Oct. 22—Muskogee County Assistant District Attorney Jessie Heidlage earned recognition Thursday as Prosecutor of the Year for her prosecution of domestic violence cases.
Heidlage was recognized during the 13th annual Awards for Excellence in Action Against Domestic Violence presentation and press conference at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The event is sponsored by the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Native Alliance Against Violence.
Muskogee County District Attorney Larry R. Edwards, who nominated Heidlage for the award, said working domestic cases can be "difficult even under the best of circumstances." Victims of domestic violence, he said, often will not report crimes when they occur, don't assist prosecutors, or don't show up when subpoenaed to testify.
"Ms. Heidlage tries to build trust with victims early on so that when it comes time to prosecute they will come to court if necessary," Edwards states in his nominating letter. "Ms. Heidlage has work(ed) diligently with local law enforcement to ensure ... we can proceed without a victim — victimless prosecutions are one (of) the best ways to break the cycle(s) of abuse."
Edwards described one example of a reluctant victim when Heidlage was "able to get past preliminary hearing through the use of the officer's body cams, 911 calls, and jail calls from the defendant." He credited Heidlage, her "creative thought process, and her use of the Rules of Evidence" for keeping the case alive.
"She understands that sometimes the circumstances that the victims are in leaves them to where they feel they have nowhere to turn," Edwards said. "She gives victims of domestic violence hope."
The annual awards are presented during October, which is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.