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Democrats Byrd, Ingle vie for prosecutor

With four-term Democrat Prosecutor Ronald W. Simpson stepping down at the end of the year, two other Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring, hoping to succeed him.
Simpson’s chief deputy prosecutor Dennis Byrd and former Floyd County deputy prosecutor Gordon D. Ingle are each seeking their party’s nomination in the May 7 Democratic Primary. No Republicans have filed for the office.
Byrd is a first-time candidate; Ingle previously ran for Superior Court Judge, but lost that Primary in 1996 to Roger D. Davis by 174 votes, 2,622 to 2,448.
Both Byrd and Ingle pledged fair but tough treatment of suspected felons, compassion for victims and first-time non-violent offenders in cases not involving abuse of children or seniors.
Byrd, 43, said his extensive experience in prosecuting cases and as an attorney in private practice would be an asset, while Ingle, 44, said his experience on both sides of the bench, both as defense and as a deputy prosecuting attorney, makes him the superior candidate.
The prosecutor’s duty as the chief law enforcement in the county is to uphold the state’s criminal laws and, by prosecuting those laws, keep the community safe. The prosecutor’s salary is paid by the state.
Here’s a look at Byrd’s and Ingle’s backgrounds and stands on issues.
Byrd’s experience includes chief deputy prosecutor
Dennis Byrd has served as deputy prosecutor for Simpson from 1989 to 1992 as second deputy and since 1993 as chief deputy. Prior to earning his law degree from The University of Dayton School of Law in 1988, he served as a summer intern in the Harrison County and Crawford County prosecutor’s offices.
He is now also in private practice at Thompson & Byrd Law Office in Corydon (formerly known as O’Bannon Funk & Simpson). Byrd was an attorney with Luckett Burgher & Lopp from 1989 to 1992.
“I’ve been a part of this community all my life,” Byrd said. “I care about our community and the people in it.
“My experience in life, school and work qualify me to be an elected official; I want to make our community safe and a community to be proud of,” he added.
Major law enforcement problems facing Harrison County currently are — as in many other communities — drug problems, domestic violence and sexual assault, child support collection and juvenile offenders.
Byrd said if elected, he will take a tough stance in dealing with drug offenders, especially dealers and manufacturers of such drugs as methamphetamine, and will continue his efforts at helping offenders become rehabilitated.
“I participate in The Next Step, the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Council, the House of New Beginnings, in adult probation Victims Impact Panel,” he said.
Long jail sentences for serious drug offenses must be followed with long-term treatment programs, Byrd added.
He said dealing successfully with domestic violence and sexual assault requires breaking the cycle of violence. That can be accomplished by punishing offenders and educating both the offenders and their victims, Byrd said. “You rehabilitate the offenders by teaching them alternative lifestyles, and you educate the victim that assistance is available,” he said.
Byrd supports the sexual assault clinic in Milltown and the cell phone recycling program. He also plans regular training classes for officers so improved police reporting can lead to better prosecution of cases.
Child support obligations “must be aggressively enforced,” Byrd said. “In this day and age, we need both the emotional and financial support of both parents.”
He said participation in parenting classes will also be encouraged.
His administration will focus on juvenile problems through education and prevention, “to help the youth stay out of trouble,” Byrd said.
In that vein, Byrd is active in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Friends of Harrison County Youth, Harrison County Swim Team, Corydon Central Adult Booster Club, Franklin Township Athletic Club, the Gerdon Youth Center and the YMCA of Harrison County.
Byrd said he would also support “mentoring programs with adult interaction with troubled youth and a teen court.
“Other communities are using teen court, which lets teens judge and decide punishment. They are having very good success with it,” he added.
Byrd said he has not selected a chief deputy prosecutor, but he would retain both Cheryl Hillenburg and John Colin as deputies and one would be selected to serve as chief deputy.
A native of Harrison County, Byrd attended both North and South Harrison schools, graduating from Corydon Central High School with academic honors in 1977.
He and his wife, the former Terri Lynn Fleace, reside in Corydon with their three children, Caitlyn Dawn, 10; Michael David, 8, and Kelcie Danyel, 4.
Byrd may be reached at 738-2246 or 738-7913.
Ingle touts experience on both sides of bench
Gordon D. Ingle, who served as Harrison County attorney from 1997 through 2000 and as the county council’s attorney from 1991 through 1996, believes his past experience as a deputy prosecutor in Floyd County and as a defense attorney will bring a balanced approach to the job of prosecutor in Harrison County.
Ingle earned his law degree from the O.W. Coburn School of Law in Tulsa, Okla., in 1986 and began practicing law that October.
The eighth child in a family of 14 children, Ingle said he had troubles with the law as a youngster and he believes that will make him a better prosecutor, especially as it pertains to juveniles.
“I’m going to put a lot more emphasis on preventing juvenile crime,” he said. “I think my experiences as a child will give me a lot of insight into dealing with juveniles.
“We have a serious problem in Harrison County,” he said, which leads to the high cost of housing children in juvenile facilities. “I plan to handle these cases personally; I will not have a deputy handle those unless they are covering for me, when I’m in a major trial.”
As prosecutor, Ingle said he believes he could “make a difference in Harrison County, and I think I can bring experience and balance to that office.”
He intends to surround himself with a winning team. “Leah Fink (the current felony public defender in Harrison Superior Court) will be a deputy; she’s been practicing since the early 1990s, and she has the best record against this prosecutor than anyone in Indiana.
“She’s going to bring experience to the team,” Ingle said.
Lyn Fink Hayse, currently prosecutor in Perry County and Leah Fink’s sister, will be his chief deputy prosecutor, Ingle said.
He sees the prosecutor’s job as not just prosecuting criminals but to help rehabilitate them as well. “I believe in treating everybody fairly,” he said. “Not every case is the same.”
He added: “If you have two children, the worst thing you can do is treat them the same because they are not the same.
“The same thing goes with just about anything in life, no matter who they are or who they are related to.”
In minor offenses, the prosecutor must determine if that person is really a good person who has made a bad decision or if they are trying to work the system to get a break.
“Justice must be tempered with mercy,” he said, but added that cases involving serious and violent felonies deserve utmost attention to be brought to justice.
In cases such as spouse abuse involving battery, Ingle said his major focus will be on empowering the victim, usually a woman. “I want to make her feel she has control over her life; many times what I have seen, even with this prosecutor, actually disempowers the victim.
“If that means she wants him out of her life, we can help her,” Ingle said. “I will always try to do whatever makes the victim most powerful.”
Dealing with drug abuse will depend on whether a person is dealing drugs or is a drug addict. “If a person is peddling to young teens, I’m going to take a very hard line on that,” Ingle said, “but if a person is a drug addict, prison is not the answer.”
Ingle, a native of New Albany, moved to Harrison County in 1989, where his mother’s family, the Reisings, date to the 1850s.
He is a 1975 graduate of New Albany High School, and prior to obtaining his law degree, attended college at Indiana University Southeast, Zion Bible College and the University of Madrid in Spain.
He and his wife, the former Darla Drost of New Albany, now reside on an 83-acre Corydon farm with their two children, Anna, 6, and Adalee, 3.
Ingle may be reached at 738-1611 or 738-7575 or by email at [email protected]

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