I am the Elected District Attorney of Chautauqua County, having served as Acting District Attorney from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016, and since January 1, 2017, as the elected District Attorney.
For the past four years, I’ve served as Chautauqua County’s top law enforcement official, working side-by-side with law enforcement to protect our community. The relationships and collaborative efforts that I have established with law enforcement agencies and departments throughout the county and state continue to reinforce my dedication to my role as district attorney. It remains fundamental to me that I seek justice for every person, protect victims, and ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system.
I’ve been an attorney for 12 years and full-time prosecutor since 2011. During that time, I’ve successfully prosecuted murderers, rapists, child abusers, burglars, robbers and individuals who sell poison to our residents. The past 9 years as a prosecutor have taught me how important, how difficult, and how challenging this job can be. Representing victims of terrible crimes and seeing that they, their families and loved ones receive a fair measure of justice in our criminal justice system is an immense responsibility, and it is a public service that has been my privilege to render.
During my tenure, the criminal justice system has seen an unprecedented amount of change. Raise the age legislation, a complete overhaul of our bail system, and sweeping changes in our discovery rules have forever altered the landscape of our criminal justice system. Again this year we are seeing changes in bail and discovery that will require new training of staff and law enforcement. Because of my leadership, our District Attorney's office has led the transition in this county, offering solutions to local law enforcement so that together, we could meet the seemingly endless challenges posed by legislative changes.
I have also navigated the office through a global pandemic. Ensuring that our District Attorney's office continues to perform its vital functions has been my number one priority. These successes don't come automatically or on accident. They come from careful planning, knowing who to turn to for guidance, experience of doing the job day in and day out, and with my understanding of exactly what this job demands.
Our success is also attributable to the skilled team of professionals I have brought in to prosecute crime. The Assistant District Attorneys in our office are among the most competent, respected, and dedicated professionals anywhere. I'm confident that I've built the most effective and efficient District Attorney’s Office Chautauqua County has ever had.
Working with the good men and women of law enforcement, who have dedicated their lives to protecting the citizens of our community and ensuring that Chautauqua County continues to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
My vision as the District Attorney of Chautauqua County is broader than prosecuting criminals and finding justice for victims. Community outreach is also vital. For that reason, I accept and seek out speaking engagements with senior’s groups, community groups such as local Rotary Clubs and our area schools. My hope is to educate listeners about elder scams, the criminal justice system, and the dangers of social media and drugs. I instruct at the Sheriff’s Academy, local police and Sheriff’s in-service training, and teach at Crime Scene Technician school for the Forensic Investigation Team. I regularly hold seminars for our local law enforcement agencies, where we discuss and plan for the myriad of changing laws, the expectations and needs of my office, and how collectively we can successfully accomplish our shared goals.
I’ve expanded the footprint of the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s office. As a member of the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), our office has a voice in a statewide organization that is 111 years strong. I was selected two years ago to serve on the DAASNY Board of Directors. District Attorney Jim Subjack is the only other Chautauqua County District Attorney to be selected for this honor. I also serve on the DAASNY Electronic Surveillance Committee and was chosen to be the DAASNY representative on the special committee tasked with drafting the model police training policy for facial recognition software and use. Twice I've been asked to testify in front of the New York State Senate about matters affecting district attorney’s offices across this state. I’ve presented at district attorney conferences on issues ranging from narcotics to residency restrictions. We’ve partnered with other prosecuting agencies, both state and federal, by forming the Overdose Response Initiative with the US Attorney’s office. We sit on the Southern Tier Child Fatality Review Review Team. We are members of the WNY Human Trafficking Task Force. We are a stakeholder on the Elder Law Abuse multi-disciplinary team. I also began the School Threat Assessment Response Team (STAR Team) to assist our local schools when there is student of concern. Keeping our children safe is so important to all of us. My STAR program was featured by the National Prosecutors Consortium as one of five innovative programs from New York State prosecutors.
It has also been necessary to fight for the District Attorney's office to get needed resources. I continue to fight for so that our District Attorney's office has the resources that are available to every other office dealing with case numbers like ours. I inherited a district attorney’s office that processes the highest caseload in New York State. Of the 62 New York State counties, Chautauqua County’s office was the only one with more than 300 criminal cases per prosecutor. Despite being underfunded we are getting the job done because of the excellence of our staff. While the county legislature has provided additional staff, our needs are far from satisfied, and I will continue to fight for an office that is right sized. It is what our citizens deserve.
I’m a lifelong Chautauqua County resident, growing up in Sherman, and graduating from Sherman High School. I’m married to Dr. Natalie (Guiffreda) Swanson who is a practicing Optometrist in Hamburg. My parents are Melford and Mary Swanson of Sherman. My father, “Mel”, was a high basketball coach and teacher at Sherman Central Schools for forty years. I have two brothers, Nolan and Ryan, and a sister, Lesley. My wife grew up in Ashville with her parents Cindy, and the late Robert “Bob” Guiffreda. Natalie has a brother, Tony, and a sister, Laurie.
After graduating from Sherman High School, I attended from Wake Forest University, graduating with a degree in Physics. At Wake Forest I competed in Cross-Country and Track & Field. I was a distance runner. After short, but rewarding time as a high school teacher and coach, I attended the University of Memphis Law School where I received a Juris Doctorate degree. My wife and I practiced for a period in Memphis before we had our first child and decided that Chautauqua County is where we wanted to raise our family.
We now live in Fredonia with our two elementary aged children. Simply put, we wanted our kids to grow up like we did. Helping people live in safe homes, on safe streets, where our kids are in safe schools is the overall goal of our office. As your leader in the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s office, I am working tirelessly to preserve and enhance our Chautauqua County way of life.
I'm committed to seeking justice for the people of Chautauqua County. Chautauqua County is my home and has been for most of my life. It is a wonderful place to live and it is where my wife and I are proud to be raising our son and daughter. I'm running for reelection as the Chautauqua County District Attorney so I can use my energy, experience, and knowledge to continue to fight for victims of crime. I want to play an active role in making my community, county and state a safer, better place to raise a family, run a business, and forge a future filled with unlimited promise. As your District Attorney, I will work tirelessly to preserve the Chautauqua County that gave you and me endless opportunity.
Today, I ask for your support. I am the only candidate for District Attorney with real experience. I am the candidate qualified to be the top law enforcement officer in Chautauqua County. I am the candidate who understands the enormity of the job. I am the clear choice in 2020. I am your District Attorney.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
DA Swanson instructing on the changing law in New York.