Victim/Witness Assistance Program
The Victim/Witness Assistance Program of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office was developed in response to the growing need for victim advocacy throughout the county. The purpose of the program is to provide a variety of court related and social services designed to meet the needs of crime victims, their families, and witnesses of crime. Victim specialists help at every stage of the criminal court process including but not limited to providing an explanation of court procedures, providing accompaniment during hearings, grand jury presentation and trials, and filing requests for restitution. Other direct services include assistance with victim impact statements, returning property seized by police, and assistance with completing applications for compensation with the NYS Office of Victim Services. Lastly, victim specialists provide short term counseling and referrals to the various social services agencies throughout Schenectady County.
This specialized unit is made up of three victim specialists from various backgrounds and supervised by the Crime Victim Services Coordinator. Some of the programs developed by the unit include:
Mass Shooting Response Training
With assistance from the Office of Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center, training was developed and provided to various agencies including mental health services, hospitals, victim specialists, and first responders to help the community recover and assist victims and their families in the wake of a mass shooting incident.
YWCA Domestic Violence Alarm Program
This program was originally started through collaboration with the YWCA and DA Carney after the brutal death of a victim of domestic violence who was killed when her abuser broke into her home. The alarm system allows a domestic violence victim the ability to press a panic alarm which then dials into the County’s Unified Communication Center that dispatches police assistance.
Volunteer Program for Students
This volunteer program gives students an opportunity to explore careers in areas of criminal justice other than law enforcement and at the same time earn credits toward their degree. Students work directly with crime victims and assist them through the stages of the criminal justice process, and they advocate to prosecutors and law enforcement officials the needs of crime victims. Additionally, students observe firsthand how the court process is run and what the job of a prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge entails.
Crime Victim Rights
The Right to Compensation and Assistance: Crime victims may be eligible for compensation from the NYS Office of Victim Services (https://ovs.ny.gov/) for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of crime. These expenses may include the repair/replacement of damaged property, loss of earnings or support, medical bills, crime scene cleanup, counseling, or funeral expenses.
The Right to be Notified of Judicial Proceedings: If you have provided a current address and telephone number to law enforcement, you have the right to be notified of the accused’s arrest, first appearance before the judge, release from jail while the criminal proceedings are pending, entry of a guilty plea, trial, sentencing and maximum and minimum terms of imprisonment if the defendant is sentenced to prison.
The Right to be Free from Intimidation: Crime victims have the right to be protected from tampering, threats, physical injury, or other kinds of intimidation.
The Right to Submit a Victim Impact Statement: When a proposed sentence contains probation or more than one hundred eighty days imprisonment, a pre-sentence investigation report may contain a victim impact statement. In this statement, crime victims may summarize their version of the offense, the extent of their injuries, financial losses they have incurred as a result of the crime and how the crime has affected their lives and the lives of their family. In the case of a felony conviction, crime victims have the right to deliver this statement in person at the defendant’s sentencing.
The Right to Restitution: Crime victims have the right to request restitution and have their restitution claims presented to the court by the District Attorney.
The General Rights of Crime Victims: Crime victims have the right to a copy of the police report and the prompt return of property held for evidence (unless a compelling reason exists for holding it).
Victims have the right to know if an offender who is in custody has been released. Victim Information Notification Everyday, or V.I.N.E, is a computer database that was designed specifically for this purpose. Victims can search for an offender who is in custody at any of the county or state correctional facilities in New York State and register to be notified when the offender is released. Notification is made by way of text, phone call, or email.
The VINE toll-free number for the New York Vine system is 1-866-277-7477 (option 2)
Mr. Rulison has led the unit since 2001 and is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He also holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati and is currently a member of the faculty at SUNY Delhi. Ken was a member of the Capital District Coalition for Crime Victims’ Rights and held the office of Vice President and Treasurer. In 2008 he was recognized by the Coalition for his dedicated service to crime victims. Over the 20 years of his service to Schenectady County, Ken has worked with thousands of victims and families, some of whom have created lasting relationships with him. Ken’s greatest accomplishment is providing this lasting support to those that need it to help heal from the trauma caused by crime.
Crime Victim Specialists
Kate Schwartz joined the DA’s Office in 2017. In 2014 she received a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Syracuse University. Prior to joining the District Attorney’s Office, she worked in Social Services.
Sandra Stapleton the DA’s Office in 2018 as a Crime Victim/Witness Specialist. She received a degree in Paralegal Studies from Schenectady County Community College. Prior to joining the DA’s office, Stapleton worked for the Schenectady County Dept. of Social Services as a Social Welfare Examiner in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Dept.
Amanda Weekes is a Victim Services Specialist advocating and helping in Special Victim Unit cases for the DA’s Office since 2018. She has been at the CAC since 2019. I joined the DA’s Office in 2018. Weekes received a bachelor's in criminal justice from SUNY Albany in 2012. Prior to working at the DA's Office, she worked as a Crime Analyst at the Schenectady City Police Department from 2012-2018.