January 31, 2019. Our program featured Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli who is serving his 28th and final year in that capacity. John’s job is to be the chief law enforcement officer for the County. His team consists of 21 Assistant District Attorneys that are grouped into specialized task forces including violent crime, juvenile crime, citizens’ grand jury, appellate unit, sexual assault /abuse, domestic violence, drug crimes, DUI, and white collar crime. The DUI and Drug Task Forces are the busiest units accounting for 44% and 22% of all cases. The team is aided by an investigative unit featuring seven county detectives. They work with police departments from 30 municipalities as well as the State Police.
The County prosecuted about 1,000 cases when John started his career. That figure is now closer to 5,000. He attributes the change to a rise in population. Another contributing factor is the opioid crisis. The opioid issue was first thought to be an aberration but the numbers continue to rise. Typical overdose cases had been handled by the Coroner who would classify the death as an accidental overdose. Today’s cases are automatically considered to be crime scenes. Evidence from the crime scene can potentially reveal the source of the deadly substance. Prosecution of the drug suppliers is difficult because the DA must prove a direct connection between the supplier and the death. Many deaths result from the opioid being laced with fentanyl, often unbeknownst to the victim. Increased awareness of the issue combined with emerging prevention and education may help alleviate this problem.