Meet the DA
Jeff Burkett has been the District Attorney of Jefferson County since January of 1998. Prior to taking office, Burkett started his professional life as law clerk to the Hon. Edwin L. Snyder and Hon. William L. Henry, President Judges of the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County. He had engaged in the private practice of law and also served Jefferson County as an Assistant Public Defender, Family Law Master and Domestic Relations Conference Officer. He has also served as an instructor or professor at Penn State/DuBois and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Jeff has handled thousands of cases and has enjoyed great success during his tenure as Jefferson County District Attorney. He has had the distinguished honor of being before the Pennsylvania Supreme and Superior Courts many times and, in several instances, has created new law that benefits children and other victims of crime all over the Commonwealth. One of Burkett’s cases, Commonwealth v. Allshouse, is one of the seminal cases in Pennsylvania on the Tender Years Hearsay rule in the light of Crawford v. Washington. Burkett also filed an appeal from a pre-trial ruling in Commonwealth v. Minich, which resulted in the creation of important new law that now protects children and all crime victims from unfair attacks from defense attorneys.
Jeff has made it his mission to engage and fight the war on drugs in our county. He has stated that, “Our law enforcement community is stretched thin and budgets are tight. That is why I developed a county detective position without using your hard-earned tax dollars in the fight against drugs. Also, our small communities can’t afford to have detective bureaus and vice units in their municipal police departments. That is why cooperation and coordination is so vital in this battle. The Pennsylvania State Police Vice Unit has excellent drug investigators but they have a huge geographic territory to cover that goes well outside of Jefferson County. Because of this great need, Jefferson County has employed a rare and powerful solution to this problem. I have helped to establish the first-ever partnership between the Jefferson County Drug Task Force (DTF) and the State Police Vice Unit so that these two fine agencies can work in a coordinated effort. The DTF is made up of fine municipal police officers from Jefferson County borough police departments (Punxsutawney, Reynoldsville, Brookville, Brockway and Sykesville). All of this important work in the fight against drugs is done “undercover” so the public has no idea about all of the active investigations we have going. However, I can tell you confidently that this partnership has been tremendously successful. We have never had so many “boots on the ground” enforcing the drug laws in one concerted effort. We constantly work together on investigations, sharing information and tips and drafting search warrants. This fight is not an easy one, but I take the drug problem very seriously. As a father of three, I know how important it is to keep “fighting the good fight” and to keep working hard to get drug dealers off of our streets and behind bars where they belong!”
Burkett is also committed to prosecuting child molesters and protecting the precious children of our county. He has had great success in trying child abuse cases and putting these child predators behind bars for huge sentences. After coming to the realization that the legal system could do so much better for child victims, Jeff formed a very effective MDIT in 2005. The multi-disciplinary investigative team meets regularly to discuss and formulate an effective course of action for all child abuse cases in the county. Jefferson County’s excellent model of child abuse investigation and prosecution led to him being called upon to testify before the PA Task Force on Child Protection in Harrisburg about the best practices for dealing with child abuse in rural counties. Then, in 2008, a personal dream of Burkett’s came to fruition by the founding of a child advocacy center (CAC). DA Burkett’s office applied to the National Children’s Alliance for a start-up grant for the first “prosecution-based” (ran directly out of the District Attorney’s Office) CAC in the Commonwealth in 2007 and, in May of 2008, it became a reality. Being that this was a grant that only would last for one year, Burkett formed a board of directors and “Western PA CARES for Kids”, a non-profit child advocacy center, was born. Jeff now serves as the President and Chairmen of the Board for CARES. In conjunction with Jefferson County’s MDIT, the founding of CARES has revolutionized child abuse investigation and prosecution in Jefferson County. It has reduced the trauma on the victims while producing high-quality investigations. Now, all of the key agencies work together instead of doing their jobs in isolation. This has produced stiff sentences for child abusers on a regular basis.
Lastly, Jeff knows the importance of going beyond the normal duties and responsibilities of the District Attorney’s office. That is why he constantly reaches out to our local communities in the fight for justice. For instance, he has met with all of the schools of Jefferson County to warn students about the dangerous, possibly life-altering effects of the “sexting” trend that has taken root in the youth of the county. He has pleaded with students to not go down “the dark road” of illegal drug use. Another training that Mr. Burkett was able to offer every school district that serves Jefferson County, was a seminar he devised to teach school personnel and teachers how to properly interview a child who has disclosed abuse to them. He then took that same training to the Punxsutawney Hospital and trained its ER staff. Mr. Burkett is concerned for the seniors of our county as well. After attending a conference that was hosted by the Dept. of Aging on investigating and prosecuting elder abuse, he was convinced of the need to conduct similar seminars at our local senior centers. These seminars allowed him the opportunity to educate our seniors on how to avoid harmful scams and fraud. In fact, he and several other concerned citizens of our county have recently formed an Elder Abuse Task Force to ensure that the seniors of this county are well-protected. Over the years Jeff has educated countless community groups and civic clubs on a variety of relevant topics. He understands the importance of working together with the good citizens of this county so that together we can all help in the ongoing battle to keep our communities safe!