Midcoast Child Advocacy Center, which involves medical and mental health professionals in investigations of child sexual abuse.
The approach results in “a very effective investigation into child sexual abuse, but also one that puts the interests of the child first and can contribute to the healing process for that child,” Liberman said.
Although he now leads four offices of prosecutors and support staff, Liberman continues to prosecute cases and assist with others.
He plans to continue to prosecute some of the most serious cases in the district. “I don’t think anyone should be a district attorney unless they plan on being closely involved with cases like that,” he said.
With only 15 months as district attorney so far, Liberman has much more he wants to accomplish if he wins a four-year term.
He is lobbying the Maine Judicial Branch to establish a drug court in the Midcoast, which he sees as an important step to combat drug crimes and drug-related crimes, like most burglaries.
He expects the state to establish a drug court in either Knox or Lincoln County to serve the entire district. He calls drug court “an effective tool” to reduce recidivism among defendants with addiction.
A drug court brings together law enforcement, probation officers, and prosecutors with professionals from the fields of addiction treatment and mental health.
This “drug court team” devotes “a lot of attention and resources to each defendant” in the drug court, Liberman said. Each drug court works with a maximum of about 30 defendants at a time.
Defendants “graduate” from the program as “much less of a safety risk to the people around them, because they’re in treatment and because they’re taking their addiction seriously and they’ve been taught how to treat their addiction, how to address it, and how to live a healthy lifestyle,” Liberman said.
Liberman sees what he calls the “opiate epidemic” as the most important issue in the district.
“It has an impact on everything from the roads we drive on to the security we feel in our own homes,” he said.
Liberman’s opponent in the election is Natasha C. Irving, D-Waldoboro.
An attorney in private practice, Irving has publicly called for bail reform and a veterans court. She is a proponent of restorative justice.
Liberman said he would like to see a veterans court in the Midcoast, but the decision rests with the Judicial Branch and the Legislature. His office currently refers cases to the veterans court in Augusta, and he would give veterans priority in a new drug court.
“I think that when you’re dealing with defendants who have put their lives on the line in battle, who have come back damaged as a result of that, I think we owe them,” Liberman said.
Liberman supports restorative justice, which focuses on efforts by the defendant to repair damage to the victim of a crime and the community.
“We rely on it very heavily in juvenile cases, and use of restorative justice has actually expanded under my watch,” Liberman said. “It’s something we’re now using more and more for young adult offenders.”
Liberman does not support bail reform in Maine, saying judges have and “properly exercise” discretion when they set bail.
Judges consider a defendant’s ability to pay and how pretrial incarceration might affect a defendant’s job, he said, and weigh these factors against whether a defendant poses a flight risk or a threat to public safety.
Liberman hopes to remain a prosecutor throughout his career.
“I can’t say how thankful I’ve been and how honored I’ve been to have this post and to have this responsibility in the community where I grew up and where I’m raising my family,” he said.
In his life outside work, Liberman likes hunting and fishing, hiking, and swimming. “I love the outdoors,” he said.
Liberman lives in West Bath with his wife, Erin Connolly, and their children, Benjamin, 3, and Madeleine, 12 weeks.