Christopher Almy likes prosecution.
Since beginning his legal career in 1975, he has resisted the temptation of taking his skills to more prestigious and lucrative law firms. Now he is attempting to continue his 10-year career as the district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
“My purpose in coming here was to make this a career and I like it,” Almy said during a recent interview from his office atop the Penobcot County Superior Courthouse.
Almy, a Democrat, is running for a third term as the head prosecutor of the two counties. His challenger is Republican John Richards of Hampden, who is in private practice in Bangor.
It’s the second time the two men have faced off for the seat. Richards lost to Almy in 1986 and in 1990 Almy ran unopposed.
Almy lives in Charleston with his wife and four children.
He started working part time for the District Attorney’s Office in 1976, was appointed deputy district attorney in 1984 and took the reins in 1985 when then-District Attorney Margaret Kravchuk got appointed to the bench.
“I really enjoy prosecution. I really want to continue to use my skills in the capacity of this office,” Almy said.
Almy is a thin man with immense energy. He is commonly seen taking the courthouse stairs two or three at a time as he converses with another lawyer or police officer who tries desperately to keep up with him.
He draws on that energy in the courtroom and to defend his staff and the record of his office.
As for his accomplishments, Almy points in several directions: courts that work as effectively as possible with dockets that “are as up to date as any other county;” a tough stance on drunken driving; and an increase in services to victims of domestic violence.
“We try more cases than any other district attorney’s office in the state,” Almy said.
Statistics compiled for 1992 by the Administrative Office of the Courts support Almy’s statement. Since 1986 more cases have gone to trial in Penobscot County than in any other county. In 1992, the last year that such statistics were broken down by county, 71 cases were tried in Penobscot County compared with 60 in Cumberland County.
In 1991, Almy received the “Eye on DUI Trailblazers” award for his leadership in prosecution of drunken driving.
“We have a history of trying .08 cases,” Almy said. “Not every DA’s office does that. … When police officers bring OUI cases to this office, they know we are going to be behind them.”
His office, with the help of the Spruce Run Association, was the first to establish a victim-witness advocate position to work exclusively with victims of domestic violence. He also has campaigned for additional alternative programs for juvenile offenders.
His staff of attorneys is involved in numerous community and state projects, including the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Committee, the Spruce Run Association, the Maine Criminal Rules Advisory Committee, the Maine Commission on Domestic Abuse and the University of Maine Rape Awareness Committee.
Perhaps Almy’s most controversial stance during his 10-year career was his involvement in the case against Old Town police Officer Norman Harrington, who was at one time a suspect in a Bangor child abuse ring.
Harrington was never charged with a crime, but Almy refused to close the investigation into his conduct. The officer was suspended from the police force, but later was reinstated by an arbitrator.
Almy has been criticized for his decision to stop prosecuting any cases brought to his office by Harrington, who subsequently filed suit against Almy and the city of Old Town. City officials tried to get Harrington to submit to a highly controversial penile plethysmograph test to determine whether the officer had pedophile tendencies.
The case against Almy was later dismissed by a Boston appeals court. Harrington went on to win $900,000 from the city in a federal civil lawsuit.
Today, Almy says he believes Harrington is an innocent man, but contends there was enough evidence against the officer at the time to “raise concerns” about his credibility.
“I made those decisions and I had reason for them. They may have been unpopular, but I stand by them,” he said.
The issue was an emotional one throughout the area, especially in Old Town, and could have a negative impact on Almy’s re-election attempt next week.
Almy maintains however, that his relationship with police officers throughout the two counties is solid.
Maine’s Attorney General Michael Carpenter has come out in support of Almy, as have Bangor police Chief Randy Harriman; Lincoln police Chief Larry Merrithew; Dexter police Chief David Clukey; Dover-Foxcroft police Chief Dennis Dyer; Millinocket police Chief Wayne Scarano; Milo police Chief Todd Lyford; East Millinocket police Chief Gerald Cramp and Mattawamkeag police Chief Terry Thompson.
At the start of his campaign, Almy vowed to accept no more than $50 from each campaign contributor, other than family members.
He has raised a total of $6,354 and spent $4,798.
Several lawyers and area doctors have donated to Almy’s campaign, including Somerset County District Attorney David Crook, who donated $50. The committee to re-elect Crook also donated $50, as well as Crook’s wife and children. Representative Mary Cathcart, a Democrat from Orono, donated $50; and John Michael, independent candidate for Congress, who is an advocate for limits on campaign spending, donated $50.