ELLSWORTH — Hancock County’s district attorney says hiring the wife of a well-known local defense attorney as an assistant district attorney is not a conflict of interest.
Rose Chong, who is married to attorney Jeff Toothaker, began working as assistant district attorney at the end of June, said District Attorney Carletta Bassano.
“Essentially Rose isn’t going to be responsible for any cases Jeff is handling,” Bassano said Tuesday.
Before coming to the District Attorney’s Office, Chong was in partnership with her husband, where her responsibilities focused on civil matters.
“She didn’t do any extensive criminal defense,” Bassano acknowledged, adding that Chong occasionally filled in for her husband in criminal matters when his schedule required him to be in two courts at essentially the same time.
Chong’s lack of experience in criminal matters was not an issue in making the decision to hire her, Bassano said.
“Generally speaking, we hire people without experience, period,” she said. “Most come straight out of law school.”
In Chong’s case, becoming a prosecutor has always been a goal.
“Her dream job in law school was to be a prosecutor,” Bassano said.