Pot issue, death penalty case keep DA busy | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pot issue, death penalty case keep DA busy

It may be a tad ironic that Gary Lacy, the El Dorado County district attorney, plays on a softball team sponsored by a pest control business.

Holding the position of district attorney since 1994, Lacy said he was surprised at March’s election results where he finished a slim 465 votes behind former friend, roommate and campaign aid Erik Schlueter, a deputy district attorney for the county.

Lacy has made few changes to his campaign since March. He was forced to get a new campaign manager after his former top adviser, John McGinness, became undersheriff for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

“I know I need to do a better job of getting the message out to voters on what I’ve done, what my accomplishments are and the reasons that I should be re-elected,” Lacy said.

In charge of a $4.5 million budget that has recently been slashed by $300,000 during a state budget crisis, Lacy said he is facing tough decisions that Schlueter, who wants to be more of a trial district attorney, is unaware of.

To compensate for the loss of funds, Lacy has issued what could be called a hiring freeze by keeping numerous positions vacant. The positions include two South Lake Tahoe secretarial positions.

Lacy, a graduate of Western State University of Law in 1979, originally wanted to become a surgeon. After six or so applications to medical school were denied while he was a graduate student at California State University Fullerton, he looked across the street to the law school.

“One day after I got a rejection notice from medical school that really was a letdown I went over and picked up an application at the law school,” Lacy said. “I applied, took the law school admission test, got admitted, passed the bar the first time and the rest is history.”

After law school, he picked up a job in Orange County practicing law for two years. then joined the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office in 1985. It’s where he met Schlueter. When Lacy applied for and accepted a job at the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office in 1987, he let Schlueter know of an opening in the office shortly thereafter.

“It’s disheartening he turned against me and decided to run against me,” Lacy said.

Most would agree that Dale Schafer, a private practice attorney known for his stance on medical marijuana, threw a monkey wrench into the March contest by obtaining more than 5,000 votes that forced the November run-off.

Lacy, knowing that his opinion on medical marijuana could provide him swing votes, has instituted specific guidelines that will likely be used by law enforcement once they’re agreed upon.

The guidelines are 10 plants of marijuana per person, or 2 pounds. The guidelines pertain to outdoor plants. Slightly different guidelines will exist for indoor medical growers.

Along with budget handling, helping deputy district attorneys with questions on their cases and responding to phone calls that usually start about 7:45 a.m., Lacy has picked up the potential death penalty case of Lisa Platz.

“Initially it appeared to be a death penalty case,” Lacy said. “No other attorney in our office has conducted a death penalty case. I felt it was appropriate to keep my hand closely in that case to make sure the case was handled appropriately.”

The case is being heard at South Lake Tahoe, about an hour’s drive from Placerville. The rigors of campaigning and prosecuting a potential death penalty case (Lacy has yet to decide what penalty to pursue) has made the district attorney assign parts of the case to Deputy District Attorney Anthony Sears and Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe.

In many ways, Lacy is still the 22-year-old son of a powerful Chicago real estate broker and housewife who drove out to California in a 1974 Mercury Capri for warmer weather. He listens more than he talks, cherishes family and admires a strong work ethic.

He doesn’t see himself doing anything else.

“I can look at myself in the mirror every day,” he said. “I’m comfortable in the fact I’m doing something positive, that I’m putting people away in jail who need to be there, that I’m helping victims, prosecuting people. So every single day I am taking care of getting criminals off the street.”

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.

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