PEABODY — More than 500 people gathered in a packed Higgins Middle School auditorium on Wednesday evening to witness Jonathan W. Blodgett taking the oath of office for his fifth term as Essex District Attorney.
“It’s with great humility that I stand before you to take the oath as my fifth term as district attorney,” Blodgett said shortly after taking the oath of office. “Tonight we renew our steadfast commitment to justice, public safety and the victims of crime and their families.”
The Essex District Attorney asked Mayor Ted Bettencourt to have the ceremony at Higgins Middle School, which served as Peabody’s athletic fields in the 1970s. “I learned so many hard and valuable lessons here,” Blodgett noted. “There are no shortcuts to success in life and nothing is given to you. You have to earn it.”
The Peabody Democrat was elected Essex District Attorney in 2003. Over the last 15 years, Blodgett’s addressed numerous issues including bullying, domestic violence, identity theft, elder abuse, social host liability, auto insurance fraud and underage drinking as well as the heroin and opioid epidemic. His staff, a majority of which are women, prosecute criminal offenses from more than 30 cities and towns across Essex County.
Beginning his fifth term, Blodgett plans to expand efforts nationally to improve the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. “Our work is not without challenges,” he said. “I am hopeful in the future to launch a new national collaborative effort to strengthen information sharing by partnering with an internationally recognized digital information giant.”
“We lose too many people a day to addiction,” said keynote speaker Jessica Nickel, executive director of the Addiction Policy Forum (APF). Last January, the APF recognized the Essex Drug Diversion Program, which Blodgett instituted in 2007 and offers comprehensive drug treatment services rather than prosecution for non-violent drug-related offenses. Since then, Blodgett serves on the APF advisory board as well as on the board of directors of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Through the Essex Drug Diversion Program, more than 1,000 individuals have access to comprehensive treatment, which includes six months of individualized treatment that provides after care recovery, as well as recovery coaching and peer support. Although it’s achieved national claim and recognition, Blodgett stressed that, “We have to do more by expanding our reach.”
After Judge Randy Chapman administered the oath of office to Blodgett, the Essex District Attorney then swore in assistant district attorneys who represent those in the juvenile, district and superior courts, as well as before the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Courts.
“In the courtroom, we are the only voice for the victims of crime and we will always remain unapologetic in our commitment to them,” Blodgett added.
Blodgett’s wife, Judy, sat beside him on stage during the ceremony. His daughter, attorney Lauren Blodgett, introduced her father when he was elected in 2003. Sixteen years later, she had that same honor. “As district attorney, you’ve changed lives and you’ve saved lives,” she said. “You’ve taught me each person has their own story, including their own struggles and trauma.
Through a partnership with the Essex Children’s Advocacy Center, his office works to provide access to medical and mental health services to all children involved in abuse investigations. “The pursuit of justice goes beyond securing convictions in the courtroom,” Blodgett noted. “Justice is advocating for the victims of crime to ensure their voice is heard.”
The Essex District Attorney concluded by thanking community and law enforcement officials, family, friends and staff. “The past 16 years have been challenging and rewarding,” he said. “We simply do not just prosecute crime, but we engage our community partners to prevent crime and offer service to those who need them.”