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Nine out of 10 criminal prosecutors are leaving Bonneville County. What’s next?

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IDAHO FALLS – Nine out of 10 criminal prosecuting attorneys in the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office have left or plan on leaving their positions by the end of the summer.

This is a major overhaul for the office happening just months before Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Alayne Bean is set to leave her position after losing the Republican primary election to criminal defense attorney Randy Neal.

Because of potential job opportunities for Bean, Neal could take over as prosecutor by the end of the summer, almost six months earlier than expected.

“Some (prosecutors) have left because of other job opportunities or family situations. With the most recent resignations, those are driven in large part due to the May election results,” Bean tells EastIdahoNews.com.

Because there is concern that cases may be dropped over of the lack of prosecutors, Bean sent an email to law enforcement leadership proposing that police revert back to how arrests were done during COVID. She explained this will help in the transition between administrations and be less impactful on how cases are handled.

Bean emailed Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson, Bonneville County Sheriff Samuel Hulse, IFPD Capt. Bill Squires and Idaho State Police Capt. Christopher Weadick on June 8 outlining the struggles the prosecutor’s office will soon encounter.

“Because of the loss of people, we will soon be forced to operate on a skeleton crew,” Bean wrote. “We are asking our law enforcement partners to help us by reducing the number of new PC (probable cause) arrests. This should only be done when there is not a case of violence or an imminent community safety need.”

Johnson responded to her email, saying he “is a bit worried” about her proposal.

“Last time we did something like this it had serious consequences with increases in crime that we are still dealing with,” he wrote. “What if we went ahead and made an arrest so there is some accountability, and then if you needed to refile the case at a later time due to staffing and timing issues that would be understandable?”

Bean replied by reiterating that she does not want to see any increase in crime.

“I do not want to empower anyone in criminal activity. I desperately want to avoid that,” she wrote. “We have literally never faced this kind of mass exodus (without any replacements teed up to come in) that I can think of. … I don’t know what else to do that doesn’t shine a spotlight on the fact that we are devastatingly understaffed.”

Bean tells EastIdahoNews.com Wednesday that there have been some misconceptions about her intentions in the email after it went public. Many assume she asked the police to stop making arrests, which was not the case.

“The safety of our community is of the utmost importance to me and my office. Those who commit crimes will continue to be arrested and prosecuted,” Bean explains in an email to EastIdahoNews.com. “There is a misconception out there that I was telling law enforcement to do something that would result in no criminal accountability for people committing crimes. That is absolutely false.

“This prosecutor shortage, although hopefully short-term, is a bigger issue for my office than COVID was because five prosecutors cannot effectively handle the load of 10 prosecutors.”

Johnson emailed his officers on June 23 and explained Bean’s request, along with his counter-proposal that police continue to make arrests, and if the prosecutor has to drop the case and refile it sometime in the future, that would be better.

“You may see more if not many of your cases being dropped. Please do not let this dissuade you from doing your job,” he wrote to his staff. “Please enforce the law as you always would with your discretion. You are the thin blue line keeping this City from chaos. Hopefully at some point in the future the prosecutor’s office can get their staffing issues improved and they will be able to start to catch back up.”

With the massive turnover rate, soon-to-be Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal says he’s ready to take over whenever Bean leaves and will likely be sworn in by the end of the summer. He’s working with her to re-staff the office in the coming weeks and says that he is not too worried about the outcome.

“I don’t think this is that unusual in a transition between a new administration coming in, the uneasiness from not knowing when the transition would occur and not knowing what it will look like,” says Neal. “Between Alayne and I, we will make sure that prosecutions go forward.”

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