SALT LAKE CITY — Attorney Gregory Skordas, who has announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Salt Lake County District Attorney, says the job calls for someone with a wide range of legal experience, and plenty of it.
Skordas has been an attorney for 25 years, with eight of those as a prosecutor and the rest as a defense lawyer. He now is in private practice and works as a small claims judge.
His clients in recent years have included many high-profile and controversial people including former Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman, who was acquitted in 2005 of misusing public money, and David Ragsdale, who shot his wife, Kristy, to death in a Lehi church parking lot in 2007. Ragsdale was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
However, Skordas said during his years as a prosecutor he successfully went after such individuals as Richard Worthington, who in 1991 shot and killed nurse Karla Roth and held Alta View Hospital under siege for 18 hours. Worthington got a 35-year prison term, but committed suicide in 1993.
Skordas also filed capital homicide charges against Danny Troyer, who was thought to be a serial killer of older women.
"That was Utah's first DNA case," Skordas said. "That was a time when people were using blood typing and hair fiber analysis. We introduced this thing called DNA and they treated it, at the time, like those people who use crystal balls. We had to educate a lot of judges and lawyers on that, but now it's done a lot for both sides."
Skordas said he thinks his experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney would be useful for the district attorney's office.
He estimates he has handled at least 500 felony cases, either as a defense attorney or a prosecutor. "If you include strategizing (for prosecuting cases), it could double that number easily. At one point, I was the chief deputy in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and we had to make decisions on virtually every important felony in the office. But I still maintained a caseload."
Skordas said he would keep on doing that. "I will be in court every week if I'm elected. The office needs a district attorney with felony experience."
He said he has great respect for the prosecutors who work in the district attorney's office.
"I have a very good relationship with those people and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them — all of them, without exception," Skordas said.
However, he termed it "sad" that many excellent prosecutors have left the office in recent years.
He also sees a need for other changes in the office.
"When I worked there from 1986 to 1994, I felt we had a closer relationship with law enforcement, and I felt good about where we were and what we had done with respect to law enforcement," Skordas said. He also would like to see the office have a closer relationship with federal prosecutors.
For the past 15 years, Skordas has been a legal representative for the Fraternal Order of Police, assisting any officer along with Wasatch Front who faces a use-of-force charge.
Skordas said he was Utah's first gang prosecutor and helped form the Salt Lake Area Gang Project (now the Metro Gang Unit). "I think when we started the gang unit, that was pretty cutting edge," he said, adding that he would like to give it additional attention.
But he is quick to praise those who currently handle gang-related crimes. "I think the Metro Gang Unit has done a very good job."
For a time, Skordas also headed the district attorney's office's special victim's unit, prosecuting sex crimes.
"I've worked with a lot of victims and I'm a victim advocate," he said. "I've done a lot of victim advocacy for the Rape Recovery Center and represented a lot of victims, always pro bono, by the way."
Skordas and others also created Utah's first drug court and he directs the non-profit Friends of Drug Court support organization. "I think there should be a re-emphasis on Drug Court and other specialty courts (such as Mental Health Court)."
Four governors have appointed or re-appointed him to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
Skordas is no newcomer to politics. He ran for office in 2004 against Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Defense work is lucrative, so why take on the headaches and pay cut of a public job?
"I love defense work," Skordas said. "But working in the district attorney's office was the best job I ever had. I always said I would go back to that."
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