TRUCKEE, Calif. — Among the local races of importance on the June 5 primary ballot is a seat on the Nevada County Superior Court bench between Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney George Smyrnos and incumbent Judge Tom Anderson.Smyrnos — a Grass Valley resident and former Nevada County prosecutor — is running on a tough-on-crime platform, based on his dissatisfaction with what he perceives to be lenient sentencing on the part of Anderson.“The bench serves the public, and people have the right to complain,” said Smyrnos in a phone interview last week. “If the conscience of our community gets offended by a light sentence, the judge has to be held accountable to the community.”“Hundreds of cases are decided every year,” countered Anderson, also in a phone interview. “When all the facts that had to be considered under the law were factored in to that decision, my sentence was the appropriate sentence. It doesn't matter what a judge thinks or feels, you have to go with the laws that are in place.”The sentencing in question was that of convicted child molester, Kenneth Alan Byrnes, 64, who plead no contest to continual sexual abuse of a child after being arrested in August 2010..According to reports in The Union, the Sierra Sun's sister newspaper serving western Nevada County, Byrnes initially was charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, oral copulation with a child under 10, continual sexual abuse of a child and preventing a victim from reporting a crime.Byrnes' plea agreement called for as much as 16 years in prison, but the victim and her family argued strongly for probation.“You probably deserve state prison,” Anderson told Byrnes during sentencing. “This is a very generous sentence. But this sentence is not for you, this is for those around you.”Anderson sentenced Byrnes to 12 years of supervised probation and no additional jail time, beyond the 16 months he had spent in custody. Byrnes' probation terms included registration as a sex offender, two years in a counseling program and a stay-away order from the victim, as well as no contact with children younger than 18 unless in the presence of another adult.
Smyrnos currently works as the Deputy District Attorney in Sacramento, where he prosecutes narcotics cases involving drug-endangered children. He has been working as a prosecutor since 1986, and he worked in the Nevada County District Attorney's Office from October 1990 to 1996.Anderson was elected in November 2006 and was sworn in as a Superior Court Judge on January 7, 2007.As judge, Anderson participates in a variety of legal programs which seek to reduced recidivism and resolve cases using the community's support systems such as counseling and mediation services. He feels, he said, that being a judge requires him to maintain a sense of balance and perspective.“Being a judge is more of a lifestyle,” Anderson said.Recent polls by the Nevada County Bar Association and the Tahoe-Truckee Bar Association deemed Anderson “best qualified” of the two candidates. The Grass Valley Police Officer's Association and the Nevada County Deputy Sheriff's Association are among entities endorsing Smyrnos.More information and a complete list of candidate supporters can be found on each candidate's website: www.judgetomanderson.com and www.smyrnosforjudge.com.