District attorney selects longtime ADA to fill first assistant position

CANANDAIGUA — With current Ontario County First Assistant District Attorney Brian Dennis set to move into his position as Ontario County Court judge on Jan. 1, another member of the District Attorney’s Office has been selected to take the position he leaves behind. 

Shortly after Dennis’ judgeship swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, District Attorney Michael Tantillo revealed that current Assistant District Attorney Jim Ritts will take over the first assistant spot Dennis has held for the vast majority of his 29-year career as prosecutor. 

“I am humbled by the faith that Mike is placing in me and I am excited to continue to work in an office that attempts in every way to see that we do the right thing, the right way, for the right reason,” Ritts said.

Ritts, a resident of Canandaigua, has been involved with more than 100 jury trials and has argued in excess of 160 appeals during his 17 1/2 years of service as an Ontario County prosecutor.

“In that time he has carried a significant caseload that has included some of the most difficult cases we have prosecuted,” Tantillo said. 

Ritts specializes in child abuse prosecutions. He recently prosecuted 49-year-old Hopewell resident Brian Bagley, who was on trial last month for a series of crimes including predatory sexual assault. 

After a powerful trial that included the testimony of the victim, who had been abused by Bagley for 10 years beginning when she was 5 years old, a jury found Bagley guilty of eight charges. Bagley now faces 40 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in Ontario County Court next week. 

Ritts pointed out Wednesday that he’ll continue to have a strong presence in such cases in the future. 

“I have a passion for working with survivors of child abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence and trying to be a voice and a light on their journey,” Ritts said.

The prosecutor is also active in the Child Advocacy Center of the Finger Lakes and has been involved with Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Sexual Assault Response Team. 

"I am being asked to take over for someone who has been here for 29 years and the First Assistant for most of those years," Ritts said. "Brian’s are big shoes to fill, but I am excited to work with everyone and continue to work and mentor some of the younger attorneys." 

Tantillo also revealed Wednesday that he will be announcing next month the hire of a new assistant district attorney to fill the vacancy left behind by Ritts.