It’s not in the job description for prosecutors to give people the benefit of the doubt. But the gatekeeper of the Jackson County Drug Court gave a lot more to the defendants than might be expected from someone sitting on the other side of the table.
“It’s really uncommon that you can find someone that everyone in the court room — the public defender, the court, the defendant — likes,” said Melissa Miller, senior paralegal with the Jackson County prosecutor’s office. “He really saw good in everybody, which is very odd for a prosecutor.”
But Peter Gromowsky, 46, of Lee’s Summit, was one of those people. Gromowsky died earlier this month of complications from the flu.
Gromowsky, a longtime assistant prosecutor with Jackson County, was the prosecutor assigned to Jackson County’s drug court program.
He started as an assistant prosecutor with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office 18 years ago, later transitioning to the drug court. This court specifically helps people get sober and to find jobs or start school. About 1,200 people have graduated from the program, according to its website, and about 96 percent remain conviction-free in the five years following completion.
“It’s much more in-depth than a regular court, and you really get invested in people’s lives and helping them create a life sober,” Miller said.
The program is notable nationwide for its work to push people toward sobriety.
“It’s a shining beacon for a successful way to deal with drug-related crime,” said Kansas City lawyer Kevin Regan.
Regan said Gromowsky’s commitment to the program, and the people in it, contributed to its continued success.
“He filled a very valuable role in our community,” he said. “There are thousands of people in our community who committed minor offenses where drug and alcohol were involved and deserved a second chance at redirection.”
People selected to go through the program, and complete it, are able to keep charges off their record, which helps with employment, Regan pointed out.
“A lot of the offenders are younger, and he was like a big brother figure,” Regan said. “He helped people who were down on their luck, rather than kick then while they were down.”
Though a lot of his job was administrative in nature, Gromowsky was known for his ability to connect with the people going through the program. He was selected to speak at many of the drug court graduation ceremonies.
“He was very impassioned in his speeches and you could tell how committed he was to helping people be successful,” said Drug Court Commissioner David Fry.
The defendants, those who had gone through the program, would stand up to thank Gromowsky for his help.
“Prosecutors don’t usually have a cheering audience,” Miller said.
His strength was not only his passion, but also his creativity.
“He’d really cater to what an individual was doing, which is saying something because there were tons of people coming through,” Miller said.
Gromowsky’s drive to help people down on their luck took another turn in 2011. The Veterans Court program, which he helped establish, helps vets get treatment and keep connected to resources at the VA while their case is pending.
“He put his heart in trying to develop the plan with me to get the court operational,” Fry said.
Gromowsky was a long-time resident of the area. He attended Christ the King and St. Thomas More grade schools and Rockhurst High School. He later got his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His family owns the Almar printing business in Waldo.
He is survived by his parents, Sam and Mary Gromowsky of Kansas City; his wife, Betsy, and his daughter, Olivia. He is also survived by his brother Steven, and his wife Aimee; his brother John, and his wife Stacy; and his brother Sam, all of Kansas City.