For many years, Niagara Falls attorney Michael J. Violante has worked to keep his clients out of jail.
Now he wants to switch sides and start putting criminals behind bars as Niagara County district attorney.
Violante, a Republican, declared his candidacy for the post Saturday. County GOP Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek said Violante will have the party's official support.
Incumbent Matthew J. Murphy III, a Lockport Democrat who is in his 16th year in office, said in July that he wouldn't be seeking another term. Violante is the first candidate to announce interest in succeeding him.
Violante has been county public defender since January 2004, a part-time position supervising a staff of 18 attorneys who defend indigent suspects.
Violante, a practicing attorney since 1971, said in his faxed announcement that trying to take down drug dealers and street gangs will be his top priority if elected.
"The people of Niagara County are tired of drugs and gangs, and the violent crime they breed. We need a comprehensive approach to attacking this problem aggressively," Violante said in the statement.
As a prominent defense attorney, Violante has firsthand knowledge of drug dealers and users.
Some of Violante's recent clients have included Niagara Falls cocaine kingpin Clayton "Iceberg" Green, who pleaded guilty in September to heading an operation that distributed cocaine as far as Geneva; Christopher M. Faieta of Niagara Falls, who admitted he was using crack cocaine when he bludgeoned a teenager with the butt of a pellet rifle and strangled him with an amplifier cord in late 2005; and Anthony E. Parkes of Niagara Falls, Ont., who since November 2005 has declined to cross the border to be sentenced for his role in a cocaine conspiracy after failing a lie detector test about how much cocaine he sold.
"Mike is a top-notch attorney. He knows the law and I think he's the kind of guy who can try to put an end to the terror," Wojtaszek said. "I think he knows what it takes."