Rich Chiapete was sworn in Monday afternoon as Racine County District Attorney, taking the oath of office from his former boss.
Mike Nieskes left the Racine County District Attorney's Office when Gov. Scott Walker appointed him to the bench, where he replaced the late Dennis Barry. Chiapete served seven years as deputy district attorney, until the governor appointed him to succeed Nieskes.
He took the oath of office in Nieskes' courtroom, in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
"I promise to do my very best to live up to the expectations of this office," Chiapete said.
There is a long history of excellence in the Racine County District Attorney's Office, he said, from the district attorneys to the assistant district attorneys and support staff. The office is the third-largest of the 71 district attorney's offices in the state. They have a higher caseload per attorney than Milwaukee County's office, he said, with the 18 attorneys prosecuting between 3,400-3,500 misdemeanor cases, 1,700 felonies, 500-600 juvenile cases and thousands of traffic cases every year.
"Each case is separate and distinct," he said. "I will be the hammer in a case that requires a hammer. But that's not every case. I am open to working with other agencies."
Chiapete has been a strong proponent of alternatives to incarceration programs operating in the county, and said he intends to continue working with those programs, and with specialty courts — like a veterans court — as they are available.
"This job is a search for the truth, and a search for justice, and I believe in that," he said.
Chiapete finished to a standing ovation.
County Executive Jim Ladwig emceed the event, which also introduced Patricia Hanson as the new deputy district attorney.