Northampton County District Attorney Terry Hook announces candidacy for re-election

Terry Houck has officially announced his candidacy for re-election as Northampton County District Attorney.

And just as he did when he won the 2019 election, Hook faces opponents in the Democratic primary, portending a bitter showdown ahead of the May 16 election.

The challenger, former Northampton County Court Judge Stephen G. Baratta, issued a lengthy memo last week. Blame Houck for ethical violations Houk’s Chief Assistant District Attorney, Richard H. Pepper;

Standing at the entrance to the county rotunda on Thursday, surrounded by about 20 members of his staff, Houck issued a 10-minute statement highlighting his accomplishments despite the coronavirus.

“When I took office as District Attorney on January 6, 2020, we had no idea of ​​the immediate adversity the pandemic would create,” Houck said. “Our world has changed dramatically, but it’s business as usual for the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office.”

The experienced prosecutor said he would like to add the program to the one he conducted as a DA.

“That is why I am humbly asking you to allow me to continue the work I began when you elected me as District Attorney in 2019 into my next term,” Hook said. rice field.

He did not mention Barratta’s complaint in his opening statement, but later discussed it while being questioned by the media.

Baratta, who filed a complaint in the administrative office of the Pennsylvania state court, maintained private law practice while Pepper served as a full-time prosecutor, and that Pepper improperly represented a person accused of criminal harassment. These accusations, Baratta said, form the basis for an ethics investigation at the state level, as well as an investigation into possible work conflicts at the county level.

Houck said none of his 23 full-time assistants, including Pepper, had work inconsistent with their criminal cases. rice field.

“The bottom line is that there is no conflict of interest for whoever does what,” he said.

Reached by phone late Thursday, Baratta said: [Pepper]If he gets vacations or personal days, he gets paid for those days. ”

State disciplinary boards that handle cases involving attorneys have never sanctioned Pepper, according to online records. Speaking at Houck’s press conference, Pepper declined to comment.

Houck, who has more than three and a half years of experience as a public prosecutor, said he was the best candidate for the position. Among the highlights, he said his office created a community outreach program for citizens to learn about crime deterrence topics. He created a full-time drug task force. He sponsored drug awareness videos involving county residents who have battled addiction. He also made a $2 million settlement against a major pharmaceutical company over opioid abuse, with the money going to the county’s drug reduction program.

After ten years as a police officer in Philadelphia, Houck earned a law degree from Temple University and served various prosecutors as district attorney in Bucks, Lehigh, and Northampton counties before being elected to the Northampton DA. played a role.

The 66-year-old Forks Township resident succeeded John Morganelli, who had worked in Northampton County for 13 of Morganelli’s 28 years as chief prosecutor.

Baratta, also 66, was first elected as a judge in 1997. In 2007, he remained a voter for his second 10-year term, followed by another 10-year tenure five years earlier, announcing his resignation in December.

A Bethlehem resident, Baratta grew up in Bangor and graduated from Bangor Area High School in 1974. He received his bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in 1978 and three years later received a law degree from Fordham University in New York City. Prior to becoming a judge, Baratta was Northampton County’s first Assistant District Attorney.

No Republican congressman has announced a campaign for a district attorney.

It is unusual for an incumbent district attorney to face a primary campaign in either Lehigh or Northampton counties. Former Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli served for nearly 30 years before being elected county judge in 2019. Jim Martin has served as Lehigh County District Attorney since 1998.

Northampton County Democratic Party chairman Matt Munsey said, “It’s very rare to go looking for a challenger to an incumbent Democrat. said.

The contact information for Wake-up Call journalist Anthony Salamon is: Northampton County District Attorney Terry Hook announces candidacy for re-election

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