Setser joins DA’s office as assistant

Published 11:55 am Monday, October 10, 2011

Tom Setser has practiced law on the high seas and in the desert halfway around the world, but starting today he’ll be stacking his case files in the Warren County Courthouse.

Setser, a Vicksburg native and a 1991 graduate of St. Aloysius, is the newest addition to District Attorney Ricky Smith’s staff, being sworn in this morning as the third assistant district attorney, joining Angela Carpenter and Lane Campbell.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Setser, a U.S. Navy reserve lieutenant commander and judge advocate who recently returned from Kuwait, where he was deployed in support of Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom. “I enjoy the practice of law, and I’m looking forward to seeing a different side of it.”

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“Tom stood out because of his experience,” said Smith, who interviewed several local attorneys before sealing the deal last week with Setser. “As a defense attorney, he comes from the same basic background as both Angela and I. And Tom’s a very good attorney. I’ve known him for years.”

Setser, 38, has been on the other side of the courtroom from Smith. In private practice for himself, Setser accepted civil cases but especially enjoyed criminal law and was always willing to take court-appointed cases.

“I believe everyone has the right to an attorney, no matter what they are accused of,” he said. “If someone’s guilty I want them to go to jail, but I also do not want to see an innocent person sent to jail.”

Setser graduated from Mississippi State University in 1996 with a degree in business administration, then went to Mississippi College School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1999. He was commissioned a naval officer while still in law school.

From 2000 to 2003 Setser was on active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, first at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., and later on the USS George Washington nuclear aircraft carrier.

As assistant staff judge advocate and brig officer, he was responsible for military justice on the ship as well as for the operations of the prison, supervising a staff of five paralegals and 15 brig personnel, he said. With a usual carrier crew of about 3,500, swelling to 5,000 with a full deployment including air wing squads, he had plenty of opportunities to practice, with cases including “a lot of misdemeanors,” — fights, assaults, work issues, unauthorized absences — as well as more serious charges like rape.

In 2003 Setser was released from active duty and, while remaining in the reserves, returned to Vicksburg and private practice. He was activated again in 2010, when he went to Kuwait.

Setser and his wife, Renea, have three children, 15, 12 and 11. He’s a triathlete who has competed in two half-Ironmans — a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run, in that order and without a break. His name also can be found on the race lists for such Vicksburg favorites as Chill in the Hills and Run Thru History.

“Between the children, the reserves and triathlons, that pretty much takes up all my time,” he said.

Setser’s compensation package, including salary, retirement contribution and medical coverage, falls just under $74,000, as budgeted in September by the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

The board approved adding the third ADA position to the county’s payroll during final budget deliberations. The allotment equalled a previous anti-crime grant that had funded the position from August 2009 until June, when the grant was not renewed.