Hall County adds help for public defender to keep costs down

    Hall County Public Defender Gerry Piccolo comes before the county board on July 10, 2018 to ask for an additional deputy in his office (NTV News)

    As crime rises in Grand Island, legal fees add up.

    Hall County Public Defender Gerry Piccolo says he's desperate for help.

    Those charged with a crime have a right to a defense attorney even if they can't afford one.

    But Piccolo says his office is maxed out, so they're routinely turning down cases, which are then assigned to defense attorneys in the community.

    Those lawyers then bill the county for their work.

    The cost is adding up, so Piccolo came to the county board, suggesting the county should add another criminal defense attorney for his office.

    He said, "I take a full case load and when my case load is very, very high, as the other deputies are, it affects me too. Again I take the approach it's got to be justified by the numbers. If it's justified, I'll come here as I'm doing now and say 'hey, I need it.'"

    Supervisors say adding another attorney to the staff should be a cost savings, because there will be fewer outside attorneys hired to take cases the public defender turns down.

    The board also approved a new deputy to specialize in juvenile defense.

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