Rappelling DAs repel fear of the unknown

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 2, 2003

Most people expect attorneys in the courtroom, not on a rappelling tower.

Two Dallas County assistant district attorneys, though, left the courthouse Friday just long enough to rappel from a tower at the Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority. Assistant District Attorneys Mickey Avery and Joseph Fitzpatrick took the plunge after a monthly violent crime task force meeting Friday.

Fitzpatrick has never rappelled before, but didn’t have any apprehension about it.

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Avery said he threw the idea on the table at the task force’s last meeting. He’s worked for the past month getting an instructor lined up and gaining permission for the tower’s use.

Rappelling, instructors say, instills confidence on both the individual and task-force level.

Avery and Fitzpatrick are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods &045;&045; a national initiative providing $500 million to prosecutors in an effort to catch criminals. A number of entities take part in the initiative. They include: the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tax, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, federal and state probation offices, the Selma Police Department, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

At meetings, task force members coordinate law enforcement efforts to create the most effective method dealing with violent offenders. For example, under Alabama law, it’s illegal for a felon to have a pistol, but only if his or her previous offense was violent. However, under federal law, it doesn’t matter whether the previous offense was violent. That type of information helps task force members decide on the best way of prosecuting offenders.