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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 5:45 am | Fair 54º


Santa Maria ‘Prosecutor At Heart’ Leaving Full-Time Position with District Attorney’s Office

Kevin Duffy, called a 'tireless warrior,' has worked for Santa Barbara County since 1999 and plans to continue part-time handling selective cases

Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy has handled three back-to-back trials in the Santa Maria Superior Court building since February. He’s decided to semi-retire and move to part-time status.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy has handled three back-to-back trials in the Santa Maria Superior Court building since February. He’s decided to semi-retire and move to part-time status. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With retirement looming, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy didn’t slow down as he handled three back-to-back trials for deadly drunken driving, homicide and sexual abuse cases since February.

This, his boss District Attorney Joyce Dudley said, is reflective of Duffy’s approach to his job as a prosecutor.

“Kevin is a tireless warrior who thrives on fighting for crime victims and justice,” Dudley said. “Year after year he has taken on our most heart-wrenching cases, often without any reprieve. He will be greatly missed by me and his colleagues and he will be remembered for his work ethic and passion.”

Duffy’s last day was Thursday, ending a full-time gig he began in 1999. 

“I feel like I’ve had a full career,” the 45-year-old Duffy said. He’s leaving, calling it retirement, “because there’s other stuff I want to do in life.”

After graduating from Cal Poly, Duffy attended Cal Western School of Law in San Diego. 

Following a series of internships, he briefly worked in San Diego prosecuting misdemeanors. A short interview with then-Santa Barbara County District Attorney Christie Stanley led to Duffy landing his job in the District Attorney’s Office in Santa Maria.

While he is leaving his full-time job, Duffy will work part-time handling selective cases.

“I’m just a prosecutor at heart. If you’ve got to work, this is the best job possible. I get paid to do right thing for the right reason,” he said.

He had high praise for the current district attorney — “Joyce Dudley has just been a dynamite boss. The taxpayers of Santa Barbara County are very lucky to have her as the elected DA,” he said — as well as the three others he worked for locally. “I’m very pleased that she’s going to allow me to continue to satisfy that part of me that loves to talk to juries and loves to advocate for vulnerable victims.”

After prosecuting domestic violence cases for two years, he has since handled serious and violent felony cases, including several homicide cases with multiple victims.

Some cases stand out for different reasons.

One included the triple homicide for a man charged with killing his girlfriend, her eight-month fetus and her 2-year-old child at the Palms Motor Hotel on West Main Street in July 2001.

“It was really intense,” he said. “Child homicide is just heartbreaking.”

He also prosecuted quadruple-murderer Lee Leeds, convicted of shootings in an auto salvage yard that killing Leeds’ father and three other men in 2008.

The Leeds case proved to be intellectually challenging as the case involved a half-dozen experts testifying about insanity.

Duffy’s final months in his full-time job have been spent prosecuting Benjamin Bettencourt, convicted of drunk driving causing great bodily injury to his passenger, and Brian Keith Reid, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder in the shooting of his parents. Duffy also handled a sexual molestation case in his back-to-back trials earlier this year. 

“It was a great way to end my career,” he said, noting he had tried more than 80 cases as prosecutor. 

“I can’t imagine ending my career on a better note. It was just kind of fortuitous how that turned out,” he added. “Now that I’m done it feels that way.”

Prosecuting sexual molestation cases is “emotionally and psychologically draining,” he said, recalling a heart-wrenching case where the teenage victim — and some jurors — were crying as he asked some difficult questions to establish the elements of the case.

“Doing those cases for the last 14 years, it’s been a blessing but it’s also taken its toll on me,” he said.

He called it “extremely rewarding” to have former victims share about the successes in their lives and the healing they received by standing up their abusers in court.

One former victim visits and has invited him to important milestones in her life. 

“I’ve had little kids come and tell me that I’ve changed the course of their lives, that I was there at the most difficult time of their lives,” he said. “How many professions get that kind of additional reward to their job? I feel very very blessed.” 

He already has a busy schedule planned. As a volunteer with the Central Coast Literacy Council, he will continue teaching a man from Vietnam how to speak and read English.

Once his wife retires in a year, they plan to travel across the United States, Canada and Mexico to visit state parks and rock climb. 

This summer, he and a college-bound son will hike the 500-mile Camino de Santiago, retracing several ancient pilgrimage routes in Spain.

“It’s going to be a last chance to bond with my son before he heads off to college on his next adventure,” Duffy said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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