Acting DA Quinn waits to hear word on his status
NEW BEDFORD — His colleagues describe acting Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III as a straight shooter, down to earth, serious, even soulful.
But what many do not know is that Quinn, the oldest of seven children, received a four-year football scholarship to Holy Cross, has a talent for teasing and is a great cook, according to his brother, former Rep. John F. Quinn, D-Dartmouth.
“He’s one of the better teasers in the family. He can give it as well as he can take it,” he said of his brother.
Highly regarded by fellow prosecutors, defense attorneys and jurists, Quinn, 54, is currently supervising his office’s prosecution of former New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez as he waits to possibly hear about his own status with new Gov. Charlie Baker.
Former Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Quinn as the county’s acting district attorney, but Baker can make his own appointment because Patrick’s was made in the last 15 days of his adminstration.
“I respect that it’s his decision to make,” Quinn said in an interview, declining to say anything more.
Tim Buckley, a spokesman for Baker, made a brief statement about the situation on Friday. “The Governor is pleased to see that the important work of the district attorney’s office will continue uninterrupted under Quinn’s guidance. The Governor will make a decision regarding the next district attorney in the near future,” he said.
Quinn, who was an assistant district attorney from 1988 to 1997 first under former DA’s Ronald A. Pina and then Paul F. Walsh Jr., before leaving the office to go into private practice, returned in 2007 as former District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s co-first assistant. Sutter recently resigned the office when he was elected mayor of Fall River.
Quinn said he loves the courtroom and is at home there. “It’s peaceful to me,” he said. “I’ve never felt the case was about me. I may have wanted to, but I took a step back.”
Alan Zwirblis, who heads the public defender’s office in New Bedford, said he wrote a letter to Baker, similar to the letter more than 100 members of the DA’s staff wrote, asking the new governor to appoint Quinn.
“Tom Quinn is down-to-earth and knows how to speak to people on a level they can understand,” Zwirblis said. “He’s a man of principle. The courts appreciate his integrity, his candor. What I like about Tom Quinn is that when he doesn’t know something, he asks.”
“It’s about doing the right thing,” Robert J. Schilling, a New Bedford defense attorney, said of Quinn. “There’s a depth to him that you don’t find in every lawyer.”
Walsh said what impressed him about Quinn was his work ethic. “He was just a lunch pail guy. He was the guy that you wanted on your team,” he said.
Not a flamboyant attorney, Quinn also does not get flustered in a tense courtroom moment, Walsh said. “He’s not glamorous. He’s just solid.”
His former football coach at Dartmouth High, Carlin Lynch, said as a player, Quinn never complained and always tried to improve. “He gave it all he had,” Lynch said.
Quinn said he tries hard to be fair and treat people with respect and dignity. Asked what he wants people to remember about him, he did not hesitate: “That I listened to them.”