Residents of Delaware and Otsego counties should feel fortunate to be protected by their respective district attorneys — Richard Northrup and John Muehl. I have opposed hundreds of prosecutors at the state and federal levels, and can say without hesitation that these two men are among the fairest, most knowledgeable and hardest-working prosecutors I’ve ever faced.
I began my law practice by serving clients in Delaware and Otsego counties nearly a decade ago and had immediate admiration for Northrup and Muehl, despite the fact they were always opposing counsel. From the start I could tell they were effective, old-school, high-integrity, ethical attorneys, the kind of men you could seal a deal with via handshake and feel confident it would be valid months later.
I was spoiled by those early years and assumed all prosecutors worked the same way. Then I moved operations to Albany, won landmark cases, opened offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and turned my firm, Tully Rinckey PLLC, into one of the fastest- growing, full-service law firms in the Northeast. Despite working with some of the most high-profile attorneys in the country, Northrup and Muehl remain my standard for evaluating prosecutors. Rarely does anyone measure up.
What I admire most about these men is that they know their jobs require more than simply winning cases and fighting for maximum sentences. As representatives of the community, they work tirelessly to serve the best interests of the people, whether that means pushing for long-term incarceration or suggesting a defendant get the necessary treatment to be a productive member of society. For Northrup and Muehl, it’s always about doing the right thing.
That kind of professionalism was evident numerous times during my association with both of them, but when I think about the kind of attorneys and prosecutors they are, one memory rises above the rest. About seven years ago I represented a young client who had broken into drugstore, loaded a backpack with prescription pills and taken off, only to be arrested less than a mile down the road a short time later.
My client was not a drug dealer or veteran criminal; he was a kid with an addiction. The problem was that because of the amount of pills he had shoveled into his backpack, he was charged with multiple felonies and could have spent the rest of his life in prison.
Northrup was the prosecutor in the case and could have easily socked it to my client by following the recommendation of the state police and pushing for long-term incarceration, which most prosecutors would have done. But Northrup is different. He realized the case for what it was and realized that while my client needed to pay for his crime, he also needed help. Northrup knew he was not serving the best interests of his community — a community that included my client — by sending a young addict who had no intention of hurting anyone to prison for life.
So Northrup and I did research and discovered a complicated formula that would allow my client to qualify for a specialized drug program by making a very particular plea agreement and admitting guilt. My client agreed, entered a rehabilitation program, paid restitution, went on parole supervision and, last I knew, had not repeated his crime and had become a good member of the community.
This was Northrup at his best, using his knowledge, dogged determination and real-world sensibilities to do the right thing for his community and those involved in the case. That’s just one story. Northrup and Muehl have built their careers on that sort of professionalism, which is why I can say without hesitation that these men made me a better attorney. I commend their dedication, honesty and concern for the people they represent. My hope is that the residents of Delaware and Otsego counties share this appreciation.