Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney: Q&A with candidates Kevin Holmes and Robert Presley II

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 291 views 

Kevin Holmes and Robert Presley II are candidates in the non-partisan election for Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney. Prosecutor Rinda Baker is not seeking reelection. The non-partisan election for prosecuting attorney is May 24, and early voting in the county has begun.

Presley is the chief deputy prosecuting attorney in the county. Holmes is a former deputy city prosecutor for Van Buren and is a founding member of Van Buren-based Hopkins & Holmes law firm. Arkansas’ 28 prosecuting attorneys have the authority to investigate and file criminal charges, including actions against public bodies and elected officials.

Talk Business & Politics sent questions – with answers to each question limited to 200 words – to each candidate. Following are their responses.

• Explain why you believe you are the best qualified for the office?

Holmes: I have ran a successful law practice for over 18 years. I will bring a business mind set, along with a diverse legal background, to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. I have served as a deputy prosecutor, public defender, child advocate and represented thousands of individuals and small businesses throughout the State of Arkansas. I have argued cases before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and Arkansas Supreme Court. I’ve even served as a Special Justice in the Arkansas Supreme Court. I am endorsed by Gun Owners of Arkansas and countless current and former law enforcement officers in Crawford County. The people of Crawford County are ready for a change in leadership in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and I am the only candidate that can make those changes.

Presley: I believe that I am the most qualified candidate for the position of Prosecuting Attorney because I have the most experience. I became a deputy prosecuting attorney in 1994, after serving 10 years as a Navy Deep sea Diver. I was promoted to Chief Deputy in 2002, and I was appointed to the position of Prosecuting Attorney by the governor in 2019. I have prosecuted thousands of felony cases and taken well over 100 cases to jury trial. I have successfully prosecuted drug crimes, theft, burglary, robbery, sexual assault, rape, capital murder, and every other crime you can imagine. In fact, I have procured 16 life sentences for defendants convicted of rape. There are criminals in prison right now that will never get out, and I put them there. I’m the only candidate to receive the endorsement of the Van Buren Fraternal Order of Police and the Van Buren Professional Firefighters Union, and I’m the only candidate on the ballot that has ever prosecuted a felony. I have the skill, knowledge, and experience necessary to lead from the front and mentor deputy prosecutors to ensure our county will stay a safe place long after I am gone.

• What do you believe will be the top three challenges for the Prosecuting Attorney’s office in the coming years?

Holmes: First, we must do more to combat the growing drug epidemic in our Nation, State and Community. We need to increase use of alternative sentencing courts to help fight addiction and seek harsher penalties for those trafficking drugs across state lines. Second, we must do a better job of treating victims of domestic violence and sexual crimes with the respect and compassion they deserve. Throughout this campaign, I have received countless reports from victims who experienced a lack of professionalism and that is unacceptable. Finally, while the Prosecuting Attorney’s first job is pursuing criminal charges against those that violate criminal statutes, the elected Prosecuting Attorney also has a powerful voice to help our community. We need to build relationships and listen for ways we can use our influence to help. We need to look partnerships that share the mission to keep the community safe; we need to look for opportunities to act to lower truancy rates; we need to fight to protect our 2nd Amendment rights through lobbying against increased gun laws; we need to seek grant money to help animals that are being dumped and cared for by others.

Presley: The first challenge is the rise in victim-based crime during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Children were kept home from school and adults were prevented from working, providing increased access for child predators. We have already witnessed a significant spike in sex crime, and we expect the numbers to continue rising due to the frequency of delayed reports in these cases. Secondly, we are dealing with an influx of the lethal drug fentanyl. The number of overdose deaths is staggering, and fentanyl is deadly to first responders who come into incidental contact with the drug during investigation or treatment. Fentanyl continues to flood our streets, and we must be aggressive in combatting it by prosecuting those individuals who push this devastating drug in our community. Lastly, we face a challenge with the increasing importance of digital evidence in proving crime. Cell phones have become integrated into daily life, and our office relies heavily on digital data to prosecute everything from drugs and thefts to sex crimes and murders. However, the digital landscape is becoming increasingly complex. The prosecutor’s office must stay up to date with training and education on how to legally access data from phones and other digital devices.

• What is a state and/or federal law/rule that could be changed or implemented that you believe would not only make the PA job better but also result in enhanced community safety?

Holmes: The open border policy that the Biden Administration has implemented has caused a rapid increase in access to illegal drugs that will continue to spread across the Nation and into our Community. It has allowed criminals to walk into the United States and into our Community. Getting our immigration policy in check will have an immediate impact on illegal drug trafficking and criminal activity. Also, the leaked Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade will result in abortion being a state issue which may result on the Prosecuting Attorney’s office being on the front lines of prosecuting abortions. On the state level, we need to work with our state legislatures to ensure that our law enforcement partners received increased funding to help fight crime and protect our communities.

Presley: The law I would most like to see changed is the law regarding parole eligibility. In Arkansas, the sentencing guidelines are extremely complex. For example, Sexual Assault in the Second Degree is punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison. However, the guidelines allow for someone convicted of sexual assault to be paroled after serving just 1/6th of their sentence. The public may see that someone was sentenced to 18 years, but our office is left with the responsibility of explaining to the victim that their offender may be released after serving only 3 years. This is not fair to victims of crime and is misleading to the public. I have experience working with the legislature to affect change. During the last session, our office, along with Sergeant Jay Baker of Van Buren Police Department, helped draft legislation to tighten our laws on sexual assault. I would like to further work with legislators on sentencing reform to ensure that if someone is sentenced to a term of years they must serve the vast majority, if not all, of their time in prison, rather than being released early. I plan to put this change at the top of my list.