Neighbors: Deputy D.A. Dina Salvucci always wanted to be a prosecutor
Editor’s note: The following is the first in The Record-Courier’s “Neighbors” series, profiles about the people who live and work in Douglas County.
When Deputy District Attorney Dina Salvucci prepares for a trial, she becomes absorbed in the case.
“Those are the days I’m grateful the kids like McDonald’s,” Salvucci says. “When you get ready for a trial, it has to consume all your time.”
The intensity Salvucci radiates when she is “on stage,” in front of a judge and jury, is something she says she must build to.
The Douglas County prosecutor commits her entire case to memory – the facts of the case, her arguments concerning them and responses to possible issues the opposing attorneys may raise.
“What we (lawyers) say is not evidence. We take the evidence we’re given and try to convince a jury of its weight. We have to be convincing – to believe, yourself, in the guilt of the person,” she said. “I have to wind myself up for that.”
After more than 10 years of being a prosecutor, Salvucci said, it’s hard to imagine she ever wanted to do anything else.
But growing up in Las Vegas in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Salvucci had at first determined she would become a veterinarian. At college, the Church of Christ’s Abilene Christian University in Texas, Salvucci says she was involved in choir and performing arts. And at one point, she thought of becoming a teacher.
“Then I discovered the prosecuting thing and decided that was for me,” she says. “It’s not that I’ll never do anything else. I just like it enough to last longer than most.”
Working for the district attorney’s office is a career choice Salvucci’s husband, Charles Pullen, has supported from the beginning.
Salvucci and Pullen, who is the systems training manager at the Silver Legacy in Reno, met in college. They married while Salvucci worked in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office – her first job as full-fledged lawyer.
“I always had coming back to Nevada in the back of my mind,” Salvucci said. “I had passed the Nevada Bar (exam) the same year I passed the Texas Bar. And I put in for a job in Clark County, but had to wait 18 months until a job opened up. I worked in Dallas until Clark County hired me.
“In Las Vegas, Charles worked for Caesars Palace. Caesars offered him a promotion to come up to Caesars Tahoe, so I started looking for a job in Northern Nevada. Now that he works for Silver Legacy in Reno and has his own consulting firm on the side (Sierra Funding), Charles is home sooner and more often. He takes a lot of the pressure.”
For Salvucci, Clark County had offered a moderate change in scale from the “metroplex” prosecutions she had cut her teeth on in Dallas. Douglas County six years ago was almost culture shock.
“In Clark County, we (in the district attorney’s office) had a team system. There were 100 attorneys in the office there, and 16 judges. Here, we have two district judges and nine attorneys including our boss, Scott (Doyle), who oversees the day-to-day work as well as the high profile things,” she said.
But Douglas is where Salvucci feels she can rear her two daughters and make a difference in peoples’ lives.
“Prosecutors enjoy a better reputation than lawyers in general. When you’re a prosecutor, you’re a member of law enforcement. It’s a service where we can bring justice, reduce crime and rehabilitate criminals,” she said.
And a rural county like Douglas, as opposed to a large metropolitan area, is where Salvucci believes the cycles of criminal behavior may be broken.
“In a metroplex area, you have to prioritize your resources, manpower and facilities to a greater extent. Misdemeanors and first offenses rarely draw jail time, second offenses usually get a little jail,” she said.
“Here, we prosecute most domestic violence. We charge extremely minor offenses and treat them appropriately, often requiring counseling. With that exposure, I think it keeps many from going on to bigger stuff – it works better to protect the victim and breaks the cycle,” she said.
“I don’t think problems in peoples’ lives can be solved simply by prosecuting a case. We have to get some social services to them and make referrals, get the judges to order counseling.”
Salvucci makes time to stay involved in the community. She teaches a class that covers the legal aspects of carrying a concealed weapon. In January, she addressed a group of Nevada municipal and justice court judges at their winter meeting in Laughlin.
Even so, she said, her family will always come first before her job.
“As a wife and mother, I forgive myself for not getting that last load of laundry done and not having an immaculate house,” she said. “With a husband, a 6-year-old, a toddler who’s almost 2 and a dog, the time I spend with them has to be good quality. I’m too pragmatic to be a super mom.”
Salvucci, who has no domestic help, sees her greatest home chore challenge as cooking dinner in the evenings after work.
“It gets quiet at the office in the late afternoon and I look up from what I’m doing and realize everyone else has gone home,” she said. “It’s then I’m glad my family isn’t too critical of what they eat or where.”
Basically, she says, her goal in anything she does is “a job well done.”
For relaxation she sews clothing and crafts for herself and her children. And she watches the TV shows she faithfully videotapes – “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.”
“I don’t believe it’s possible to limit yourself to one or two passions in life,” Salvucci said. “Life happens and opportunities arise, you make the best of them.”
If you would like to nominate someone for the R-C’s “Neighbors,” please contact editor Sheila Gardner at 782-5121 with suggestions.
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