A new top law enforcement officer was sworn into office today in western Massachusetts. The new top prosecutor in the greater Springfield area is promising a proactive approach to the job.
Anthony Gulluni was sworn in as the new Hampden District Attorney.
Breaking with tradition, the public ceremony was held in historic Old First Church in Springfield, rather than in the Hall of Justice, to accommodate a larger audience. Several hundred people attended including community leaders, elected officials, judges and lawyers.
" I feel nervous. I feel proud. I feel confident. I am honor, humbled and exited."
In his brief remarks, Gulluni paraphrased the late Mario Cuomo, whom he said was his political idol.
"He said " who cares what people what to hear, focus on what you need to say." I think that was one of the guiding principles by which he lived his political life and I hope it is one of the guiding principles by which I lead my life. Essentially it is do not what is popular and expected, but what is right and just."
Gulluni, who at age 33 is the youngest Hampden DA in a half-century, replaced James Orenstien, who was serving as interim district attorney. Orenstien was appointed last summer after Mark Mastroianni resigned from the prosecutor’s office following his Senate confirmation as a U.S. District Court Judge.
Mastroianni administered the oath to Gulluni, who was an assistant district attorney for six years under Mastroianni and former District Attorney William Bennett.
"I am honored to follow in their footsteps," said Gulluni.
Running for elected office for the first time last year, Gulluni handily defeated three fellow Democrats in the September primary and faced no opponent in the November election.
Gulluni said he has a responsibility to the people who elected him, to crime victims, to the staff in his office, and to the police officers of Hampden County with whom he will work closely. In an interview, he acknowledged the job of district attorney is especially challenging now given the conflict that has a risen out of controversial grand jury decisions involving deaths of people at the hands of police.
" It is incumbent on me and my staff to make sure we are uniting the community and police , establishing that trust and have the kind of programs that will foster that."
Gulluni confirmed reports that 19 employees of the district attorney’s office, including some veteran prosecutors and victims’ advocates, had been fired as part of the transition. He said he would work quickly to fill the vacancies.
"I don't expect any significant delays of trials or justice of any kind," said Gulluni. " This is a natural part of the transition that these things take place."
Once the office is up and running, Gulluni said his top priority is to launch a “robust community outreach program.”
Jose Claudio, a community leader in Springfield’s North End, said Gulluni has already been to neighborhood meetings to discuss crime-fighting initiatives.
" He can't do it alone. The police can't do it alone. We need the community to step up and say enough is enough."
Former Boston Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn told the audience he was impressed with the turnout for the swearing-in of Gulluni. He said it was a sign of strong community support.