PRINCETON — Friends and family filled a courtroom Monday morning when Mercer County’s new prosecuting attorney stepped forward to take his oath of office and take on his duties two months early.
Attorney Brian Cochran of Princeton, a former West Virginia State Police trooper, won the Republican nomination for prosecuting attorney last June during the primary election. No Democratic candidate filed to run for office, so Cochran ran unopposed.
The incumbent prosecutor, George Sitler, later resigned in order to accept a new position as an assistant prosecutor in Kanawha County. Sitler’s last day was Oct. 30. The Mercer County Commission appointed Cochran to fill in and start his duties as prosecutor early. Cochran’s term was scheduled to begin in January 2021.
Court personnel and guests filled the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills. The court was called to order as Wills arrived at the bench.
“Today’s the big day,” Wills said.“Congratulations to Mr. Cochran. I’ll come down and swear you in.”
After the brief ceremony, Cochran thanked his family as well as his former colleagues in the law enforcement community for their support.
“First of all, I have to thank my family, Connie, Regan and Grant here and I’ve got one other boy who’s been very supportive, Cole, up in Morgantown,” Cochran told the audience. The audience laughed when Cochran remarked that his son Grant happened to sit down in the chair usually reserved for defendants, and Cochran told him that he didn’t want to see him there again.
“I want to thank all of you for coming. You have all been a part of my life in one way or another, all the way to the young trooper days,” he said.
Retired and current State Troopers attended the ceremony, along with members of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, a state insurance fraud investigator, officers with local police department and Mercer County Sheriff Tommy Bailey. Raleigh County Sheriff Scott VanMeter also attended as well as an assistant prosecutor from Raleigh County.
Cochran pointed out that some of these individuals are currently working in other counties and with other agencies, and could be beneficial in partnerships working to prosecute criminal activity in Mercer County.
“I appreciate you all so much, and I think what this represents and what’s going to be beneficial ... there’s a lot of crime in Mercer County. We’re going to do the best we can to take care of that ... It’s going to be a team effort throughout the state of West Virginia,” Cochran said.
Cochran spoke later with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and other local media outside his new office.
“It’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to it, but I also realize that it’s a huge responsibility and there’s a lot of work to do here. We’re going to work together as a team and get it done to the best of our abilities,” Cochran stated. “I started this morning. I need to get familiarized with the docket system that we have here to make sure we’ve got the attorneys put in the right place, handling the cases that they’re most suited to handle.”
The new prosecutor described some of his goals.
“Well, anybody that harms a child in Mercer County, we’re going to address that appropriately,” Cochran said. “Violent criminals in Mercer County, we’re going to be prosecuting them as much as we can. And I want to get after some of the drug dealers out here as well.”
Cochran said the fact he could start working early would help give the prosecutor’s office a smooth transition from one prosecutor to another.
“It’s going to be a good thing because I didn’t want multiple transitions for the office. I don’t think that would be productive, so I did decide to start two months early when Mr. Sitler resigned so there wouldn’t be an additional transition in place,” he stated, adding that his experience in law enforcement would be helpful, too.
“I started my career as a city police officer when I was 19 years old,” Cochran recalled. “In college, I was working the night shift and going to college every day. I then joined the sheriff’s department and joined the state police and was transferred down here to southern West Virginia.”
“That experience I think is going to be very helpful to me in my relationships with our law enforcement officers out here because it’s important that the prosecutor’s office and the law enforcement officers work together, cooperate and communicate with each other,” he said. “That’s not saying we’re going to agree on everything, but we’re going to work together and do our very best to get the best results for the citizens of Mercer County.”
During Tuesday’s election, Cochran received 21,794 votes. There were 127 write-in votes.
Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com