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New prosecution process in Eastern Idaho?

Some criminals in Eastern Idaho could soon be prosecuted differently if the proposed Special Assistant United States Attorney program is adopted.

The proposed SAUSA’s would work with local and federal law enforcement to prosecute offenders in federal court, rather than state court. Those convicted, would be sent to federal prison, instead of an Idaho Prison.

SAUSA has had a partnership with the Treasure Valley since 2007. It said it averages 32 prosecutions a year, saving Idaho taxpayers an average of $1.3 million annually.

The assistant U.S. attorneys would be able to prosecute federal crimes like gun and gang violence, drug trafficking, terrorism and internet-based crimes against children.

City and county leaders in Eastern Idaho are looking at making a similar partnership. Mark McBride, Idaho Falls’ chief of police, said a recent meaning in Pocatello showed a lot of interest from counties and cities.

“All the law enforcement agencies there were if favor of this,” said McBride. “All the cities and counties there were in favor of it, but cautiously optimistic to look at it and see if it will work for our communities.”

McBride said SAUSA would save prosecution costs locally, and that if there is a federal conviction, taxpayers save money on prison sentences, too.

“They’ll see the dollar savings in their budgets,” said McBride. “The cities would see the intangible benefits of safer communities.”

Bruce Pickett, Bonneville County’s prosecuting attorney, said the best way to protect the community might be to take these cases to the federal level.

“Those sentences are typically harsher,” said Pickett. “It houses people out of state, so they are not able to perhaps run their gang or have some of those local gang affiliations here in Bonneville County.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho has an office in Pocatello, so the project could be facilitated in Eastern Idaho. The SAUSA program would cost the region $25,000 annually, so the more cities and counties that participate the cheaper it will be for each entity.

“To go forward on this you would have to have the local jurisdictions vote and decide to contribute money to this program,” said Pickett.

Eastern Idaho county and city leaders will meet May 29 to continue the discussion.

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