Changes at Steuben DA’s Office: Tunney departs; Terwilliger hired

Mary Perham
Christopher Tunney

The Steuben County District Attorney’s Office will be looking for another full-time assistant DA, with the abrupt departure two weeks ago of Christopher Tunney.

“We had a good discussion about things,” District Attorney Brooks Baker said. “He has decided to pursue other prospects and I wish him well.”

Baker declined to discuss particulars, but said he will look for another full-time attorney after the position becomes officially vacant Nov. 9.

“We’ll probably move people up in the department and fill (the vacancy) with an entry-level position,” Baker said. “But we can’t do without a full-time assistant DA. There’s too much to do.”

The 2009 appointment of Tunney, now 39, created a uproar at the time.

Critics charged his appointment as senior assistant DA was nepotism, since it was made unilaterally by his father, then-District Attorney John Tunney. However, county Attorney Frederick Ahrens backed the appointment, saying there was there was no law prohibiting it.

The younger Tunney’s appointment led  to a public and bitter protest by former Assistant DA Travis Barry who left the county department saying he had been passed over in favor of an untried attorney with no courtroom experience.

John Tunney announced the following year he would not run for his seventh term.

Barry first went into private practice and now works in the county Public Defender’s Office.

Another, more recent, appointment to the DA’s office has worked out well, Baker said.

Former county Undersheriff Noel Terwilliger has been a big asset since he joined the department a couple months ago as a full-time investigator, according to Baker.

“He has the background, certainly, with narcotics investigations, with all investigations. He knows the laws, he’s familiar with procedures, and the other law officers,” Baker said. “He has been an invaluable help to this department.”