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Caroline Wojtaszek to run for Niagara County Court judge

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Thu, Nov 7th 2019 09:45 am

District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek has announced her candidacy for Niagara County Court judge.

Wojtaszek is seeking the position that will be left vacant in January 2021 by Judge Sara Sheldon’s retirement. The primary will be held in June 2020. Sheldon handles more than half of Niagara County’s felony cases.

In January 2017, Wojtaszek became the first woman to serve as Niagara County’s district attorney. She has over 20 years’ experience in criminal law, including seven years as Sheldon’s confidential law clerk.

As DA, Wojtaszek has instituted numerous improvements to the organization and operation of her department. She started the “front-end prosecution” program in Niagara Falls City Court by restructuring her staff to handle domestic violence, homicides, gun-related offenses, assaults and home invasion prosecutions from arrest through trial. She has enhanced the use and capabilities of the Niagara Intelligence Crime Analysis Center by hiring a criminal intelligence officer, as well as using asset forfeiture money to purchase pole cameras for local municipalities. She started the “SafeCam” program to locate private business and residential cameras so that they can assist law enforcement.

Along with the Niagara County Office of the Aging, she has worked to improve the screening and prosecution of financial, sexual and physical abuse crimes against the elderly. Wojtaszek has worked with the Niagara County Sexual Assault Response Team to improve the investigation of sexual assaults on college campuses and to provide trauma-informed training to local law enforcement agencies.

Wojtaszek personally reviews all animal abuse cases in Niagara County and works closely with the SPCA to enhance animal cruelty investigations. Since becoming DA, she has worked to triple the number offenders placed on the Animal Abuse Registry. She is the recent recipient of the Taylor Award from the Niagara County SPCA for her work on animal cruelty cases.

Wojtaszek also was named one of Western New York’s “Legal Elite” of 2018 and 2019 and one of the “Power 125 Women” by Buffalo Business First. This past year she was awarded the Women Lamplighters in the Law Award received from the Gender and Racial Fairness Committee for the Eighth Judicial District. She also received the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service from the University of Buffalo School of Law, Prosecutor of the Year by the Prosecutors Association of Western New York, and the Emerging Leader Award from the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier.

Before becoming DA, Wojtaszek was a top prosecutor during the 12 years she worked as a Niagara County assistant district attorney in the special victims unit. She earned convictions in numerous high-profile cases, concentrating on domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault cases.

Among the many others she successfully prosecuted during this time, she convicted an elementary school teacher whom molested six students in North Tonawanda. As one of the first women in Niagara County to lead the prosecution of a murder case, she gained the convictions of three defendants for the murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Bolender in Niagara Falls. Wojtaszek successfully prosecuted a defendant for raping and terrorizing a young girl and slitting the throat of her younger brother in Wheatfield and convicted a serial rapist in Lockport.

Wojtaszek has long been a leader in the fight against domestic violence. She helped develop Niagara County's domestic violence protocols that later served as a model for district attorneys statewide. She coordinated training for lawyers and others working in the criminal justice system in dealing with those suffering from mental health problems. Additionally, she coordinated specialized training in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving shaken baby syndrome.

Wojtaszek also served on several committees, including the Child Abuse Intervention Project, the Family Violence Intervention Project, the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and the Rape Crisis Advisory Board. She previously served on the board of the YWCA of the Niagara Frontier and was a member of its domestic violence committee.

While earning her law degree at the State University at Buffalo she was head coordinator of the law school's domestic violence task force. She also worked as acting domestic violence coordinator for Niagara County while still a law student.

Before entering law school Wojtaszek graduated magna cum laude from the State University College at Brockport with dual majors in political science and sociology. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad at Oxford University in England and worked as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C.

Wojtaszek is 47 years old and lives in North Tonawanda with husband, Henry, and their three children.

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