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Prosecutor Meredith Vacca responds

Seeking justice is the obligation of every prosecutor. Throughout my career, I have worked to deliver on the promise that we are all equal under the law.

Recently, CITY published, then subsequently pulled, an opinion piece by a local attorney regarding a child sexual abuse case I prosecuted in August. As CITY Editor David Andreatta explained, the piece was pulled because the author failed to disclose that he was an active supporter of one of my opponents for the state Supreme Court. I am currently running for an open seat on the bench. Andreatta stated that if he had known this relationship, the piece would have never been published.

The author of the piece was not involved in this case. He did not attend the trial or court proceedings. I was never contacted about his editorial, which in places presented information about the case in a manner that could be described as misleading at best.

As an assistant district attorney, I am constrained as to what I can say publicly about a case, especially one that has been litigated. I am also constrained as a judicial candidate as to what I can say while campaigning. Furthermore, it is not fair to either party to relitigate this case in the media.

What I can tell you is this: the trial lasted two and a half weeks, and much information was left out of the editorial. Indeed, much information was not able to come before the jury. While I am precluded from sharing with you the information I considered in moving forward with the case, I can tell you that the decision to prosecute was made thoughtfully over time with advice from my colleagues and assistance from the investigating police department.

The author’s purported intent in writing his piece was to start a conversation about race and the criminal justice system. Andreatta has said he hoped for the same in publishing it. I wholeheartedly agree that this conversation is very important. There is no doubt that inherent and systemic biases influence our criminal justice system. It is also true that our society continues to work to eliminate such biases from tipping the scales of justice. I am running for office with the hope of addressing those issues in my courtroom.

This situation calls out for another conversation we should have. Before a person attacks another person’s reputation, livelihood, and integrity – all the available information must be presented in a context that most accurately reflects the situation at hand. Social media allows us to share our thoughts about important issues. But we must do so responsibly. Because even though we don’t see the “targets” of our tweets and comments, they are real people.

I have been a prosecutor for 12 years. For the past decade, I have specialized in cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. I have handled thousands of criminal cases and over 30 felony trials. My job is not to convict, but to be fair. Prosecutions are often challenging with no straightforward “right” path. Indeed, there are many cases that I choose not to prosecute for a variety of reasons. I have never had a felony trial conviction overturned.

My goal is one all people of good conscience share: to provide justice for all without regard to anyone’s political, social, racial or economic standing. Regardless of the outcome of this election, I remain committed to this effort.

Let’s be thoughtful in our conversations and focus on a dialogue that makes all of us better.


Vacca is an assistant district attorney with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and a Democratic candidate for state Supreme Court.

CITY is my city newspaper

As a former Rochester resident, I look forward to picking up my weekly copy of CITY at Canandaigua's Wood Library. It is my primary source of information about Rochester. I particularly like reading the in-depth feature stories and monitoring the cultural opportunities in your calendar section.

The pile of CITY papers at the library always disappears so I'm guessing plenty of other people in Canandaigua look forward to reading CITY each week, too.

Thanks to your staff for their faithful commitment to local journalism and digging into stories that need to be shared.


What makes an educator ‘distinguished?’

I noticed that CITY’s September 25 article, “RCSD Financial Crisis Builds,” contained two references to “Distinguished Educator Jaime Aquino” and that CITY always calls Mr. Aquino “Distinguished Educator.”

I wonder what it is about Mr. Aquino, or any educator, that warrants his or her being called “distinguished.” Obviously, someone with the title of “Distinguished Educator” is not some run-of-the-mill hack teacher who spends most of the day wiping noses and grading papers. I’d like to know how someone gets to be a “Distinguished Educator.”

Being a retired teacher myself, I am chagrined that nobody told me, when I was studying to become a teacher or when I was teaching, how I could rise to the station of “Distinguished Educator.”

Of course, Mr. Aquino is not a mere “teacher.” Anyone knows that an “educator” is not a lowly teacher. Mere teachers toil in the dust and are swept, at the end of their teaching lifespans, into dustbins.

Educators, however, don’t actually teach. They live in the rarified atmosphere of pedagogy and contemplate the philosophy of education, in all its iridescent applications, incomprehensible to ordinary people and associate professors.

There ought to be some sort of grading system, I believe, for those who already have the “Distinguished Educator” title attached to their names, and for those who aspire to become one.
I offer these echelons for consideration:

Vaguely Distinguished Educator; Remarkably Distinguished Educator; Astonishingly Distinguished Educator; Tippy-Top Distinguished Educator, to name a few.


CITY’s Word: Do we detect a tongue firmly planted in cheek, Mr. Pell? Yeah, we thought so.
Nevertheless, the title of “Distinguished Educator” does raise eyebrows from time to time. So, here’s a primer on how one becomes “distinguished”:

The state Board of Regents created the Distinguished Educators Program in 2011. The purpose was to help “districts and schools that are experiencing extremely serious academic challenges and ensure the appointment of qualified individuals to assist low performing schools.”

To qualify for the program, applicants must have a variety of experience and credentials that are too numerous to list here. At a minimum, though, applicants must have 10 years of experience in education, including five years “increasing student academic performance in low-performing schools or dramatically raising the achievement of high-needs students in moderate-to high-performing school districts,” or “alternate qualifications deemed acceptable by the state education commissioner.”

Successful candidates are placed in a pool, from which the education commissioner makes selections and appointments.